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Regalado Living his Miami Dream

by David Villavicencio

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – If you’re a baseball fan, you likely once dreamt of suiting up for your favorite team.

Whether you were donning Dodger blue, Cardinal red, Yankee pinstripes or something else, the thought of wearing the uniform of your favorite team brought joy to your heart and goals to your life. For Nicholas Regalado, those dreams were filled with orange and green ‘U’s.

“It was always a dream of mine to play for UM,” Regalado said. “As a little kid, I remember coming to the games, getting a milkshake and watching my favorite players. It’s always been a dream for me to play for the University of Miami and represent Miami.”

A freshman right-handed pitcher, Regalado turned those dreams into reality when he enrolled at the University of Miami for the Fall 2020 semester as a student-athlete in the legendary baseball program.

“It’s a great feeling being part of this program,” Regalado said. “You walk around with a U on your hat or on your chest and everyone’s staring at you. It’s the symbol of Miami and it’s a big deal to represent Miami. So, having the privilege to wear it on the field is another level of awesomeness.

“For us Miami guys, being a Hurricane has a different meaning for us,” Regalado added. “It’s not just, ‘I’m a Miami baseball player.’ For us, it’s like playing for the New York Yankees.”

Regalado was a standout from a young age, catching the attention of college recruiters as a freshman in high school.

“I played at a tournament in Perfect Game Georgia and I won the semifinal game,” Regalado said. “I pitched five shutout innings and then I hit a walk-off home run. Right after the game, Miami contacted one of our coaches for me to go the next weekend to visit. During the visit, they gave me a good offer and I committed right there.”

For a person who grew up attending games at Mark Light Field, Regalado was very familiar with Miami’s baseball facilities and program success. But he loved the picturesque Coral Gables campus and the academic opportunities that Miami provided in addition to the outstanding baseball tradition. Once the coaches offered him a scholarship, he knew he would be a Hurricane.

“When I got an offer from Miami, it was a dream come true,” Regalado said. “I grew up wanting to represent Miami and to get a scholarship was a dream come true for me, being able to represent my team and my city.”

Even at a young age, Miami pitching coach J.D. Arteaga saw things in Regalado that he liked. After a successful four-year varsity career in high school, Regalado proved the veteran pitching coach’s scouting eye was true.

“I saw some pitchability. He’s a big, strong right-hander with the body you’re kind of looking for, a durable body,” Arteaga said. “He had success at Pace High School and Christopher Columbus High School, so he’s a guy we’re excited about. But like everybody else, you really don’t know what you have until they step on campus and they’re with you for three months in the fall and he’s a guy that really, really impressed me. His makeup and competitiveness are what excites me the most about him.”

Regalado came in as part of Miami’s top-ranked recruiting class but was not considered one of the headliners by recruiting experts. But he did plenty in his high school career to prove he was worthy of a scholarship at The U.

“He’s one of those Miami local guys that you get that obviously played a lot of good competition,” head coach Gino DiMare said. “I remember watching him play here at our stadium. He pitched in a game here that had a pretty decent crowd for a high school game and playing in the stadium for a high school kid is a big deal. He’s a guy that maybe didn’t come in with as much hype, as say, Alejandro Rosario or Victor Mederos, so he was kind of maybe a little under the radar from a recruiting standpoint if you want to go by rankings.”

Over his final two varsity seasons, Regalado went 10-1 with a 1.02 ERA and 89 strikeouts over 62 innings pitched. He was named Miami-Dade County Pitcher of the Year after an outstanding junior season where he was 9-1 with a 0.60 ERA over 47 innings. Despite being an outstanding pitcher in high school, Regalado did not stand out among his peers at the start of the fall.

“We knew that he was a talented kid. What I didn’t know and something you learn when they come in is just his mentality,” DiMare said. “He’s a guy that, for me, was a little under the radar when I watched him early in the fall during individual workouts and they’re doing drills and they’re doing bullpens, which is very hard, but that’s the beginning process of where you’re trying to gauge your players. I wasn’t quite sure where he was at and he didn’t really stand out to me a whole lot. But as time went on and then we got into the games, I know I remember meeting with J.D. and J.D. was saying ‘I really liked this guy.’ And the reason that stood out for him and he relayed to me was he liked his mentality, which is kind of what our program is built on. J.D. is the epitome of that as a former pitcher here. He was a kid that was tough stuff, had the right mentality and had no fear and Nick’s got that.”

