Baker alumnus posts victory with Yankees
Called up to the New York Yankees on April 27, former Baker University baseball standout Vidal Nuno is living a dream after posting his first victory in the majors.
Nuno pitched five innings of three-hit ball on Monday, May 13, in a 7-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland to become the first Baker alumnus in 100 years to win a game in the majors. Baker’s Zip Zabel recorded a 12-14 record in three seasons (1913-1915) with the Chicago Cubs. Nuno made his debut on April 29 with three shutout innings of relief against Houston.
“He did an unbelievable job, considering he hasn’t pitched in a while,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told ESPNNewYork.com after Nuno’s debut as a starter. “He’s very poised out there. Nothing seems to bother him. He was ahead of hitters all day.”
Of his demeanor on the mound on Monday, Nuno told ESPNNewYork.com, “It just comes natural. It’s all about having fun, and just having my command. I took everything from the bullpen and transferred it out to the game. It was fun.”
The Indians were impressed by Nuno.
“I’d never seen him before, but he went out there and put it on us,” said Cleveland first baseman Nick Swisher. “He put it on us really good, so next time around we’ll remember that.”
Nuno, 25, pitched two seasons for Baker (2008 and 2009). A two-time all-conference first-team selection and the Heart of America Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in 2008, Nuno was selected in the 48th round — the 1,445th pick overall — by the Cleveland Indians in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft. Before being promoted to the majors, Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, striking out 26 in 23 1/3 innings. He was named the International League Pitcher of the Week for the week of April 15-21 and was also selected as James P. Dawson Award winner, which honors the Yankees’ best rookie in spring training.
“It is crazy how things change when you practice every day for seven months,” said Nuno, four years removed from starring on the mound at Sauder Field for the Wildcats. “I’ve been around great coaches who helped me better myself and develop pitches to get batters out. I try to get ready every day, so when I get on the mound I’ll be 100 percent.”
Nuno was recruited to Baker by current Wildcat baseball coach Phil Hannon, ’86, out of Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif., where Nuno was the Southwestern Pacific Coast Conference baseball player of the year in 2007. The standout pitcher followed a couple of other teammates to Baker.
“Coach Hannon came around and offered me a scholarship,” Nuno recalled. “I took the chance to come to the Midwest and pitch. I had great teammates at Baker and a special atmosphere. It made me have a better work ethic because I was around baseball every day. My teammates loved to work out, and it helped me strive to be where I wanted to be. My dad always told me to work hard, do what you have to do to prove yourself and it will lead to good things.”
Hannon was not surprised by Nuno’s success with the Yankees.
“Vidal is a goal-oriented person,” Hannon said. “He loves pitching and thought he could pitch at the next level, but he never made it his main focus. He wanted to pitch and do his best every time out and if he would have the opportunity to play at the next level he would jump at it. That attitude has positioned him to do great things in professional baseball. I am excited for him to be making this journey and the success he has had.”
Nuno visited his collegiate coach and Baker baseball players during a visit to the Baldwin City campus on Friday, May 10, before the Yankees began a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo.