Academy Notebook: Coach spotlight: Joe Vasquez; Whataburger Rising Star Giovanca Frias; Team Championship Pitch, Hit & Run results

October 8th, 2021

Coach spotlight: Joe Vasquez

Inspired to give back to the community and share his knowledge of baseball acquired over a lifetime of playing, coach Joe Vasquez joined the Texas Rangers Youth Academy staff to impact young lives.

In his second year coaching at the Academy, Vasquez has trained athletes of all ages in year-round programming, led a team in the Rangers RBI Summer League, and coached the Rangers RBI Junior Baseball All-Stars.

“I started coaching because I love the game,” said Vasquez. “It’s a great feeling to show kids that the game can be fun, it's not always serious and it's good to get them away from their home life.”

Located in West Dallas, often thought of as one of the most troubled communities in the metroplex, Vasquez makes a point to consider that not every athlete has a great home life. With everyone coming from different backgrounds, having fun at the Academy, even just one day a week, can make a huge difference for these young kids.

To help develop his own coaching style, coach Vasquez took note of the coaches who helped him along the way. “I would say I had several coaches that I took different lessons from,” he said. “Some taught me life lessons, and some taught me more about the game and the mental aspect of baseball.

“Getting to have so many coaches throughout my career showed me how to take baseball seriously but also how to use the things that I learned from the game and put them into everyday life.”

Beyond teaching the fundamentals of the game, creating a sense of community among the diverse players and staff is something Vasquez prioritizes. As a fluent Spanish speaker, he has created meaningful connections with non-English speaking athletes who come to the Academy.

“We have kids that don't even speak English,” he said. “Some of those kids come up to me, they'll speak to me in Spanish and know that someone's going to be able to understand and someone's going to be able to help. These athletes don't have to feel left out, don't feel any different than other kids that can speak English and have that luxury.”

Creating that community and forming bonds with the athletes is what he enjoys most — being a part of their journey on and off the field alike. Vasquez shared that he recently encouraged his players to focus on their schoolwork and aim for all A's and B’s on their next report card, and in exchange, he would offer a crisp $5 bill out of his own pocket.

A few short weeks later, and he already has to pay up!

On the field, his most meaningful moments as a coach have been joining athletes on their journey to improvement. Meeting kids who are picking up the sport for the very first time and helping them successfully field ground balls, make throws and hit are the most rewarding moments.

“It's the little things that make it fun here. Just seeing the kids have fun, make it all worth it,” he said.

Whataburger Rising Star Giovanca Frias

Every year, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy partners with Whataburger for the Whataburger Rising Stars Program, highlighting exceptional moments from the Rangers RBI season. This summer, nine athletes were recognized for sportsmanship, on-field performance, academic excellence and displays of perseverance and dedication.

Giovanca Frias, a member of the Rangers RBI Aztecas and 2021 RBI All-Star team, was presented with her award for exceeding the criteria of a Whataburger Rising Star. Nominated by her coach, Frias was praised for being an outstanding teammate, projecting her positive attitude and giving 100% effort on the diamond.

“Being nominated as a Whataburger Rising Star means a lot to me,” said Frias. “I feel like I am committed to everything I do on the field. Mistakes will happen, but something I love to do is pick people up.”

In addition to her notable performances in the pitcher’s circle, Frias was also praised for being a top athlete off the field.

“Being a well-rounded athlete can really change the way people look at you”, she said. “I feel like it is important because sometimes people around you need someone to set an example or be a leader.”

In her first year as a member of the Youth Academy, Giovanca has made an impact on the entire Rangers RBI League and its athletes. Her favorite part about playing with the Academy this year was her time on the All-Star team and making tons of new friends.

The full list of 2021 Whataburger Rising Stars includes Rafael Carbajal, Giovanca Frias, Angelyna Grisham, Joseph Jones, Hannah Pacheco, Josue Pina, Briana Rodriguez and William Terry.

Texas Rangers Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship

The 2021 Pitch, Hit & Run Team Championship results have been officially announced. The Texas Rangers Youth Academy had several athletes competing for the chance to advance to the final round, including 12U Texas Rangers Team Championship winner Emiliano Maldonado. After final scores from across the country were tabulated, Maldonado was edged out and eliminated from the competition.

Texas Rangers Youth Academy athletes will take another crack at the Pitch, Hit & Run competition in 2022.

While no Rangers Youth Academy athletes advance to the final round at the MLB World Series, three athletes from the Rangers Team Championship division advanced to the next stage.

Division athletes advancing to the World Series include 8U Softball Champion Tatum Frisby of Muskogee, Okla., 10U Softball Champion Aurora Cobb of Odessa, Texas, and 14U Softball Champion Kabry Kiger of Catoosa, Okla.

Good luck to everyone in the final stage of the competition!