Competitive Fire Fuels Arguelles

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Whether it’s playing baseball, football or doing just about anything else, Anthony Arguelles wants to win like he needs air to breathe.

A two-sport star at Miami’s Columbus High School, Arguelles — who is now a right-handed pitcher in his first year at the University of Miami – owes some of his success to his athletic ability and work ethic. But the Miami native knows what separates him from others is his never-ending competitiveness, a trait that was developed well before he led the Explorers to a lot of victories on the gridiron and on the diamond.

“Sports has pretty much been a part of all of our lives, ever since we were really young,” Arguelles said. “Ever since I was little, all I can remember is playing some type of sport or watching them on TV and my dad was always trying to coach us. Me and my brother were always competing in the backyard, whether it was football or wiffleball or basketball. It was always a really competitive household and I’m definitely thankful for it.”

Arguelles learned to compete at an early age. The youngest of three children, he was always competing with his older brother, Andy, and the two played every sport imaginable. They were usually coached by their father, Fernando, a former professional baseball player who helped mold his boys into athletes and, maybe more importantly, into competitors.

“I’m sure his upbringing has a lot to do with his mentality,” Miami head coach Gino DiMare said. “His dad played high school ball locally here and went on to play professionally. He’s been around the game a lot and I’m sure that’s something that’s probably been instilled in him from his family about that competitiveness. I think it helps him certainly.”

With his competitive fire fueling him, Arguelles became the starting quarterback and ace pitcher at Columbus and that is where he first caught the attention of Miami pitching coach J.D. Arteaga.

“He’s a guy that waited his turn in both football and baseball in high school,” Arteaga said. “He had an amazing senior year leading the football team to a great regular season and a pretty deep run in the playoffs and then as a pitcher in baseball led them to a state semifinal where they actually lost to Jake Garland. Anthony was the number one pitcher for that team and really carried them.”

Arguelles looks back fondly at his four years as an Explorer. In addition to the high expectations for success in the classroom and on the field, Columbus prepared Arguelles for the bigger things that awaited him after graduation.

“It was a really cool experience because it wasn’t just like a regular high school,” Arguelles said. “Columbus is like a whole community filled with proud alumni and a lot of people that care. It wasn’t just what you saw at face value, there was a lot more to it than just supporting the football team or baseball team. A lot of people cared about you as a person and as a student in addition to as an athlete. So, I definitely got to experience what it was like being part of a team where there are a lot of people who care about that team and I am sure that is what it will be like with the fans here at Miami, too. The way the alumni and really the whole Columbus community supported us always made it seem like big-time athletics.”

His baseball career at Columbus was full of exploits, as he posted the lowest ERA in Dade County as a junior and was named Pitcher of the Year by the Miami Herald following his senior season. As a two-sport standout, Arguelles had the opportunity to play football and baseball collegiately and that made choosing the next path in his athletic career a bit more difficult.

“My favorite sport growing up was always pretty seasonal. Whatever was in season and whatever was on TV, that’s what it was at the time,” Arguelles said. “Ever since I was little, I played baseball. I started playing football when I was about seven or eight, but baseball was when I was like four or five. I always thought that my future was in baseball. So, when I was making the decision of what I was going to do after high school, baseball was definitely a priority.”

Arguelles decided to put down his football helmet and focus on the pitcher’s mound at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Fla. He turned in a strong performance on the mound, finishing his debut season 5-1 with a 3.91 ERA and 78 strikeouts over 73.2 innings pitched.

While he admittedly missed football as a freshman at Santa Fe, Arguelles knows there are a lot of similarities between playing quarterback and pitching and he used those parallels to his advantage.

“One thing that I learned in football is that you’ve just got to keep playing the game,” Arguelles said. “It doesn’t matter what the score is, you have to play until the end because you might go down like two or three touchdowns in the first half, but you could always come back. In baseball it’s pretty similar, especially in pitching. If you give up some runs in the first inning, you’ve got to keep pitching and keep throwing up zeros to try and give your team a chance to win. Playing quarterback honestly related to pitching a lot. You’re always in control and everything starts with you and that goes the same with pitching where you set the tempo for the game and you dictate how the game goes.”

While he showed some growth from high school to his first season at Santa Fe, Arguelles knew he had more within him. He passed on offers from smaller schools and returned to Santa Fe for the 2020 season, where he went 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA and 54 strikeouts over 39 innings pitched. He also caught Arteaga’s attention once again.

“He’s a guy that I watched grow up in high school and I’ve known him for a very long time,” Arteaga said. “He’s kind of a late bloomer. In recruiting, you come across guys where you’re like, ‘I’m familiar with him’ and then you can follow some of those guys once they leave high school. Some of these late bloomers, they’re ready for you but financially you just don’t have the scholarship money or the availability to offer them anything out of high school.

