Author: Alex Nieves
It was a typical summer day in La Verne, Calif. when current Occidental catcher Victor Munoz (sophomore), then a senior at Claremont High School, received a phone call from a representative of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2011 MLB draft was well underway, but Munoz had paid little attention to how the picks were unfolding up to that point. Informed during a phone conversation that he was set to be picked, he began intently listening to the radio, eagerly awaiting his name. Half an hour later, he finally heard the announcement: Victor Munoz is the 49th round pick of the Dodgers organization.
Munoz played a variety of sports as a kid, but he still remembers falling in love and dedicating himself to the sport of baseball at age nine. He had a very successful youth career and starred at Claremont High School and on his travel ball team, the Southern California Bombers. Munoz was named the MVP after his senior season at Claremont but despite his success, it was still unexpected when the call came across.
“When it happened, I was caught off guard,” Munoz said. “I got a phone call half an hour before, so I got ready [to be drafted], but when it happened I was still shocked.”
In a culture where constant media coverage has molded professional athletes into international superstars and figures of childhood idolization, many kids have grown up with lofty expectations and dreams of making the big leagues. For a kid that has grown up a die hard baseball fan, the decision to turn down an opportunity to go pro and instead pursue a college degree is far from easy. But that is exactly what Munoz decided to do when he enrolled for his first year of college at Occidental.
Despite earning the chance to play in the farm system of his favorite MLB organization, the decision to forego a professional contract and instead go to college was actually a no-brainer for Munoz. He never wavered from his goal to attend a prestigious academic institution. Now in his second year, Munoz is a kinesiology major on a pre-med track and hopes to have a future career as a doctor or a physical therapist.
Munoz faces a tough academic schedule, but has not been deterred him from staying dedicated to performing at the top of his ability on the field. This unwavering work ethic has played in his favor, as he has taken over the full-time starting catcher role after being in a more situational role throughout his first season. Through 19 games this season, Munoz is batting .299 in 67 at-bats and is fourth on the team in RBI with 10. Behind the plate, Munoz has also come up big, posting a fielding percentage of .972 and allowing just two passed balls.
As captain of the defense, it is the responsibility of a catcher to establish a tight-knit rapport with his battery mates. The pitchers in Occidental’s rotation believe that Munoz has lived up to this expectation.
“I can’t give [Munoz] enough credit,” starting pitcher Joseph Kling (sophomore) said. “He makes my job so easy, knowing that he always has my back.”
The Occidental coaching staff has also given Munoz high praises and are impressed by his growth in his short time on the team.
“[Munoz] is developing as a teammate and leader which is very exciting to see,” Occidental head coach Luke Wetmore said. “Every once in awhile he cracks a smile and let’s you know he is human, but most of the time he is dialed in and focused on improving his game.”
Beyond athletic praise and recognition, Munoz hopes to become a role model and the type of player recognized for dedicating himself to whatever he is undertaking.
“I hope to just be that example that hard work does pay off,” he said. “People get easily lost in that one-in-one million story, but I would just like people to say, ‘that guy worked hard, did his job and now he’s successful.’”
Munoz and the rest of the Occidental squad continue their season with a non-conference series against Rutgers-Newark on March 23-24 before heading back into SCIAC play against Whittier March 29-30.
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