"I didn't really see [the California League] as being any different than pitching against competition in the ACC," said Carrillo.
Most people think they can run with the big boys, but Cesar Carrillo has shown that he is a big boy himself. At 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, Carrillo blossomed from the graduate of Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago to the pitching ace of the University of Miami (Fla.) in his sophomore season. While pursuing a degree in liberal arts, Carrillo was busy pitching his team's way into the 2004 College World Series in which Cal State Fullerton ended up winning.
"Growing up, you always wanted to go to the College World Series," he said, "and at Miami we always got the opportunity to do it. We achieved that goal there."
But how easy would it have been to get caught up in the night life of such a jumping city like Miami. Fortunately for Carrillo, that was never a problem because going to the beach was his favorite thing to do.
"It was a perfect time to have fun and the studies were good. Now in pro ball I have to manage my time of when to go work out and when to go to the field, but going to Miami really set a good foundation for myself."
Miami also set a good foundation for a test of endurance, as he started 19 games and pitched 125 innings in his last season as a Hurricane. He also averaged nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings and was one of the top leaders in wins in all of college baseball. Carrillo, who said he mainly just needs to take a step back and not rush any pitches, is said to begin the year in Double-A Mobile before the next stop — not in Portland — in San Diego.
"I don't try to put any pressure on myself. That's why I play the game. I just love doing what I do. I think everything will just take care of itself."
Though Carrillo split his loyalties between both the Cubs and White Sox growing up, he's learning to split his success with a powerful fastball in the mid-90s and an improving changeup. Last July he was promoted to Mobile, where he went 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA and had an excellent 35-to-7 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. There's no need for any outside motivation for him to head to the mound, let alone the ballpark, like there might have been years ago.
"I always looked up to my older brother who's now 29," Carrillo said. "He was always going over to the baseball field and that sort of gave me the motivation to go there. I always wanted to be like my older brother."
It's common for a younger sibling to crave the attention from older one, but now Carrillo has managed to grab the attention of everyone from the Chicago area, to the Miami area, to the entire west coast area. If I didn't know any better I'd say he had this whole national promotion tour planned out way back in the day. But numbers like a 12-0 record and 2.69 ERA in his first year in college baseball, leading the Hurricanes to the College World Series? That's an award-winning marketing plan alone. Next thing you know, he'll be on the beaches in California. Good thing San Diego's got them. Or better yet, good thing San Diego's got him?