“It was nice that he chose to go to junior college and went to Santa Fe, where he had a really nice freshman year and actually started a few games for them and had a lot of success,” Arteaga said. “We saw him pitch a couple of times earlier last fall and in some of the JUCO fall tournaments and decided he’s a guy that’s kind of a proven winner and a guy that competes.”

Arguelles fits the mold of the late bloomer, as the right-hander believes he made significant strides as a pitcher during his tenure at Santa Fe.

“I think I’ve learned a lot since Columbus,” Arguelles said. “I’ve developed two pretty good pitches since high school. I’ve gained a slider and a changeup and that’s helped me a lot because at Columbus I was just pretty much a two-pitch guy. And I got a lot stronger and I started throwing a little bit harder. Overall, I’ve grown a lot and my path from Columbus to Santa Fe was a great stepping-stone for me to be able to get to a school like this. I just improved a lot over those two years at Santa Fe so I’m very thankful.”

As a Miami native who grew up attending games at Mark Light Field with his family, it was a dream come true when Arteaga offered him the opportunity to become a Hurricane.

“If you’d have told me that I would have been playing baseball at Miami, I would’ve told you, ‘You’re crazy’ because I never thought I could come here,” Arguelles said. “I was at Santa Fe and I had a pretty good freshman year. I had a couple small schools trying to recruit me to leave after my freshman year, but I decided to come back because I wanted to go to a bigger school. I’m glad I did because once UM came calling and they gave me an offer, I pretty much knew immediately after that I was going to come here. I think I committed like the next day after the offer. So, once The U called, it was pretty much a wrap.”

Arguelles arrived at Miami this fall eager to begin his UM career. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Canes to adjust their summer and fall plans, he participated in fall ball and got to show his new teammates and coaches what he could do.

“My stuff has been pretty good but, in terms of results, I would have liked it to be better,” Arguelles said. “I am not letting that affect me though. I’ll keep working on my pitching on my own and with J.D. and I know the results I want are coming. But overall, at Miami, I’ve liked it a lot. All the guys on the team are really cool and we all get along really well. We have a great strength program and our nutritionist is really cool, so it’s a great environment to get better at baseball.”

"Winning is definitely something you learn to do and he's had that all his life.” 

Miami pitching coach J.D. Arteaga on Anthony Arguelles

DiMare and Arteaga believe Arguelles has the ability to be a key contributor for Miami when the 2021 season begins.

“He’s a guy that’s got a chance to be a major guy for us out of the bullpen,” DiMare said. “He’s got a good breaking ball, it’s one of the better breaking balls on the team and he’s got very good rotation on it. If he’s a guy that throws strikes and can get people out, he will play a very big role for us in the bullpen.”

While Arguelles appears to be headed to the bullpen, Arteaga knows he can be a versatile weapon on the mound for the Hurricanes.

“He can give you a chance in many ways like he can start for you, he can come in relief for you and be a long guy or short guy,” Arteaga said. “He throws strikes and can pitch a little bit. Guys like that are needed in every staff.”

Arguelles has spent most of his junior college career as a starting pitcher, with 19 of his 22 appearances coming as a starter. But he is open to helping the Hurricanes whenever they give him the ball.

“Being a reliever is really different, but in college, you’ve got to adapt,” Arguelles said. “I only relieved a few games at junior college. I was mostly a starter for my time there. But I’m glad to be able to contribute and help us win anyway the team needs.”

Orange and green are in Arguelles’ blood, as he is a legacy at The U. The Miami native also knows what it means to be part of the proud Hurricanes baseball tradition.

“It’s huge to be part of this program,” Arguelles said. “Me and my brother grew up coming to games and we always loved The U. My mom went to school here and she was a cheerleader. It’s a dream come true today that I get to represent the place where I grew up and one of the best college baseball programs in the country.”

Now that he is at Miami, Arguelles hopes to help the Hurricanes capture their fifth national championship after rooting for them for so many years.

“Growing up, Miami was always good and I remember they were always going to Omaha,” Arguelles said. “Being here now and knowing I could be able to actually help and potentially go win a national championship at the school I grew up liking, I think it’s awesome.”

Arguelles has always been fueled by his work ethic and his competitiveness. In addition to his talent, he has the intangibles that make him a winner and that is exactly why his pitching coach is confident that will continue at Miami.

“He’s been very successful at every level, from little league on,” Arteaga said. “I remember watching him play little league football at the Kendall Boys and Girls Club and he’s always been successful. Winning is something that is a learned attribute. Once you get a taste of it, it is tough to let people beat you and that’s something that he has. I think that’s where his competitiveness comes from. He’s not a big, oversized kid, but his heart is bigger than his physical attributes. Winning is definitely something you learn to do and he’s had that all his life.”