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Rosario Ready to Prove Himself at The U

Rosario Ready to Prove Himself at The U

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Every kid growing up dreams of playing for their favorite team and that is no different for Mike Rosario.

Rosario always wanted to play for his hometown Florida Gators, but life had a different plan for the Gainesville, Fla., native. He crossed paths with Miami coaches Norberto Lopez and J.D. Arteaga, and he traded in his Gator blue for some Hurricane green.

“Initially, my dream was to go to UF. Being from Gainesville, that was something that I wanted when I was growing up,” Rosario said. “But Lopes and J.D. saw me at a tournament and they reached out to me after and told me to come on a visit to Miami and as soon as I got here, I fell in love with it. I felt like family as soon as I walked on campus. They made me feel like they really wanted me to come here and be a part of the program. I may have grown up a Gator fan, but this is definitely the spot for me and I’m a Cane now.”

Building a relationship with Lopez and Arteaga helped convince Rosario to visit Miami and the picturesque campus, history of success as a program and university’s reputation as an outstanding institution took care of the rest.

“I like Lopes’ techniques on how he works with the hitters and then with J.D. being a lefty and holding pretty much every pitching record here, I felt like that was really something that would help me develop as a better pitcher, which I know I needed,” Rosario said. “Both of them played a huge role in me wanting to be a Hurricane and from the second I stepped on campus I fell in love with it.”

Rosario surprised many who know him when he announced his decision to join the Hurricanes, but the talented outfielder/left-handed pitcher knew he wanted to forge his own path in college.

“Everybody I knew was like, ‘What the heck? You’re going to Miami?’ But I’m glad I’m out of Gainesville because I just want to experience something new and get out of Gainesville,” Rosario said. “My mom is from Miami originally, too, so it’s pretty cool for me to come here. She’s always been a Miami fan, so it’s like I’m suddenly on a different side of the house. My older brother, Robert, went to Florida State. We both grew up in Gainesville and my dad used to be a Gator fan and my mom is always a Hurricane fan, so she was happy when I picked Miami and it’s cool for me to be able to be here and do this. It’s been awesome.”

A standout at Gainesville Buccholz High School, Rosario was snubbed by Division I programs. He turned to junior college baseball as an opportunity to continue playing and blossomed in a big way.

“I only had two offers at high school, which were two JUCOs: Hillsborough and St. Johns,” Rosario said. “The coach at St. Johns, Cory Elasik, he noticed me since I was a little bit younger and we kept in touch, so that worked out perfectly. I feel like I was pretty overlooked in high school. That’s definitely one of the biggest motivations, to prove those people wrong.”

Rosario played a lot in his first year at St. Johns River State College, hitting .260 with five doubles, a pair of homers and 23 RBI while appearing in 50 games as an outfielder in 2019. He also struck out eight batters over five appearances on the mound in his JUCO debut.

After signing with Miami, Rosario was excited for a big 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic cut short his final year at St. Johns River. But the athletic outfielder had an outstanding showing in summer ball, helping lead the Amarillo Sod Squad to the Texas League playoffs.

“It was an awesome experience. I wasn’t expecting it,” Rosario said. “We averaged like 2,500 fans at every game and I met a lot of cool people and a lot of dudes that I’m sure we’ll play against this year. The coaches were great and they really helped me out from an offensive standpoint. It was an awesome experience and I’m really glad I did it.”

The opportunity to play summer ball was unexpected, as Rosario had begun playing in a local league in Gainesville just to get some at-bats before heading to Miami in the fall. But a week before the Texas League started, he got a call inviting him to play and he jumped at the chance to compete at a high level.

“Mike Rosario went to the Texas League and he was playing against some really elite college guys and he played a lot,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “It was an everyday thing and he had a lot of at-bats. He strictly hit out there. We didn’t pitch him because we wanted to let his arm rest, but he’s a two-way guy that we expect big things from on the mound, as well. He just swung the bat and had a very solid summer, so I absolutely think that was very beneficial for him.”

Rosario hit .300 with eight doubles, three homers and 21 RBI in just 90 at-bats for Amarillo. While he had a lot of success over the summer, one moment stood out above the rest.

“Clinching a spot in the playoffs, that was an awesome game to be a part of,” Rosario said. “We had to win one game to clinch and it was a series. We won the first game against the Tulsa Drillers, so we clinched making the playoffs. It was a close game at first, then we busted it open in the later innings and we knew we had them. After the game it was like, ‘Wow, we did it.’ Seeing everybody come together and playing as a team and how we were supposed to be was awesome.”

Now that he is at Miami, his goal is to help the Hurricanes earn their 47thpostseason berth. While playing in his first NCAA tournament is an exciting thought, Rosario has larger aspirations in mind.

“It’s an even bigger excitement knowing we have a chance to do that this year at Miami,” Rosario said. “But we can’t just be satisfied with thinking we can make the postseason and we definitely can’t stop just by clinching a spot in the tournament. We’ve got to keep going because the goal is to win a championship.”

From being a potent bat, to possessing the speed to cover a lot of ground in the outfield and a strong throwing arm that will make opposing runners think twice about taking an extra base, Rosario is someone who can help the Hurricanes in a variety of ways.

“Offensively, he’s a left-handed bat and he’s got a really nice swing,” DiMare said. “He’s a guy that, hopefully, he can do the things he did this summer. He’s got some power in his bat and he’s a good athlete. For me, it’s just a matter of where he fit in the team and in the roles that he could play for us. Obviously, the competition is going to be very good this year.”

Then there is his potential on the pitcher’s mound. While Rosario has played the outfield for his entire career, he only started pitching as a senior in high school. Despite not having much experience on the mound, Arteaga believes Rosario could develop into a key option out of Miami’s bullpen.

