“I owe everything to that school.”
In just six words, freshman outfielder Emilio Pastor praised the impact of his high school, Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami.
And nobody else at Penn is able to identify with that kind of sentiment on quite the same level as junior outfielder Adrian Lorenzo does.
Lorenzo is also a Belen alumnus — and he, too, only has good things to say about his former stomping grounds.
“I give it the highest regards I can possibly give it,” Lorenzo said. “It’s unlike any other place I could ever imagine.”
Part of what makes Belen so remarkable is its truly unique history.
The school was initially founded in Havana, Cuba over 150 years ago. The institution gradually emerged as one of the best schools in the country, according to Pastor. Former Cuban president Fidel Castro is an alumnus.
However, after Castro rose to power, he had his old school shut down. Belen then moved to the United States, where it was rebuilt in Miami amongst a thriving Cuban culture.
Given its location and history, it comes as no surprise that there is still a heavy Cuban influence at the school. Pastor said that most of the students are, like he and Lorenzo, of Cuban descent.
Another distinguishing feature that sets the school apart is its Jesuit tradition. The school’s motto, “Forming men for others” functions, like in many other all-male Jesuit schools, essentially as a mission statement.
Along with this dedication to service, students develop tight-knit bonds over the years — the graduating class size is about 160 — and class retreats reinforce that sense of brotherhood.
“The best way I can describe it — it was almost like a family experience,” Lorenzo said about one such retreat.
“To this day, my best friends are the guys I graduated with from high school,” the junior said.
The strong bonds have clearly translated to the diamond. Pastor said that ever since coming to campus in the fall, Lorenzo’s presence has helped him adjust to schoolwork and collegiate baseball.
“It made the transition a whole lot easier,” he explained.
With that said, both Belen alumni have emerged as contributors to coach John Cole’s team this season, in no small part due to their formative education.
“They’re very highly motivated and disciplined kids who are very loyal,” he said. “They do everything you ask them to do.”
Lorenzo currently sports a .286 batting average, while Pastor is tied for second on the team in stolen bases (6).
Along with the Belen bond, both Lorenzo and Pastor have ties to fellow Miami native Derek Vigoa, who attended rival Christopher Columbus High School.
The sophomore shortstop has earned a .350 batting average and ranks third on the team in hits with 41.
With such a strong contribution from the Miami area, Cole said he and his assistant coachers are likely to scout there again.
“South Florida’s a good area,” he said. “If we can keep getting quality kids out of South Florida, we’ll certainly go back.”
And with Lorenzo’s brother playing junior varsity ball at Belen, the team may soon get a third alum from the prestigious school.
But for now, Cole will be asking his players for everything they have left in the tank.
After Penn’s final non-conference game against Lehigh today, the Quakers will fight an uphill battle to catch Columbia, who currently leads in the hunt for the Gehrig Division title. The Red and Blue are three games back with just five to play.
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