07/17/2016 2:10 PM
For Sentinels relief pitcher Nick Esparza, playing baseball has always been a sport that allowed him to enjoy playing. “I started playing tee-ball when I was three through the Monrovia little league.”
He remembers it vividly. “On my 12th birthday, I threw my first ever no-hitter.” The memory was indelible.
Esparza has carved a future in baseball from his time in high school and aspires to earn his college degree and enter the MLB draft.
Otherwise is interested in becoming a coach or athletic trainer. “Becoming a coach has been a dream I had ever since my father and grandfather began giving me lessons on how to improve my game,” said Esparza.
His favorite player is Anaheim Angels slugger Mike Trout. Even though Esparza is a pitcher there is something about Trout that inspires him. “Everything about him,” Esparza said. “His character. He shows a lot of heart, he won’t give up. That is the character trait that I most admire when on the baseball field.”
Of course life is not only about baseball. He likes playing video games, maintaining an active lifestyle and volunteering for the Arcadia Baseball League’s summer games.
One of the lesser known facts about Nick Esparza is that he started out as a middle-infielder playing shortstop. “I played shortstop for pretty much my whole life and then pitching came along and I became good at it.”
One day he approached his coach to persuade him to let him be on the pitching rotation. “I told the coach that I could pitch.” Esparza would become a reliable starter for his high school team from then on.
As a freshman at Pasadena City College, Esparza has received recognitions for his performance on the field. In 2015, he received an honorable mention award. In his sophomore season he had a setback due to personal problems in his family which has detracted from his ability to spend time developing his game on the field. First it was the late-night phone calls from family members needing his support. Then it was having to take time and concentration away from his practices. This made it difficult to be a reliable pitcher for the coach to use. But that setback will not deter his ambition to become most valuable player of the league. His eyes are set on having the most wins in the season.
Esparza has learned a lot during his time with the Arroyo Seco Baseball summer league in his observations of pitchers in the SCCBL and professional athletes. “Whenever you go to Major League ballparks and you see different pitchers and how they do their wind-up.” he said. “I take a look and watch very closely what they’re doing and try to incorporate it into my mechanics. I have actually tried a couple of things and it has actually been working for me in the velocity range and I hit my spots better.”
Esparza’s grandfather mentored him and Esparaza is indebted to him for the advice he received. “If it was not for my grandfather, I would not be the same person that I am today.”
Reflecting on former New York Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina about pitchers having to win games when they don’t have their “stuff” all the time, Esparza agreed for the most part. “You’re not going to always have your stuff, but when you do it’s definitely really good you’re more likely to get a win. My philosophy is to give it all 110 percent every day.”
And he doesn’t take that lightly, during the course of the 2016 summer season Esparza has pitched scoreless innings of relief and has maintained an ERA under 2, although he has not had as many innings as other pitchers on the team.
Esparza is thankful for the support he receives from coaches during the off-season who constantly provide tips and mentorship. “Current coaches check up on me every other day and sometimes every day since I was going through a rough time with family of people going to the hospital. My coaches are like my family. They keep me in their prayers.”