But by the end of his first semester at The U, the Miami Lakes, Fla., native had made an excellent impression on his coaches.

“As the fall went on in the intrasquads, he got better and better and better which is a great sign because all these guys should be getting better; that’s what you want to see,” DiMare added. “I liked his demeanor on the mound and he had a great tempo to how he pitched. I thought he got after hitters and I’m a big fan of that. I want guys that are going to be tough mentally and he certainly has shown that so far.”

While Regalado had a strong showing in his debut fall as a Hurricane, he remembers a moment early in his time at The U that showed him he was at a new level of baseball.

“Early in the fall, I had Gabe Rivera on 2-0 and me not knowing a lot about college baseball, I threw a fastball right down the middle that he hit about 400 feet,” Regalado said. “I think it was actually the highest exit velocity hit we had during the fall, but I learned from that.”

Arteaga was impressed with how Regalado responded to adversity. Instead of sulking or making excuses for his difficulties, Regalado was proactive in learning from his mistakes and his development skyrocketed because of his approach.

“Most of the guys that you recruit out of high school don’t really struggle, they don’t have bad games and you don’t get to see how they react to failure and adversity,” Arteaga said. “So, like every freshman, he had his bad innings and bad days and just the way he handled it and the way he came back the next day or next outing or next bullpen just trying to learn from it and get better, that’s what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, that’s one thing that you can’t really get a read on until they get here.”

While he committed to Miami as a freshman in high school and signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Hurricanes as a senior, Regalado knew nothing was guaranteed as he entered one of the premier programs in college baseball.

“Coming into this year, my first goal was to come in here and make the team, which thank God I did,” Regalado said. “Now, my goal is to fight for the top spot. I’m trying to earn a starting spot right now and I’m just trying to fight with the big dogs. I’m just going to keep working hard, so I can get this job.”

“I grew up wanting to represent Miami and to get a scholarship was a dream come true for me, being able to represent my team and my city.”

RHP Nick Regalado

Arteaga knew going into the fall that he would have to find a new starting rotation to replace departed stars Brian Van Belle, Chris McMahon and Slade Cecconi. Much like Van Belle did in 2019, Regalado came out of nowhere to catch the attention of his coaches in the fall and inserted himself in the mix for a starting rotation spot.

“He put himself in position to be one of our starters,” Arteaga said. “I’m not going to say I didn’t expect him to do well or as well, but he exceeded my expectations a little bit and he earned the right to come back in the spring and compete for one of those four starting roles. Normally when we come back in the spring, we will have six guys competing for the four spots, but this year we have eight guys competing for the four spots. A guy like Regalado kind of forced the hand with how he pitched in the fall.”

DiMare agrees that Regalado has earned the right to compete for a spot as a starter, but knows that the most important thing for Regalado is an ability to consistently retire batters regardless of his role.

“You’ve got to get people out, that’s the bottom line. The more people you get out, the higher your role and more important your role is going to be,” DiMare said. “J.D. and I talk all the time and we don’t know what our rotation is. It’s not like last year where we had an idea and it was three guys and we just got to figure out who’s one two and three. There’s a mix of guys that can be in the rotation and he’s one of them. And then guys that don’t make the rotation, then those other guys have to be guys that take the role in the bullpen, which is important here at Miami and at every level because nobody throws complete games anymore. We’ve never been a program that allowed guys to throw complete games, so we go to the bullpen and those are the guys that have the ball in their hands at the end of the game. Well, that’s a pretty important time of the game when you’re trying to finish and win games, which was a problem for us in 2019.

“Nick is just coming in as a freshman and he’s trying to prove himself and whatever role that he gets, I’m sure he’ll accept,” DiMare continued. “Right now, he’s one of a number of guys that are in the mix to be a starter. At the end of the day, the more you get people out, the more you’re going to pitch and it’s going to be in very, very important times in the game.”

