CSUN senior first baseman Jorge Andrade Jr. didn’t know his batting average and although he thought his hitting streak was still alive, he wasn’t quite sure.
“I just go out there and play,” Andrade Jr. said. “I leave all that stuff to everybody else.”
For the record, Andrade, Jr. leads the Big West Conference in hitting with a .400 batting average. He is co-leader in the conference in hits, with his 66 tied with Grant Desme of Cal Poly. He is second in the Big West for total bases with 108, his slugging percentage of .655 is also second in the conference, along with his 15 doubles. He is tied for fourth in home runs with seven, along with Aaron Wible of UC Riverside. He extended his hitting streak to 15 games last weekend and his RBI streak to eight games.
But numbers are just that ? numbers. Andrade said he pays no attention to them.
“That just gets in the way,” Andrade Jr. said. “What’s important is the wins and losses. Obviously it’s been disappointing. But as long as I go out there and I’m tired, I know that I left it all out there on the field. That’s fine for me.”
The Matadors have been in a slump losing 22 of the last 25 games, many of them by two runs or less. The team’s record of 2-10 in Big West games and 14-30 overall has been frustrating, but Andrade Jr. said he tries to stay positive.
“It just comes down to being mentally strong,” Andrade Jr. said. “Obviously its been a really, really disappointing season for us. But the fact that we keep going out there and battling every single inning of every single game, it shows a lot about us and our character. We’re a fighting team.”
Andrade Jr. also doesn’t want to talk about his individual successes. He wants to talk about his team.
“I play with a lot of talented players at Northridge.” Andrade Jr. said. “I think in turn its helped me. Everybody has successes.”
He also said that he has received a lot of support from his teammates and coaches.”
“We play for each other. We have a lot of good players on the team, so there’s not like one person that’s doing more than anything. It’s more of a team thing,” Andrade Jr. said.
Despite all his personal successes, Andrade Jr. is most proud of the fight that he and his teammates have.
“Just fighting for every inning.” Andrade Jr. said. “I’m more proud of that because I try to lead by example and it seems that my team does the same thing. We all do the same thing. That’s what it’s about. Leaving everything out there for that game is what it’s about. I think that’s what I’m most proud of. I don’t take an inning or an out off and I think that goes along with all my teammates.”
The leadership of his teammates is an important part of the team’s fighting spirit, he said.
“The leadership of a lot of the people like (Joe) Rocchio, (Bobby) Pascal, (Jonathan) Sakurai, (Todd) Shelton … it brings out the best in everybody every single game,” Andrade Jr. said. “That’s what you need, especially in times like these.”
While most teams throw in the towel or start fighting with each other, he said this team sticks together and doesn’t point fingers.
“We feel that we win as a team and we lose as a team, even though someone might make a mistake, ground into a double play with the bases loaded to lose the game, like I did,” he said, referring to his final at-bat in Sunday’s game against UC Santa Barbara.
With bases loaded and down 5-4, Andrade Jr. stepped up to the plate and grounded into a double play to end the game. Some of his teammates reacted with surprise, said Andrade Jr.
“Some of them said they were kind of shocked because I usually get a hit,” Andrade Jr. said. “But that’s baseball. That’s why it’s the best game in the world. Baseball’s a game of failure. You got to learn to accept that because its going to happen. You’re not going to be successful every single time.”
In contrast, in the first game of the series against UC Santa Barbara, Andrade Jr. hit a long home run ball that traveled over left center field and all the way to Matador Diamond, the softball field.
“My mom always used to tell me, growing up, playing Little League,” he said. “There are going to be days when you’re good, they’re going to be days when you’re not,” he said.
Andrade Jr.’s parents, Mary Helen and Jorge Andrade Sr., are a big influence on his life.
“They’re both … they’re my heroes,” he said. “They’ve done so much for myself and my little brother (Michael). I respect them so much for everything they’ve been through. I owe them everything.”
Andrade Jr. was born and raised in San Diego, Calif. and didn’t start playing baseball until he was eight years old, playing tee-ball. At ten he experienced his first year of hitting against live pitching and didn’t have a great season. That summer, Andrade Jr. said, his father started to work with him every day.
“My mom would have to drag both of us in to eat dinner because we would be out there until 8:30 at night just hitting,” he said. “We’d turn on the light outside and he’d hold a stick with a ball at the end and I’d just keep swinging and keep swinging.”
Andrade Jr. said he used to sleep with his bat when he was in Little League.
“Hitting has always been my favorite thing to do. Even though it’s one of the most frustrating things to go through. Because, obviously you’re going to fail. You could fail seven out of 10 times and still hit .300. It’s a game of failure and you’re going to go up and you’re going to go down,” he said.
Before coming to CSUN, Andrade Jr. played for two seasons at Clemson University in South Carolina. After getting hit in the elbow by a 97 mph fastball, he was out for about six weeks. When he returned to play, his third base position was occupied and he became a spot player, starting each game in a different position. He said that wasn’t what he wanted, and after doing a lot of thinking, he left Clemson.
“What it came down to is I wanted to be ‘the guy’ at the school,” he said.
Andrade, Jr. said that the move has worked out for the best.
“It was a good learning experience. It was just a good experience overall,” he added.
Andrade Jr. had a friend on the team last season and called head coach Steve Rousey and told him he was looking for a place to play. Rousey told him to come out and has since worked with him and helped him.
“If you have any questions you just go up and ask him and he’ll be point blank with you. I respect that. Playing for a coach that’s real point blank with you is a real good experience. It helped me mature a lot, not only as a player but as a person,” he said of coach Rousey.
Each time Andrade Jr. plays at home and steps up to the plate, the Spanish song “Cepilla, Cepilla” plays and he is introduced by Sports Information Assistant David Miles. And someone in the crowd always whistles at him.
“That’s my mom. My mom’s had that whistle ever since I can remember,” Andrade Jr. said.
For his final season, Andrade, Jr. decided to pick a Spanish song to show his heritage.
“It’s just about having a good time. It’s a dance. Basically it’s a dance that you do. It’s just a fun, upbeat song. It has a good beat and stuff … makes me wanna kind of focus in and walk up with confidence,” he said.
Andrade Jr. says he likes to play little games with himself before he steps up to the plate, challenging himself to get two or three hits in a game. Mostly, however, he is concerned with taking a good swing.
“My focus on hitting, is if I see a pitch I can hit hard, I’m going to swing at it. I go up there and I want to take a good swing and if I feel that I took a good swing or hit a ball hard, whether I’m out or it’s a hit or an error or whatever- then I’m happy with that,” he said.
The ultimate goal for Andrade Jr. is to play professional baseball.
“I want to play baseball forever. I don’t ever want to stop. Even when my body’s falling apart, I don’t ever want to stop. When it’s time
for my body to shut it down, when my baseball days of playing are over, I want to become a coach,” Andrade Jr. said.
Baseball, for Andrade Jr. is all about having fun.
“My his dad always told me when you’re not having fun then its time to take a good look at what’s going on”, Andrade Jr. said. “I’m having fun. I love playing baseball. That’s a big part of why I go out there and play as hard every single time. Whether you win or lose, you just go out there and do your best. That’s what baseball is. I love it.”