FAIRFIELD — When it comes to being the center of attention, Anthony Arias is more comfortable facing one batter than dozens of people, especially when it involves speaking in public.
After leaving enough opposing batters speechless as a member of the Fairfield High and Fairfield Expos American Legion baseball teams earlier this year, the senior left-hander signed a letter of intent to play for Fresno State University in a ceremony held in the Fairfield school library on Thursday afternoon.
“It is overwhelming,” Arias said after signing on the dotted line and thanking his teachers and coaches for helping him along the way. “At the same time, I’m very, very happy that I have achieved what I’ve always dreamed of.”
Naturally, a choice was involved, and Arias told the gathering he picked Fresno State “because I found when I went to the campus it was completely different from a lot of the other campuses (I visited). I thought the baseball field was one of the nicest I’ve ever seen.”
Arias also made recruiting trips to Oregon State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Long Beach State, but liked Fresno State best.
“At first I thought it was (going to be) Oregon State,” he said. “At first I thought they were definitely the one until I visited the Fresno State campus. They just showed me a lot of things I was interested in. The atmosphere was great and I know they showed me that I could not only succeed in sports, I could also excel in academics.”
With mom Renee handling the recruiting and dad Ralph the baseball end of things, Arias survived the process in good spirits.
“To me wasn’t all that difficult at first. I thought at first I’d have to go to the colleges (to get their attention),” he said. “It ended up they were coming to me. Without my mom, I wouldn’t know half the things about the college recruiting process. And my dad has been there since I was four, with me and baseball.”
Ralph Arias’s influence extended beyond the baseball field.
“He told me a quote I’ll never forget: ‘You can’t be afraid to fail,’ ” Arias said. “It has inspired me to wake up the next day after failing. Dust myself off, put on my cleats and keep on working.”
After a somewhat nightmarish season with the Falcons last spring – Arias was 1-5, though he had a dazzling 56 strikeouts in just 31 innings and a respectable 2.48 earned run average, according to Maxpreps.com – he had a dreamlike summer, helping the Expos win the American Legion California state title and finish second in the Region 8 tournament.
As the ace of the talented Expos staff he went 5-2 with 106 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings with a 2.12 ERA.
Coaches from Oregon State, Long Beach State and Fresno State each made trips to see Arias pitching, some also getting private workouts.
“Anthony has the type of skills you don’t see very often,” Expos manager Brad Hanson said. “In my opinion, he has more skills and potential as a pitcher of anybody I’ve seen in the history of Fairfield. How that all translates, how that all works out, we’ll see.
“He has a skill level as a pitcher that’s potentially pretty (darn) good. One can always argue on statistics, and I know he didn’t have great high school year last year, but he had a great summer.”
“It was ecstatic, a lot of great memories, a lot great athletes I played against and played with,” Arias said of being part of one of the Expos greatest seasons. “That kind of sums it up.”
There’s a decent chance Arias might get drafted by a major league team next June, but he figures he’ll be in Fresno starting next fall.
Going pro “has been a thought. At the same time, I want to live my dad’s dream. I want him to see me play in college and my mom is probably one of the most influential persons in my life. She’s the main person who’s pushed me to go to a four-year (school). On that note, I’m probably going to go to college first.”
And not just any college. Fresno State has been one of top teams in the west for years and made a splash nationally by winning the 2008 College World Series. The Bulldogs have won seven straight conference titles – this year they move from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West Conference – and have made the NCAA tournament six of the last seven seasons.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.