Former Nova Southeastern University second baseman Carlos Asuaje’s non-verbal communication was saying, “This is just another hit.”
Except it wasn’t.
When Asuaje pulled a double down the right-field line on a low-and-inside 2-2 pitch from fellow Venezuelan native Albert Suarez on Sept. 23, it was the first hit of Asuaje’s major-league career.
Asuaje, a San Diego Padres rookie, finished his second big-league start with a 2-for-4, two-run performance in a 7-2 win over the San Francisco Giants. His first-inning double led to a three-run rally, and his sixth-inning double led to a four-run outburst.
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But, as he told media members in San Diego: “I didn’t want to seem all giddy in front of the guys. They already mess with me enough. I didn’t want to look too happy. But, man, inside it was really good.”
Back in South Florida, Asuaje’s former coach at NSU, Greg Brown, watched his first hit intently.
“Carlos looked settled and in control in during that at-bat,” Brown said. “He always looks comfortable on the field. I think that’s why he’s able to perform under pressure.”
Brown said it was “an awesome day” for Asuaje’s parents, who flew out to San Diego to see the start of their son’s MLB career.
It was also another special moment for Asuaje’s high school alma mater, St. Thomas Aquinas. The Raiders baseball program has been on an incredible run of late. From August 31 to Sept. 21, three former Aquinas players made their major-league debuts.
This impressive 22-day stretch started when outfielder Stephen Cardullo finally got his first at-bat – on his 29th birthday no less – and launched a home run as a pinch-hitter. In the second game of that doubleheader, Cardullo provided an encore – a grand slam.
On Sept. 2, left-hander Robby Scott, 27, made his major-league debut as a Boston Red Sox reliever, pitching a scoreless inning against the Oakland A’s, striking out two.
Scott, like Cardullo, played college ball at Florida State, and both endured long roads to the majors.
Cardullo, a walk-on at FSU, spent seven years in the minors including four seasons in independent ball – unwanted by any major-league organization – before catching a break with Colorado.
Scott was undrafted after only pitching eight innings as an FSU senior. He also spent time in independent ball - three weeks on a team coached by Jose Canseco - before Boston signed him.
Asuaje, a 24-year-old who is two classes short of earning his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from NSU, has had a much easier ride to the majors.
A 5-9, 160-pound lefty hitter, Asuaje was the 2016 Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year after leading his Triple-A El Paso team to the PCL title, batting .321 with an .851 OPS.
He scored 98 runs and had 32 doubles, 11 triples, 10 steals and nine homers in 134 games at El Paso.
The Red Sox drafted him in the 11th round in 2013, but Boston sent him and other top prospects to the Padres last November in a trade for closer Craig Kimbrel.
Asuaje got called up by the Padres on Sept. 21, striking out looking in his first big-league at-bat. Asuaje, who was a pinch-hitter in that at-bat, got caught on a 3-2 curveball, down and in, from Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Randall Delgado.
“Initially, I thought it was a ball,” Asuaje told The Herald. “But then I saw video, and I thought it was a close pitch either way.
“When I got back to the dugout, all the guys were giving me high-fives. I was surprised. I never got high-fives after a strikeout before. But they told me I had a good at-bat.”
Asuaje, like Scott and Cardullo before him, was coached at Aquinas by Robert Lawson, who is now an economics teacher at the school but no longer connected to the team.
Troy Cameron, who is beginning work on his fifth season as the Aquinas baseball coach, is thrilled to see his Raiders program getting attention.
Yes, the Aquinas football program has won nine state titles and has sent a long list of players to the NFL, including Michael Irvin and Joey Bosa. But Raiders baseball has credentials, too, winning state in 1995 and 2003.
“I always tell people that baseball was ranked nationally before football was,” Cameron said. “I want people to know we have baseball at STA, too.”