Senior Julian Infante enters the 2019 baseball season as one of the preseason No. 1-ranked Commodores’ unquestioned team leaders. A slugger from Miami whose grandparents escaped Cuba after Fidel Castro took over, Infante has earned his teammates’ and coaches’ respect not only for his prodigious skills on the diamond, but also for his work ethic and positivity, even in the midst of adversity.
I’ve always been a Yankees fan. My dad grew up in Jersey. That was always his team and he passed it down to me. I liked A-Rod growing up. He went to my high school in Miami. So, when he got traded to New York, I became an even bigger Yankees fan.
I realize it sounds a little bandwagon because they’ve won so much, but it’s just how I grew up.
I remember the Marlins winning the 2003 World Series. I was watching with my grandma at home. When they won, you just heard blowhorns out in the streets. It was a good time.
In Miami, I was around a bunch of people always playing baseball. There are a lot of great baseball minds down there. You’re just playing all the time. There’s really no offseason, no cold weather. You get a lot of reps, and you’re around a lot of great people who are passionate about the game.
I’ve always loved baseball. You definitely could start to question your commitment when you get to the college level. You notice the guys who really excel, they understand you have to choose baseball over going to a party or on a trip. If you want to take it seriously you have to train, go to all those little tournaments, and other guys are going on spring break trips. It makes you question what you want to do. But for me, the decision came naturally and it wasn’t a hard one to make. I knew I wanted to play baseball. I love it.
When I first arrived at Vanderbilt, I thought I had a great work ethic, I thought I cared about my teammates more than anyone. But I got here and saw everyone else’s work ethic match mine, and I saw their care level match mine. It was like. “Wow, this is awesome.” That’s why I wanted to come here. It’s something special and I don’t know if all other programs are like that. The way we go about every little thing we do, we have a lot of fun doing it, not just on the field.
We spend so much time together and it’s not manufactured, it’s because we want to.
A lot of what Coach Corbin does is he puts an emphasis on how to treat other people the right way. That creates a great environment for the team. It creates great leadership. It’s about respect for others, how to take care of yourself, how to respect yourself.
I’ve always wanted to help people. I believe God gives you certain abilities and one thing he’s blessed me with is communicating with other people. It’s something I’m passionate about. If I can help others in any way, it doesn’t have to be about stuff I’ve gone through in my own life. In any way, I want to help others.
When you’re a young player, you have that ego, “I’ve been successful, I know what I’m doing.” Those older guys have gone through a lot more than you. When you have more experience, you look at things in a different way.
Everybody has their own talents, their own way of doing things that make them successful. There’s a point of overcoaching and overhelping and over-speaking. Being in a leadership role as a senior means understanding what’s the right way to coach and when’s the right time, and when you allow people to get through it themselves. You have to have feel and awareness on when you help. You just need to let younger guys know you’re there for them no matter what success or failures they’re going through.
Last year, I was going through [a slump] and I was overthinking. When something like that happens, you need to go back to trusting who you are and not worry about all the mechanics and the thinking.
At the end of the day, it’s just baseball and you have fun and you trust in God and that his plan is perfect.
I don’t think you have to be so worried about outcomes. You trust your ability, you trust the work you’re putting in. You’ve already practiced so hard, you’ve trained on so many different things, those little changes aren’t going to significantly do anything in the middle of the season. You have to trust what’s gotten you to the point you’re at in your career and what’s made you successful.
I’m super excited for this season. This is a special group of guys. These younger guys are so talented, the older guys are so talented. Guys love each other, work so hard together. We just know we’re going to work hard every day and not necessarily focus on the future, but understand going through each day that we’re going to make it the best it can be.
We know we have talent but we’re not going to take anything for granted.
If someone were to visit my hometown of Miami for the first time, definitely Cuban food would be the first thing I’d recommend. I would say enjoy the warm weather. There are so many great people there. So much fun. Enjoy the different parts of Miami, Coconut Grove, the Gables, there’s cool architecture and homes to see. You probably want to stay away from South Beach with all the tourism, but that could be fun, too.
Interviewed by Andrew Maraniss