Carlos Mirabal flourishes in pitching and coaching career
Born and raised in Englewood, New Jersey, Carlos Mirabal ended up attending Bergen Tech High School. Playing baseball and basketball, Mirabal found himself to be a better football player in his senior year. After graduating from Bergen Tech, Mirabal enrolled in FDU-Teaneck where the transition proved to be a difficult process due to the academic standards.
That is when Mirabal headed to Puerto Rico to play in an amateur league. With 10 to 12 scouts from MLB teams in attendance, the New York Yankees were so impressed they signed Mirabal to play in Single A. However, the good vibes would be short lived as Mirabal sustained an elbow injury.
“I played a year of independent ball, went to Taiwan for two years and then to Japan for six years playing for the Nippon Ham-Fighters,” said Mirabal. “The first four years with Nippon was based in Tokyo then we moved up to Sapporo. Trey Hillman was the manager and Gary Denbo [was] our hitting coach. We started getting 30,000 a night and Trey Hillman had us doing a lot of things with the community. We beat Bobby Valentine’s team to get the last playoff spot and I pitched in the last game and had 40,000”
“The first year I was in Japan I received a guaranteed contract from the Colorado Rockies, three years plus a team option but the team would not release me from my contract.”
“ I developed a knuckle curve ball, when I was younger had small hands and fingers. It became a major league league curve ball when I threw it hard and turned out to be a really good pitch. When I was with the Yankees in spring training down in Tampa I threw two innings and then got on the bench where I sat next to Hoyt Wilhelm who said show me how you throw that pitch and we sat there for a good hour talking about it and how he used to be a knuckleball pitcher and releasing and putting pressure on my fingers and what I can do with the ball. I called my Dad about it and he told me that Hoyt threw a no hitter against the Yankees”
“In 2005 I had a shoulder injury due to the wear and tear of 10 years of pitching in Japan and Taiwan. It’s not like in the USA where the focus is on pitch counts, I was throwing between 165 and 199 pitches”
Returning back to America, Mirabal signed with the Newark Bears. Despite limited to a 60 pitch count Mirabal once again got another shot with a major league baseball team in the Houston Astros but ended up getting released during spring training and rejoined the Bears. After several years away from the game, Mirabal caught a break while participating in a Rockland Boulders tryout at Palisades Credit Union Park.
“I really did well while I was with the Newark Bears and showed I can pitch healthy despite my velocity being down,” said Mirabal.
“Jamie Keefe was the one who got me the opportunity to pitch again and said if someone gets hurt you are only 25 minutes away. I ended up pitching for Trois-Rivieres. I was 42 years old but Jamie said I could pitch and stayed the rest of the season with the Aigles and we ended up winning the Can-Am League Championship”
“Independent baseball has really developed and opened up other avenues to get these ball players whether it’s injuries, released or just out of spring training. A great way to re-develop yourself as a player, work with coaches to get better, opportunity to re-invent yourself and working to get back to an organization”
The following year Mirabal became the new Boulders pitching coach. After a year Mirabal moved on to becoming a personal trainer and owner of Results Training. Last year Mirabal found another international opportunity as player/manager of the Cologne Cardinals.
This year Mirabal decided to return to Puerto Rico, since his parents’ were born there allowed Mirabal to pitch in the amateur league.
“I felt really good to pitch and compete that was an important thing, said Mirabal. I do two to three workouts a day leading up to being on the field and games we have. I try to time out the recovery day, have lost weight and now 6’2, 210 pounds, kept my strength and muscle so I could still compete. People still think I’m 32 or 33 when I’m running with the younger guys and I’m always at the front. You don’t think I’m an older guy and guys see that”
“I can’t let them beat me in a sprint and earn a little more respect because they understand my background in baseball. I wake up and work out, take a nap and relax and pace myself so I don’t do it in one shot. I learned over the years my body has responded well, take care of what I eat, my calories and food I’m eating and really pay attention to that stuff”
Since the amateur league in Puerto Rico has become flexible on how former professional players can be signed the talent pool has increased significantly with a lot of Double and Triple A players from the United States. For Mirabal this is personal especially with Hurricane Maria causing widespread devastation two years ago.
“They did not cancel games after Hurricane Maria, putting games on Sundays so people could come out to games and changed up the schedule, Mirabal said. Eight divisions during the regular season around the country, the division champions would play each other and call it the Carnival/Round Robin and play each other twice. 14 games total and top four teams play each other for the championship”
“Baseball has made the people of Puerto Rico feel a little bit more better. Every part of except for the west coast was hit hard and had a lot of abandoned buildings, re-building and re-fixing. People are still recovering, but see the culture and get excited talking about Roberto Clemente. They come out on Fridays and Saturday nights and a big part of keeping the spirit alive and continuing to get their lives back”
However, coaching remains a strong interest for Mirabal and gets the chance to do so when working with the players. The passion runs deep having constructed an outside pitching and hitting bubble while living in Ringwood, New Jersey.
“I wanted to teach baseball, my wife had seen a guy making pool covers and we started talking about wanting to get into baseball training,” said Mirabal. “I wanted to a cover for pitching and hitting and putting up a net. A blower that would inflate a bubble and as it rises so does the net. You had inside track lights so you could work out at night and heaters to make it warm inside and anchored to the ground so it could handle the wind”
In addition to his pitching and coaching responsibilities, Mirabal became an advisor for Kakehashi Sports and Representative Director for the Japan Retired Foreign Players Association.
“Kakehashi Sports is more of a merchandise company that puts out memorabilia and sold at all stadiums,” Mirabal said. “Past foreign players felt people were taking advantage of them when it came to autograph shows and video games and not paying them. We’re here to show them how to protect them and get everything you deserve and introduce them back to the Japan baseball culture. I traveled over there and did some baseball shows to help recruit past players and bring a relationship back to teams.”
Sharing these experiences and journey are Mirabal’s two children who are grown up now in his daughter Annelise and son Jax. “My daughter is 19 and attending college in Arizona and first year I was in Japan she was born in New York. The first five and half years she grew up in Japan and loved it and still talks about it today. My son is 13, born when I was playing for the Newark Bears and excited to see what I’m doing now.
Sunil Sunder Raj
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