Remembering 2014: Alain Quijano Profile
The off-season is upon us, but we have plenty of content to keep you occupied here at BlogToBlogChamps. Each Monday, we’ll publish a feature from the 2014 York Revolutionary Times, the official game day magazine of the York Revolution, for you to re-enjoy, or read for the first time in case you missed it at the ballpark. This week, dive into this profile of left-handed starting pitcher Alain Quijano.
By Ron Gardner
At this point in his baseball career, there’s a whole lot of “what might have been” that could easily be haunting Revs’ pitcher Alain Quijano.
After a standout high school career at Des Moines (IA) Lincoln High School, where his father Alec was the head baseball coach, Quijano received an offer to play in college at Iowa State University, only to see that opportunity vanish into thin air when the Cyclones’ baseball program was dropped in 2001 due to budget cuts.
To keep his baseball career going, Quijano walked on at Marshalltown (IA) Community College (enrollment 2,000), where he pitched well enough to garner all sorts of attention and scholarship offers from top baseball programs, before committing to play at the University of Missouri and what appeared to be a promising chance to showcase his talents at a major Division I program.
That moment didn’t last, as Quijano soon found himself watching all the action from dugout when the Mizzou coaching staff never had him to step onto the pitcher’s mound in a single game for the Tigers. Having turned down other Division I baseball powers, including the University of Texas (which came calling after he had verbally committed to Missouri), Quijano ultimately decided he was at “the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I got put on the back burner,” said Quijano, a 6-0, 180-pound southpaw who will celebrate his 32nd birthday on July 27. “For what, I have no idea. I (had gone) through this huge recruiting process … when all this stuff went down, I was mentally distraught about it. I really didn’t understand why it had gone on.”
He ultimately decided to “come home” to Des Moines and enrolled at nearby Grand View University (2,300 students) where he won 16 games in two seasons as a starter and was named All-Midwest Classic (now Midwest Collegiate) Conference in 2004.
But pitching well in relative obscurity for Grand View compared to a Division I NCAA program didn’t create much positive traction for Quijano on draft day, as he went unselected in the 2005 first-year player draft. What then followed for Quijano was a nine-year sojourn through several of baseball’s free agent leagues, from the Central League (‘05), to the Frontier League (‘07-‘08), to the Northern League (‘09-‘10) and then on to the American Association (‘11-‘13). Last season, Quijano was 12-7 with the Gary (IN) SouthShore Railcats, helping that team capture the American Association championship.
But now at age 31 and with the “real world” calling (he plans to marry his fiancée Rebecca this fall), Quijano asked Gary SouthShore manager Greg Tagert (who knows Revs manager Mark Mason from their days in the Frontier League together) to help him find a spot in the Atlantic League this summer for one last opportunity to test himself in one of baseball’s top leagues
“I told (Tagert) there’s really nothing left for me to do in that league,” Quijano said. “I’m not saying that I dominated the league, it’s just saying I expended all of my energy into that league and that was enough and if I was going to play, it was going to have to be in this league.
“I said this would be the only place and if I came here, whatever happens, happens. And then I’ll know and I can put it to bed and say I did everything I could do and control to get where I needed to be.”
Through his first 10 starts for York this season, Quijano led the Revs pitching staff with five wins (5-3 record, 4.22 ERA), striking out 37 batters and walking just 17 in 55.1 innings pitched.
And while his time at the University of Missouri happened more than 10 years ago and 914 miles from Santander Stadium, Quijano continues to use those scars, plus the fact that he was never drafted or signed by a big-league club, as motivation whenever he steps on the mound. He’ll never know what might have happened in his baseball career if Iowa State hadn’t dropped its baseball program, or if he got a chance to pitch at Missouri. He might have done well enough to get noticed, drafted or signed, or maybe not, but these thoughts are never far.
“I think I have something to prove with my background, as far as not getting drafted, the University of Missouri thing … I’m still sitting here at 31 proving it,” Quijano said. “That’s the way I go at it – I’ve never been signed or drafted and I’m going to use that for fuel to go out there and try to beat people – whoever I’m playing, it doesn’t even matter who it is.
“That’s why I play, I think, with this chip on the shoulder. I want to be able to show people, not just show people, but show myself and everybody else that we’re competing with to say you might have missed eight years ago when you had a chance to draft me or you might have missed when you had a chance to sign me. That chance has maybe gone out the window, per se, but I’m not going to sit and think about that because if get caught up in that, I might as well just go home because you will never approach the game the way you should.”
But while Quijano may not have achieved the opportunities he craved as a player, his passion for the game pushed him into coaching. After completing his bachelor’s degree in communications and media studies at Grand View in 2005 and serving as a graduate assistant coach there in 2006, Quijano went on to Lincoln Memorial University in Harrowgate, TN where he would earn a master’s degree in educational administration and spending two seasons there as a graduate assistant coach.
He returned to Grand View as assistant coach in 2009, where he helped the Vikings to a tie for the Midwest Collegiate Conference regular season title and MCC tournament championship to advance to the NAIA national tournament. Quijano’s pitching staff ranked among the top five in the NAIA for fewest walks allowed to help Grand View improve from 17-28 in 2009 to 29-20 in 2010. Quijano continued to build his coaching resume at Iowa Wesleyan College in 2011 and Moraine Valley Community College (IL) in 2012-13, and he said that his successes and disappointments as a player will come in handy in hopefully coaching for many years at the college level once his playing days are done.
“That’s what I will do when this is done,” Quijano said. “I know that. I’ll talk about myself this way more than I’ll talk about my game. But I have all the failures that you could go through in a baseball career and be able to share that with 18-22 year-olds, so that they know when the downs come, that it’s only going to look one way – it’s going to look up. Most kids today need that guidance. They need to understand that as bad as it’s going to get, because it’s real life, things get better.”
And where Quijano once viewed baseball as the sole focus of his life, he said now sees it as a tool to help young players complete their academic educations and prepare for life off the baseball field.
“You know what, I lived my life for a long time believing that baseball was the only reason why I did something,” Quijano said. “They did an article on me one time in the Des Moines Register and I said the only reason I went to school, and they quoted me on this, was to play baseball, get drafted and sign. Now that was true. But they didn’t have to write that, and the instructors at the college didn’t have to take it the way they all took it, especially in in my major. They buried me.
“Now that my life has turned to where I do love the game, and I’d love to tell you I’ll do anything to do what I do, but it’s shifted. It’s now I want to help people in the good of it instead of living my life just for baseball, to play the next season (or) the next game.”
Instead of only caring about how a player performs between the foul lines or success spelled out solely by wins and losses, Quijano says he’s ready to enjoy having baseball and coaching success defined in different terms.
“Caring about what they do on the field, that’s the easy part,” Quijano said. “Caring about these kids and what they do in their day-to-day life, that’s where you can hook a kid. A good statement I’ve heard over and over again that I really enjoy is that it’s not about the amount of wins that you got as a coach – it’s the amount of wedding invitations that you got.”