Baseball, Profiles, Sports

Highly-anticipated freshman intends to prove doubters wrong

Alex Toral

Freshman first baseman Alex Toral aims for his first hit as a Miami Hurricane in the season opener against Rutgers Feb. 16 at Mark Light Field. Toral recorded no hits until the following night, when he had two hits, including a home run and a double. Photo credit: Josh White

Baseball captured freshman Alex Toral’s attention from the moment he picked up his first bat.

When Toral was little, his dad had sports equipment all over the house – basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs and, of course, baseball bats.

“He said I just kept picking up the bat,” Toral said. “As soon as I started playing baseball, I loved it.”

This early passion helped the Davie, Florida, native rise into the national spotlight at Archbishop McCarthy High School.

Toral, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound first baseman, was projected to be a top-20 pick in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft heading into his senior campaign.

His strong play drew more attention from opposing teams. Pitchers began to throw around him, choosing to hand him a free base rather than giving him a chance to hit a home run.

This lowered scouts’ interest, but it was not Toral’s fault.

“It’s very difficult to deal with high expectations,” former Archbishop McCarthy head coach Rich Bielski said. “He’s dealt with them as well as any high school kid could … I would definitely say he’s one of the most carefully pitched players in Miami-Dade, maybe in the state of Florida.”

Toral, a three-time state champion, batted an impressive .370 his senior year and drew 26 walks but only hit one home run.

He was ranked No. 199 according to Baseball America’s top 500 draft-eligible prospects but was not drafted because his signing bonus requirements did not match the values placed by major-league teams.

After not being selected, the two-time Under Armour All-American followed his childhood dream and became a Miami Hurricane.

“It obviously didn’t work out the way I wanted it to, but at the same time, we’re going to do something special here,” Toral said. “Growing up, everyone wants to make it to the big leagues or play Division 1 baseball. All of us have the same goal in mind. All of us wanted to be Miami Hurricanes growing up.”

Toral arrived at UM in July 2017 – two years after he verbally committed – and immediately made a strong impression.

“You can tell he’s a very, very focused individual,” said Miami associate head coach Gino DiMare, who is set to become the Canes’ head coach in 2019 after Jim Morris retires. “I’m sure, deep down – and he’s not going to let you or me know – he has a chip [on his shoulder]. He wants to prove to everyone they made a big mistake.”

His work ethic has rubbed off on his teammates.

“Iron sharpens iron, just as one man sharpens another,” senior ace Jeb Bargfeldt said. “That’s what these young guys have done.”

After his long-anticipated Hurricanes debut, Toral, a freshman first baseman, contributed to Miami’s 2-1 series victory over Rutgers.

“Making my Hurricane debut was something special,” Toral said. “The energy this ballpark had was just something different. I appreciate the fans out here and what they do for us.”

The rookie connected for a home run and a double while driving in five runs. Toral also drew three walks and was hit by a pitch, reaching base six times in his first 12 plate appearances.

Toral is the No. 2 ranked freshman by Perfect Game Scouting Service, and he became the first Hurricane to blast a home run for his first collegiate hit since Zack Collins in 2014. The two are the only Canes to accomplish the feat since MLB All-Star Yonder Alonso pulled it off in 2006.

Toral and his fellow freshmen look to accomplish something Miami hasn’t done since 2001 – win the College World Series.

“I think we have a great freshman class, maybe one of the best ever to come through this school,” Toral said. “I’ve been playing with all of these guys since I was like 10 years old. We have that chemistry.”

February 19, 2018

Reporters

Josh White


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.