Willing and Abel: Meet Shenandoah’s 2016 Baseball MVP
By Monica Baranko, Contributor
WINCHESTER – His alarm is sounding at 7 a.m. He rolls out of bed. He brushes his teeth with his minty-fresh Colgate toothpaste. ESPN is blaring in the background as he gets ready. He eats a pack of his “fruity fruit snacks” and chugs his cup of instant coffee.
As ordinary as that routine sounds, it’s the routine of an extraordinary person. That’s how Abel Arocho, Shenandoah University Hornet Baseball’s 2016 MVP and sports management student, jumpstarts his day.
“After class and before practice, I go to Wendy’s. I get a 10 piece nugget and a JR cheeseburger with a lot of barbecue sauce…like a lot,” he said while scarfing down a barbecue sauce-loaded burger and fresh-cut fries from 50/50 Taphouse while out with his friends in downtown Winchester. “After that, I just go to ‘The Dub’ (his house) until practice,” said Arocho about his pre-practice routine.
The game of baseball is spiritual to him. He preaches it as much as he does the Bible that he keeps next to his bed on his nightstand. And like many athletes, Arocho is superstitious.
“The outfielders spell out LOEPS in the dirt on the field. I can’t tell you what that means though…it’s a secret,” he said with a wink. Then teammate Tristan Baker and he go to the cage to get some extra hitting. “We both need a little extra warm-up to feel confident.”
Arocho doesn’t walk around with that Bryce Harper attitude. “He’s the most humble guy I know for how good he is,” his roommate and teammate, Jake Makowski, said, “He doesn’t talk down on anyone or make anyone feel bad. He’s always willing to help. He’s a good dude.”
“When I go up to hit, I always think about the team and how I need to help them. I love winning as a team during the season. It makes the hard practices and long hours worth it,” said Arocho.
This mentality has gotten his team to vote him as assistant captain this season. Arocho transferred as a junior from the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville. As a junior, this lefty hitter earned first team All-ODAC (Old Dominion Athletic Conference) honors after leading the team in hitting during the regular season. Arocho was named third team All-South Region by D3baseball.com, second team All-South by the American Baseball Coaches Association, and first team All-State by Virginia Sports Information Directors. His batting average was .393, and his fielding percentage was .964 having only two errors all season last year.
“He’s a leader on and off the field, but I can still joke around with him all the time,” roommate and teammate, Camden Abbey, said. “We (teammates and roommates) can all make fun of each other, and it’s all good.”
Arocho didn’t get to where he is now with ease. He came to America during his summer of seventh grade from a small northwestern area in Puerto Rico called Aguadilla. He moved to Glen Burnie, Maryland because his mother was offered a good job in Baltimore, Maryland.
“I didn’t know a lick of English,” Arocho said. His native language is Spanish. “I learned the language through watching television, my new friends, being in class, and just being forced to learn it by my surroundings.”
“He walks around the house in the tightest boxers ever. He has the loudest voice past midnight. He leaves all of his condiments out of the fridge. He ignores our Keurig and makes his nasty instant coffee…garrr. And he never shuts any of the doors,” Dan Cameron, roommate and teammate, said.
“He eats tuna and Ritz crackers,” Makowski said, “When he is done he doesn’t rinse out the bowl so it gets crusty. It cements to the bowl.”
“He came in my room at 2 a.m. once and called me Scooby Doo,” said Abbey as the best friends sat across the wooden table at what seemed to be a roast of Arocho.
Arocho’s favorite quote is, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,” said by his idol, Babe Ruth. He plans on living by these words during this season to finish up his career as a Hornet.