While 10 of 12 players in Maryland baseball’s Class of 2017 are from the mid-Atlantic, one signee is set to travel from one coast to another to put on a Terrapin jersey next fall.
— SGV Arsenal (@SGVArsenal) October 6, 2015
First baseman commit Michael Pineiro is a senior at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California, which is approximately 2,600 miles from the University of Maryland—a lengthy 38-hour drive.
He’ll be the first Maryland player from the state of California since former Maryland right-hander Jake Stinnett, who was selected in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs.
Although he will move across the country to play baseball for the next four years, Pineiro is not too worried about being so far away from his home in California.
“I’m just a little nervous because it’s college and Division I baseball, but I’m not really that nervous,” he said. “I think it’s good for me to be away and focus more, rather than being close to home.”
Pineiro’s desire to “focus more” stems from that fact this is the first year he’s played baseball year-round. He played on his high school football team through his junior year but stopped in fear of getting hurt and wanting to focus solely on baseball.
“He’s a legacy player for us,” Los Osos baseball head coach Chris Romero said. “He’s a three-year varsity guy. You have to carry the tradition of the school and he’s done that.”
But Pineiro believes he’s been at a disadvantage since many of his teammates spend the entire year on the diamond while he’s had to take time off for football.
“I think I’d be a lot better if I was playing year-round,” he said. “I’d be joining different scout teams and going to more showcases.”
While it’s just his first year focusing primarily on baseball, Pineiro has loved the game since the age of three when his dad first introduced him to the sport.
But Pineiro’s father-son baseball relationship is not one everyone gets to experience.
His father, Mike Pineiro, was drafted out of West Covina High School (Calif.) in the 1990 MLB June Amateur Draft by the California Angels. He hit .263 in five seasons in the minors before going on to play two additional seasons in an independent league.
After his dad left the game, he went on to teach his son everything he knew about baseball.
“He basically put me in Little League and he was my coach until I was 12,” Pineiro said. “Then after that he let me go my own way and play with different travel ball teams.”
It was on a travel team during a tournament in Virginia that Pineiro showcased his skills in front of the Maryland coaching staff, including head coach John Szefc. Even though he had a really great weekend at the plate, Pineiro says he prides himself on defense.
“I’m pretty athletic at first base and most [first basemen] are usually the big guys that just stand around, but I would say I’m pretty athletic over there,” Pineiro said. “I’m also really good at picking the ball. It’s probably one of the most fun things to do at first.”
While Pineiro is excited for the “true hops” on the turf at Bob “Turtle” Smith Stadium, the field was just one of many factors that drew him to College Park.
“They were one of the first schools to recruit me,” he said. “I just felt extremely comfortable with the coaches, the facilities and my recruiting class.”
Even though Pineiro is anxious to step foot on campus this fall, he says he has to work on his consistency this spring.
“It’s always [taken] me a while into my high school season to get in a groove of things and get my swing back and all that stuff,” he said. “I want to stay consistent the entire season.”
While there is always room for improvement, Romero is optimistic about both Pineiro’s senior season and future in college baseball.
“He’s got a good left-handed swing,” Romero said. “He’ll get bigger and stronger with more power as he gets older but he’ll have things to prove just like every other player that enters Division I baseball.”
Since he didn’t play football this past fall, Pineiro has been working out in the weight room and hitting in the cage as much as possible, in addition to other team activities.
“We’ve [played] in different tournaments in the fall and it definitely helped me out,” he said. “I’ll be ready for my senior season in the spring.”
Pineiro will look to build off a solid junior season, one in which he hit .292 with five doubles, eleven runs scored and eleven RBI’s in 23 games.
According to his coach, Pineiro is not a leader who motivates his team by getting loud and yelling. Instead, he uses his personality to spark energy.
“He’s very fun loving,” Romero said. “We’re in the weight room a lot and he’s the DJ, dancing around and keeping everybody loose. That’s his personality [and he’s] that kind of leader.”
After Pineiro chases his goal of clinching a playoff berth and then making a championship run with his high school team, he will then look forward to making that 2,600-mile trip to Maryland, a school he felt comfortable committing to despite the distance.
“They made me feel like I was part of a program,” Pineiro said. “They made me feel at home.”