For catcher Matthew Fernandez, playing UM club baseball is like taking a sixth class – he’s learning lessons and social skills that help on and off the field.
A junior in the School of Communication, Fernandez is studying public relations and broadcast journalism. He plans to go to law school after graduation, but in the meantime he has made his home on the diamond.
“It’s a stress reliever, but it creates pressure at the same time,” Fernandez said. “However, it’s a different kind of pressure – it’s something I know I can handle.”
In a crucial game last season against UF, Fernandez went 5-5 and threw two runners out trying to steal second base. He had the second-highest batting on the Miami club team last year, hitting .386 with only three strikeouts.
“Matt is probably the toughest guy to strike out on our roster,” coach Mike North said. “He always puts the bat on the ball. That’s a skill you can definitely develop, but some people just have a God-given ability to make contact and Matt has it.”
The team belongs to the South Atlantic Conference in the National Club Baseball Association.
Miami practices through the fall to prepare for the game-packed schedule every spring.
In high school, Fernandez balanced schoolwork with baseball until his junior year, when he was cut from the team. Fernandez was upset and confused, but managed to let it go and keep his focus on academics.
“I learned from that experience that education will always be there when baseball isn’t,” Fernandez said. “There will come a time when baseball is over, but my degree will make me just as happy as playing baseball did.”
Fernandez grew up in Kendale Lakes, a neighborhood several miles southwest of campus.
He loved UM so much as a child that he’d ask his dad to drive him around campus to explore. He grew into a loyal Hurricane football and baseball fan.
Fernandez’s college career began at FIU as a student and athlete. He transferred to UM last spring and was immediately recruited to the club team.
“I just knew this was my school,” Fernandez said. “UM will be in my heart forever. I knew no matter what, I had to work hard enough to get accepted. Until this day getting into UM – and the path it took me to get here – is one of my greatest accomplishments. Graduating and attending UM Law would be the next big accomplishment.”
This semester, Fernandez has started creating packages for “Man on the Street” with UMTV’s SportsDesk.
“I’m a guy who loves to talk to people … and M.O.S. gives me the freedom to create [a short video of]anything I want,” he said. “I get to have fun and make jokes. You’d be surprised how funny sports can be.”
Fernandez is just as outgoing on the field.
“Matt is an extremely vocal player, which is an asset for any catcher,” North said. “He’s not shy behind the plate and he’s certainly someone you notice right away. Losing kills him and he wants his pitchers to perform well.”
He dreams of playing for the UM varsity team, but Fernandez is content at the club level because he can keep his grades up and hang out with friends while still participating in the game he loves.
“In high school, I lost my love of the game, but in club baseball I found it,” Fernandez said.