Standout first baseman Alex Toral will soon be wearing garnet and gold.
Toral, whose 24 home runs in 2019 ranked third in the nation and still represent the second-greatest power season by a Miami Hurricanes player, is transferring to rival Florida State.
“The opportunity to return to Miami was not there,” Toral told the Herald. “Miami will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my lifelong dream to play for the Hurricanes.”
Miami coach Gino DiMare expected Toral to get drafted last month. When that did not happen, DiMare was already committed to the incoming freshmen class.
College baseball teams only have 11.7 scholarships to divide among 30-something players.
“It’s disappointing for [Toral having to leave Miami], but the good news is that he graduated from UM,” DiMare told The Herald late Monday night. “Alex is a great student. He did everything we asked of him, on and off the field.
“It is going to be strange [seeing Toral in FSU colors], but all I can do is wish him the best.”
Toral was philosophical about the situation.
“You have to accept it,” Toral said. “They didn’t expect me back for a fifth year. That’s the business side of things.”
Coming out of high school at Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy, Toral was ranked as a top-200 draft pick in 2017 – No. 199 by Baseball America and No. 199 by MLB Pipeline. That usually translates into a draft selection within the top seven rounds.
However, Toral went undrafted.
“I got calls from pro teams between the first and second rounds,” Toral said.
But when the offer for a signing bonus did not match Toral’s demand, he went to the University of Miami.
At UM, Toral had some unfortunate timing. For example, he couldn’t capitalize on his huge 2019 season because he wasn’t draft-eligible that year.
Then, the pandemic hit and cut the 2020 draft to five rounds. Toral said he got calls toward the end of that draft, but, again, the money wasn’t right.
Finally, the 2021 draft came and went without his name getting called.
“I was [ticked] off,” Toral said of draft day 2021. “I was full of anger, not understanding why.
“But after 10 minutes on the couch, my mind shifted to what’s next. How can I further my career?”
Toral made “a few phone calls” and decided to enter his name into the transfer portal.
Once that happened, he was overwhelmed with colleges recruiting him all over again.
“Schools were pushing real hard,” Toral said. “My top five were Oregon, FIU, Missouri, USF and FSU.
“I chose FSU because it’s a team that can be an Omaha contender right off the bat. Bringing a first national title home to FSU would be awesome.”
Toral hit .264 with a solid .834 OPS in 2021, finishing second on the Canes with 34 walks. But he hit just seven homers — far off his 24-bomb standard of 2019 — as pitchers worked him carefully.
“I know I didn’t have a good year,” Toral said. “I didn’t play to my ability, and I put myself in this position.”
Toral said he got off to a slow start but had heated up when adversity hit — his grandmother, Elsa Delgado, died at age 68.
“Nobody really knows that,” Toral said of his loss. “After she died, I went into a big ‘O-for’ slump.
“She helped raise me. When my parents were at work, I was with her. She was a strong, fighting woman, a good Catholic person.”
Despite his grief, Toral played all 54 of Miami’s games, leading the Hurricanes to the regional playoffs.
His bachelor’s degree is in business management. At FSU, he could double-major in business marketing or enter a Master’s program.
On the field, Toral has never stopped working, taking daily hitting practice at the home batting cages of two of his coaches from his McCarthy days, Alex Fernandez and Cookie Abay.
Toral is now hoping for a selection in the 2022 MLB Draft.
“I’m going to FSU to break records and make statements,” Toral said, “whatever it takes to win.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ The Canes baseball team had three players drafted this year — Adrian Del Castillo, Jake Smith and Anthony Vilar. Daniel Federman signed as an undrafted free agent, and, in addition to Toral, several other players put their names in the transfer portal: Victor Mederos (to Oklahoma State); Gabe Rivera (Nova Southeastern); Ray Gil; Tony Jenkins; Jordan Lala; Jared Thomas; Chad Born; Adam Frank; Isaac Quinones; Luis Espinal; and Alex Munroe;
“We are not alone,” DiMare said of Miami’s transfers. “There are well over 3,000 players in the transfer portal. Do the math — that’s about one-third of every team on average.”