Senior Erik Rico had his name penciled into the third spot in a lineup card even before he saw the light of day.
“I was born with a bat in my hand,” the pitcher and outfielder said, as he began to describe his origins. “My grandfather played in the Negro League and my father played in college, so I guess I have a baseball history in my family.”
Hailing from Miami, Fla., Rico began playing organized ball when he was four and participated in leagues throughout his childhood. When high school rolled around, his team was ranked fifth in the nation during his rookie season, and for his three other years, was ranked within the top ten teams in the state.
For his efforts on the mound, Rico was named an honorable mention all-state pitcher to cap his pre-collegiate career.
As many of his friends did, he considered playing at both Miami and Florida State, but both wanted him to apply regularly and walk on to the team. Rico decided to come to East Hill instead.
“If I was not going to get a scholarship, I would rather go where I would get a great education and be able to play right away and establish myself,” he explained.
As most rookies experience, Rico started his freshman year on the bench. Unlike most rookies, however, Rico’s first game would be the last he ever spent off the field.
“The beginning of the second game, [then freshman] Flint Foley ended up hurting his arm, and he had to come out of the game. So I moved on to first base, and I think that was the last time I saw the bench,” the tri-captain explained.
Rico’s stint at first wouldn’t last long. Light on his feet and blessed with a strong throwing arm, the coaches decided to move him out of the infield to take advantage of those assets.
In addition to his time spent in the field, Rico has also contributed from the mound more and more each season.
“I pitched some, but not very well,” he said of his earlier Cornell years. “It’s nice to see how that’s evolved.”
“He has progressed quite a bit,” Ford praised.
In his sophomore year, Rico was selected to the All-Ivy second-team. With a team best .356 batting average, seven doubles and 27 RBI, the Red also chose Rico as its MVP.
His junior year was even more productive as he again had a team best batting average at .381 and tied the school’s single-season records for triples and total bases with eight and 94, respectively. His most notable trip to the mound was during the team’s spring break trip to Florida where he pitched for 7 2/3 innings against Miami in an eventual 2-1 loss through 10 innings.
“He did a great job and it was really great for him to play in front of a home crowd,” Ford acknowledged.
Being both an outfielder and a pitcher has challenged the senior, as he’s had to learn how to split his time between the two responsibilities.
“I’ve gotten used to it, but there are sometimes that my arm wishes it had a break. At this point, I’ll do anything to help the team win,” he explained.
Rico’s commitment to the team and his willingness to give everything he’s got has carried over into his responsibilities as a leader on the team this season.
“He’s a great hitter and a lot of the young guys go to him during practice,” Ford recognized. “He’s a great leader, is always upbeat, and tries hard. He really lifts the team during games.”
While neither Rico nor Ford indicated any specific goals for the senior except to do well, Rico has set his sights on the thing he has strived for every season, the Ivy title.
“No matter what, I have expected to win the Ivy championship, even though we haven’t. That’s something that, no matter what I do, be it baseball, playing basketball at Helen Newman, or playing checkers with my girlfriend, I expect to win,” Rico confidently reflected.
As for life beyond Cornell, Rico is anticipating the continuation of his baseball career in the minor leagues. Last summer, he played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, one of the premiere conferences in which college students get the opportunity to show major league scouts what they have to offer.
“I’m expecting to play,” Rico responded. “It’s all on me and how well I do.”
If this year is anything like the rest of the time he has spent at Cornell, Rico will certainly do well.
“He’s just a pleasure to coach,” Ford concluded.
Archived article by Katherine Granish