Former Baker pitcher working toward roster spot with Yankees
Baldwin City, Kan. — Vidal Nuno has come a long way since his two seasons pitching for the Baker University baseball team.
A two-time all-conference first-team selection and the Heart of America Athletic Conference pitcher of the year in 2008, Nuno is working this week toward a spot on the opening day roster of the New York Yankees. A 25-year-old left-hander, who was selected in the 48th round — the 1,445th pick overall — by the Cleveland Indians in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, has compiled an 0.66 ERA in 13 2/3 innings for the Yankees this spring.
"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."
In 2008 and 2009 at Baker, Nuno posted 15 victories with a 1.98 ERA. His command has carried over to the professional level since being discovered by the Yankees while pitching for the independent team Washington Wild. Motivated after joining the Yankees farm system, he pitched last year at Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton and has gained more attention by developing five pitches — fastball, curveball, slider, changeup and cutter.
"I work hard to hit my spots," said Nuno, who has struck out 13 batters and walked four this spring. "Moving up levels, coaches and scouts say you have to throw strikes, make your pitches, hit your corners and not try to overthrow."
Nuno was recruited to Baker by current Wildcat baseball coach Phil Hannon 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 spring 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."
Hannon and several of his Baker teammates have tuned into the MLB Network broadcasts to catch the former Wildcat's pitching performances. Nuno often hears from his friends through social media.
"It's a great feeling to realize people are watching someone they know trying to make it in the big leagues," said Nuno, who will likely be assigned to the Yankees' Triple-A affiliate, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in Pennsylvania, if he isn't named to the roster for opening day. "It is a blessing to be a part of the Yankees and be around players trying to win a World Series championship."
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