“He’s left-handed and very athletic, but a kid that that’s very, very new to pitching in the sense that he doesn’t have a lot of innings under his belt,” Arteaga said. “Normally when you get a guy like that, it’s just a really good arm that’s kind of a thrower, but he actually looks on the mound like he’s been pitching for a very long time and has you know hundreds of innings under his belt. Just naturally, he’s got a feel for pitching; he’s got a great feel for the strike zone. We’ve just got to work on his command, so he can throw strikes where he wants to throw them, but he does have a good feel for the strike zone. It’s always exciting having an athletic left-handed arm to work with and usually those good athletes are quick learners.”

As a lefty with a power arm, Rosario likes what he can do with his fastball. But the southpaw has been working on a slider with Arteaga and believes that could be his best pitch by the time the 2021 season begins.

“I feel like once I develop that slider, it’s going to be my go-to pitch,” Rosario said. “It’s pretty good right now and I just started throwing it when I got here, so I can’t wait to get more comfortable throwing it and just see how it develops.”

Overall, Rosario is spending as much time as he can learning about pitching and it doesn’t hurt that he is under the tutelage of one of the greatest pitchers in Miami history.

“I’m looking forward to learning a lot from J.D.,” Rosario said. “I’m asking him a lot of questions and I’m bought into what he has to say. I’m not going to go against anything he says. He’s very smart and has been successful at developing pitchers for a long time, so whatever he sees is what I’ll go by. If he says I need to work on something, then I’ll work on that. I’m excited to work with him and start feeling more comfortable and learning how to really trust my stuff; that’s the biggest thing.”

Rosario has been balancing school and baseball since he arrived at Miami in August, but his baseball duties are different than most of his teammates. As a two-way player, he must work with both the pitchers and hitters – a task that can prove difficult for most athletes.

“I’m really trying to keep the two parts of two-way separate,” Rosario said. “Like if I’m hitting, but my outing on the mound isn’t going the way I’d like, I’m trying to not bring that to the plate. Same thing if I am struggling as a hitter, I don’t want to bring that to the mound. I’m just trying to have a clear head and move on from there.”

Fellow two-way players JP Gates and Ben Wanger join Rosario bouncing all over Mark Light Field daily and have proven to be a big help for Rosario early in his UM tenure.

“It’s definitely a huge having other two-way guys on the team,” Rosario said. “With JP being here for couple years, he knows how things work and he’s definitely taken me under his wing a little bit and showed me around. He keeps me in check and lets me know what I need to do. It’s been a big help having him and Ben here with me.”

The trio came together for the first time in August, but have become fast friends. An energetic Rosario is always pushing Gates, Wanger and the rest of his teammates to be the best they can be and that attitude has spread throughout the Canes’ clubhouse.

“Mike is fun to be around and we bring energy to everything we do. The fall is hard and it’s grueling, but you’ve got to see the positive in everything, and me and Mike look at it the same way,” Gates said. “We do a lot of stuff together. Me, Mike and Ben seem to be together all the time because we all do the same thing. We all try to bring really good energy to whatever we are doing, whether it is pitching, hitting, defense, running or lifting. It’s been fun to share this two-way experience with other people instead of just bouncing around from place to place by yourself like I did the last two years.”

“I am willing to help the team win in any way I can. We're trying to win a championship here, so anything I can do to assist with that is what I want to do.” 

OF/LHP Mike Rosario

Rosario’s energetic personality and competitive mindset are huge assets as he prepares for his first season with the Hurricanes, but Arteaga believes it’s a desire to develop and improve that will make Rosario reach his full potential.

“What excites me the most is that there’s the willingness to learn and to get better. When he’s done with his bullpen sessions, he sticks around and he listens to what’s going on with other guys and learning from other people’s mistakes,” Arteaga said. “I preach that we can cut the learning curve by learning from other people’s mistakes. Don’t make the mistake and learn from it, pay attention to what’s going on and learn from others. We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of mistakes being made right now. The key is to learn from it and if you can cut the learning curve in half by learning double time, triple time, depending on how you’re able to pay attention, you can really accelerate your development.

“When he’s not pitching, he might be hitting or doing base running. That’s the biggest challenge of a two-way guy,” Arteaga added. “There’s a lot going on, but whenever he can, he’s always around and always listening and learning. When I talk to one of the guys, he’ll approach me and say, ‘Hey, I kind of do the same thing, don’t I?’ And yes, the answer is yes, but we’re not going to try to fix everything at one time. That’s the perfect example of learning from other people’s mistakes and then making adjustments and the fact that he’s so athletic, he’s able to make those adjustments.”

His mindset comes from within, but Rosario also has learned a lot about work ethic from spending summers with his cousin, New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario.

“We’re really close. Every summer since I was 10, I’d go to the Dominican Republic and train with him,. Then once he got signed, I started going over Christmas break a lot and spending a couple weeks there with him,” Rosario said. “He’s really probably my biggest role model; just the way he plays the game and the way he has fun doing it is something I really, really aspire to do.

“He’s helped me mature on the field, for sure,” Rosario said of Amed. “Knowing that you’re going to struggle and people are going to talk crap about you and all that, but you’ve just got to ignore that and just keep going forward. There’s always room to improve and that’s something he’s really helped me with.”

A big year at Miami could springboard Mike towards a pro career like his cousin, Amed. But Mike’s focus is not on the pros just yet. Instead, he is working hard to earn a role with the Hurricanes and help them win a fifth national title.

“I am willing to help the team win in any way I can,” Rosario said. “We’re trying to win a championship here, so anything I can do to assist with that is what I want to do.”