By Jocelyn Jones
EAST GREENSBORO (December 3, 2018) – Life’s journey can be very unpredictable, for it can either make you or break you. There is no one who understands this sentiment quite like Roberto Negron. Negron, a senior pitcher for the North Carolina A&T State University baseball team has withstood many obstacles and overcome adversity to make it to where he is today.
Negron is coming off an opportunity of a lifetime. After one of Negron’s former head coaches passed along Negron’s phone number to former Major League Baseball star catcher Yadier Molina who is now the head coach of the Under-23 Puerto Rican National baseball team. Molina later sent Negron a letter of invitation to join the team. The journey to the Puerto Rican national team was not an easy one for Negron, however.
Bad First Impression
Born in Bayamoń Puerto Rico, Negron spent most of his life in Toa Alto. After high school he decided to take a chance, therefore he departed Puerto Rico to attend a small community college in Centerville, Iowa to pursue a collegiate baseball career. Unfortunately, his experience in the United States wasn’t exactly what he expected.
“After the season ended, I went home and was honestly done with baseball,” said Negron. “It was a really hard experience what I faced there. I struggled a lot personally. I thought after that, baseball in the United States was not my thing.”
Negron returned home after his freshman year and enrolled in the college that accepted him before he left for the U.S. But life had other plans. While perusing Facebook, Negron’s mother saw a post that was offering a scholarship for certain baseball positions. Negron’s mother wanted him to call the number on the post.
The Ohio Warhawks
Negron called after some reluctance and spoke to a talent scout. The scout eventually got Negron in contact with Ron Slusher, the head coach of a summer league baseball team in Springfield, Ohio named the Ohio Warhawks.
Negron flew the next day to Las Vegas to play in his first tournament. He traveled across the west coast playing in minor league stadiums with the Warhawks. “Honestly that’s when I feel that my baseball career started when I really started to enjoy the sport that is baseball,” said Negron. “I went from something really rough, almost giving up, to saying yes I can do this.”
Negron comes to AggieLand
As enjoyable as his experience was, Negron still had to figure out next steps. Thanks to two of his coaches and their connections, he received a scholarship to Chipola College in Marianna, Fla., after weighing other options. After winning a championship at Chipola, Negron received 12 scholarship offers before choosing to attend N.C. A&T.
Negron enrolled at N.C. A&T in fall of 2017 and helped the Aggies win the 2018 MEAC championship, the school’s first in 13 years. After helping the Aggies compete in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional and receiving the national team invitation, Negron went to N.C. A&T head baseball coach Ben Hall and told him about the tremendous opportunity and Hall jumped into action.
“We were thrilled with the opportunity that Roberto was blessed with,” said Hall. “I know he has a deep love and respect for Puerto Rico and his baseball heritage. It was such a neat honor for him to play baseball for his country in international competition. His coaches were the who’s who of longtime successful professional baseball players. That’s pretty cool.”
One problem. Negron needed permission from the NCAA before accepting the invitation. Two days after showing Hall the letter, Hall and the Aggies received permission from the NCAA to play in the tournament. By Wednesday, he was flying to Florida to meet his teammates and coaches before traveling to Colombia for the Under-23 World Cup. Out of everyone on the team, he was the only college player on the team. Everyone else was professionals.
During his week in Colombia, Negron played in four games out of the eight games played with one game standing out. In a game against the Netherlands, Negron earned two ninth-inning strikeouts to lead Puerto Rico to the win.
“My mindset was so different then what it was when I started. I grew so much from the start of the tournament to that moment,” Negron said. “I remember I thought to myself wow look where I am. If that was the last inning that I pitched in my life, I would have been so thankful.”
Back from his weeklong experience in Colombia, Negron is ready to jump back into school and baseball. His head coach is feeling the excitement as well.
“Roberto has a powerful arm. This fall before he left for the tournament, he was pitching 90-94 miles per hour. During each inter-squad game, there was more velocity there”, said Hall. “It is undeniable the amount of potential he possesses. This trip to Colombia was just what his development needed. It gave him a big boost in confidence knowing he can play at any level. I can’t wait to get him ready for a breakout senior season.”