By John Philip Wyllie
Following their three-game sweep of UNLV, San Diego State’s front running 29-12 baseball team is eyeing a Mountain West Conference Championship and with it, the possibility of reaching the pinnacle of collegiate baseball, the Collegiate World Series. The steady play of senior second baseman, Carlo Cota is one of the reasons the Aztecs are optimistic about their chances of securing a conference crown.
SDSU 2nd baseman Carlo Cota and his father, armold, following a recent Aztec game. Photo by J.P. Wyllie
“This year, Carlo has been pretty solid,” said Aztec batting coach Tony Gwynn following a come from behind victory over the Lobos two weeks ago.
“When we fell behind 5-0, he was one of the first guys in the dugout saying, ’come on let’s peck away and get back into this.’ That is what you expect out of your veteran group. We want him to take that leadership role and run with it,” Gwynn said.
The never give up attitude that Cota embodies was forged on the playing fields of Calexico where he grew up after his mother Christina, emigrated from Mexico. Cota credits family support and the coaching that his father Arnold provided as critical to his success.
“I grew up in Calexico which is right on the border. Not too many players come out of there (to play Division I baseball) so I take a lot of pride in that. “My whole family supported me all along the way, but my Dad has been out on the field with me ever since I was in Tee-ball.”
Cota’s father made the long drive in from Calexico to see the Aztecs sweep UNLV last weekend. The elder Cota stressed the importance of achieving success on the field as well as in the classroom and his son has followed his example. After his graduation next month with a degree in international business, Cota hopes to pursue a career in professional baseball.
”My goal now is to win the conference championship and then go to Omaha for the College World Series,” Cota said. “But I don’t think this will be my last year of playing baseball. If something happens and I don’t make it in baseball and a lot of people don’t, I’ll have something to fall back on.”
While Cota has enjoyed his entire four-year career as an Aztec baseball player, his senior year has been particularly rewarding. The arrival of Tony Gwynn, the game’s greatest hitter since Ted Williams, has had a lot to do with it.
“Playing here has always been fun, but getting a handshake and a “good job” from a (future) Hall of Famer is just unbelievable. It’s an opportunity I never dreamed would happen. Tony is a fun guy and he boosts our confidence, but he also criticizes us. He helps us with our hitting, but also helps us with the thinking part of the game. His biggest contributions to my game have been with the mental aspects, improving my pitch selection, changing my approach in the batter’s box and in understanding situational hitting,” Cota said.
“Carlo got off to a really good start, then got into a funk where he was mechanically out of whack,” Gwynn said. “Now we are just starting to get him back where he is comfortable doing the things we think he can. We shuffled the lineup this weekend to try and get him going. I think he is better suited
for hitting in the 2-3 spot than in the 6-7 spot where we had him.”