Miami Embraces Youth MovementWeekend Spotlight
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Despite the optics of a newly grown scruffy beard, first baseman Alex Toral is just 19, one of four teenagers who made history this past weekend.
Toral, second baseman Willy Escala, shortstop Freddy Zamora and third baseman Raymond Gil are believed to be the first all-true-freshmen opening-day starting infield in Miami Hurricanes history.
The four of them — who have played either against each other or as teammates for the past decade on South Florida travel teams — have, since arriving on Miami’s campus, quickly built a bond as a quartet.
“We’re all Spanish guys. We like to call ourselves the ‘Spanish Mafia,’” Toral joked.
Toral said this to a reporter on Tuesday while sitting in the Hurricanes dugout. A few feet away sat Jon Jay, a former Hurricanes outfielder who won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011 and an NL Central Division title with the Cubs last year.
Jay, currently a free agent who dropped by his alma mater to sharpen his skills and also mentor the 2018 team, teased Toral about his “mafia” statement, calling it “gibberish.”
Perhaps Jay was right. But perhaps Toral’s fun-loving attitude is just what the Canes (2-2) need as they play host to their bitter rivals, the defending national champion Florida Gators (5-0), this weekend.
After all, last season ended in tears, agony and frustration for the Canes, who were passed over by the NCAA selection committee, ending Miami’s NCAA-record streak of 44 consecutive tournament appearances.
Perhaps what the Canes needed most this year was a fresh start, and that’s what the “Spanish Mafia” represents.