Like many younger players, Regalado has professionals that he tries to emulate on the mound. While he may not be a power pitcher like Justin Verlander, Regalado believes he shares a similar mentality and approach to pitching with the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

“I like the way he pitches and his determination on the mound,” Regalado said. “He doesn’t fear anyone. He just pounds the strike zone and that’s the way I like to pitch.”

Regalado’s mentality on the mound and determination to continually improve helped him in the fall, but so did his development as a pitcher. Working with Arteaga, the right-hander refined some of his off-speed pitches and saw immediate results.

“I had a slider before I got here, but me and J.D. have worked on it and made some adjustments to it,” Regalado said. “So, now I throw a slider that’s kind of like a slider/cutter and a changeup that we developed. Those two pitches really worked for me this fall, especially the slider/cutter.”

With improved secondary pitches and a two-seamer that has proven very effective throughout his career, Regalado has a bevy of offerings to attack hitters with and that has helped him as he prepares for his first season of college baseball.

“Having a variety of pitches benefits me because I’m not a guy that throws 96 or 97 miles-per-hour, so I need movement in my pitches,” Regalado said. “I’m able to throw a lot of different pitches in different counts and situations so it benefits me to have several pitches in my arsenal to get batters out.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound pitcher has learned to adjust as a pitcher, as well as how to face a more advanced group of hitters at the college level.

“The biggest difference is the strike zone. It’s not like high school, where I used to throw a fastball right down the middle with some velocity and I’d strike guys out,” Regalado said. “Here, if you’re throwing 91 or 92 [miles-per-hour], it’s not going to look like anything to them, so you’ve got to learn how to spot your location, hit your correct spot, be able to throw breaking balls when you’re behind in the count and throw them for strikes. That’s what me and J.D. were working on this fall, just working on the strike zone and working on breaking pitches and throwing them for strikes.”

Arteaga has enjoyed working with his new pupil and described him as someone who is an active listener and is always eager to learn new and different things to help him get better as a player.

“Those are the guys you love to coach,” Arteaga said. “He’s a guy that just wants to get better. Normally, college freshmen don’t fail in high school so when they come here you kind of have to let them fail first and then they’re more willing to listen and more coachable. From day one, Nick was very quiet and was very receptive and everything we tried and everything we talked about, he would try. Some things he liked and some things he didn’t, but he’s a great communicator and very, very coachable.”

Working with Arteaga, as well as learning from veterans like Daniel Federman and Spencer Bodanza, has helped the 18-year-old make significant strides on the mound that he believes will help him greatly when the season begins in the spring.

“I’ve changed a lot since I got here. I’m a different pitcher from high school to now,” Regalado said. “Back then, I’d just throw a fastball down the middle or throw a breaking ball for a ball and they’d swing at it. Now, I’ve got to throw pitches that look like strikes but are not going to end up strikes and I’ve got to have good location on those pitches. I’m a completely different pitcher now, but I feel like I’m already a better pitcher than I was in high school.”

“For us Miami guys, being a Hurricane has a different meaning for us. It's not just, 'I'm a Miami baseball player.' For us, it's like playing for the New York Yankees.”

Nick Regalado

With his first college season quickly approaching, Regalado is determined to build off his strong fall performance. He is working out and throwing on his own to ensure that he is at his best when the team reconvenes in January.

“I need to get stronger in the weight room,” Regalado said. “I need to be running to make my conditioning better. I need to keep feeling my pitches to not lose my pitches and just continue my mindset to just get better every day. I feel like we all need to work as hard as we can right now because if we do that, once the season comes, everything will be easier because we will be ready for it.”

One moment Regalado is eagerly preparing for is his Miami debut. After spending so many years imagining what it would be like to play for the Hurricanes, he cannot wait for the first opportunity to step on the mound in a Canes baseball uniform.

“The butterflies will be coming for sure before the game,” Regalado said. “But once it gets closer and closer to the game, I’ll focus and know that I have to take the mound with all the confidence in the world and just do my thing.”