How similar are major league baseball and the military? While the stakes may be different, both require one thing: discipline.
On Tuesday afternoon students of the Stanislaus Military Academy were visited by former American League professional baseball pitcher Brian Fuentes. Originally from Merced, Fuentes retired in 2012 after 17 years in the major leagues pitching for teams such as the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals. Fuentes has since returned to the area and Craig Hunnel, character director at SMA, spearheaded the effort to bring Fuentes to SMA noting the ways that Fuentes’ story would positively influence students at a school that considers discipline one of its core values.
“Brian has been extremely successful and he is a local byproduct of the Central Valley, but he doesn’t just have ability. I mean he has overcome obstacles, he wasn’t just this spectacular talent, he worked hard, he followed the rules, and he had character. Character is about heart, not just ability,” said Hunnel.
Fuentes faced his own set of trials in high school, as he did not make the baseball team his junior year of high school. At 5 foot 8 inches and 150 pounds as a junior, Fuentes called himself a late bloomer as he now stands 6 foot 4 inches and 240 pounds. That junior year he got a job at Subway and worked in his free time, but couldn’t give up on baseball. He returned the next year, made the team, but said he remained in the middle of the pack. He began his college baseball career at Merced College.
“I’ve played with guys who have a lot more ability than I have and I’ve played with guys with a lot less ability than I have. The one common factor throughout it all has been that I have been an honest evaluator and that’s a good trait to have. You have to be honest with yourself. If you’re not where you want to be, in baseball and in life, you have to ask yourself, ‘How do I get there?’” said Fuentes.
Fuentes spoke to a class of students before addressing the entire school of cadets who performed a drill, ceremony and formation for him. Fuentes reiterated the importance of discipline to the students and reminded them that their future is not in anyone else’s hands but their own.
“It is really cool to get to see him here. We don’t get a lot of people like Mr. Fuentes coming through here,” said Cadet Brandon Thompson. “To see someone who has risen from the bottom to the top, the major league, it is awesome.”