Passion for baseball makes Viera’s Espinal stand out


Viera High School's Alan Espinal first drew the attention of Vanderbilt after taking part in a showcase the summer of his sophomore year.

Carl Kotala

Viera High School catcher Alan Espinal knows only one way to play the game of baseball:

With passion.

“Ever since I started playing, it’s been 100, 100,” the recent graduate said. “Even when I got here and I didn’t know anybody, I still played my game.

“And it ended up just right. Coaches love it. That’s the first compliment I get, about the style I play. I don’t plan on changing it. It’s been good
for me.”

It certainly has.

Espinal, who came to Viera two years ago, has committed to play at Vanderbilt, one of college baseball’s premier programs. He also has a chance to be selected in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft, which takes place June 10 and 11.

Unlike previous years, where the draft went 40 rounds, this year’s event will be limited to five rounds due to the coronavirus pandemic. ESPN has reported players who go undrafted will be eligible to sign with a major league team, but for a maximum of only $20,000.

While Espinal’s original plan before coming to Viera had been to forgo college and sign a pro contract out of high school, he has since changed his mind and realized the value of getting a college education, while also working to improve his game.

“That was my mentality (to sign out of high school),” Espinal said. “But once I got here and was enrolled in school, I learned about how baseball players talk about college over playing professionally.

“It really opened my eyes. Because it’s true — a lot of things can happen. Baseball’s not forever. Your career can end at any moment. Having a college (education), where you can study and make a new life, that’s a smart decision. I went that way.”

Espinal, who was born in Puerto Rico, began playing baseball at age 7. After playing third base, shortstop and the outfield, he was moved to catcher at age 11.

“I like the leadership that comes with the position,” he said. “Ever since I was a child, my coaches have told me I was a leader.”

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, Espinal and his family relocated to South Florida. He played his sophomore year at West Broward High School before moving to Viera so his family could be closer to his older brother, Dilan, who was playing baseball at Eastern Florida State College. His younger brother, Edian, just finished his sophomore year at Viera.

Last year, the Hawks reached the Class 7A regional final and Espinal was looking forward to making another strong run at a state title with fellow seniors Declan McDermott, J.T. Smith, Billy Moser, Zach Taylor, Ethan Huffman, Jake Moldrem, Hunter Longtin, Thomas Kaye, Tyler Madl, Christian Stubbendeck and Owen Kling.

The coronavirus, however, cut their senior season short.

“It was super hard, because at the time I hadn’t committed, so I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “I was frustrated. I had all these thoughts in my mind.

“But the one thing that hit me the most was that these guys were depending on this season to play and get noticed. Other people were crying for graduation, crying for prom … I just wanted my season back. I wanted one more game with my boys. I love those guys.”

Although his commitment to Vanderbilt is firm, make no mistake Espinal still has his sights set on playing professionally one day.

It’s not just about playing for himself. He wants to be able to take care of the people that ultimately mean the most to him — his family.

“I’ll always think of my family first,” Espinal said. “That’s my drive. I just want them to be comfortable. I want to buy my mom and dad a house so they can be comfortable and never work again.

“They can just chill and sit back and be proud of what they made — me and my brothers. They went above and beyond for us. I’m so blessed I have them by my side. I know not a lot of people can say that about their parents.

“It’s amazing. They’ve been super perfect, best parents in the world. I just want them to be happy.”