When an athlete is talented enough to play a sport at the collegiate level, there is always a significant journey behind his or her success.
Their talents can be naturally born, developed through grade school, or implemented through other means over time. Yet in the case of UT’s senior shortstop Giovanny Alfonzo, baseball runs in his genes.
Alfonzo’s father, Edgar and uncle Edgardo played professional baseball, so it only made sense that he would inherit the same athletic skills passed down in his family. Edgar Alfonzo had experience playing with both the minor league systems of the California (now Los Angeles) Angels and Baltimore Orioles. Being the older sibling, he used his baseball knowledge to coach Edgardo, helping him go on to play for the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants. Giovanny commends his father for playing a major role in his success.
“He is really my hero, he’s my mentor, I talk to my dad every single day about baseball,” Alfonzo said.“ He’s always been there, everything that I do out there on the field he taught me, everything my uncle did on the field was something my dad taught him. God gave him the gift of being a good coach so he used it to help me, my uncle and my older brother.”
Growing up in South Florida, Alfonzo attended high school at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce. Most of his exposure as a young athlete came from travel baseball while playing for the All-American Prospects. Being a huge, well-known team in the travel league, Alfonzo played in multiple showcases all across the U.S, giving him the opportunity to be watched by some of the biggest collegiate and professional scouts. By his junior year of high school, he was already in contact with big name schools such as the University of Miami, LSU and Florida State, and had already been offered scholarships from the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida.
Deciding to take the scholarship at Florida State, he ventured to Tallahassee to begin his freshman year. Not seeing much playing time his freshman season, Alfonzo got the chance to prove himself as a shortstop playing 59 games the following season as a sophomore.
Towards the end, he was forced to have a talk with the head coach about his future on the team after the coach did not give him a straight answer about having a spot for his junior year. Not liking what he heard and still not getting full assurance after the conversation, Alfonzo requested his release from the team.
Being released came with the penalty of restriction from a couple of schools in the ACC, so he decided to take his skills to a Division II program to seek more playing time. His father knew of head coach Joe Urso from the Angels back when they both played pro ball, and asked if he needed a shortstop or an infielder, knowing that his son was willing to come in and work for a spot to play shortstop.
In agreement to the idea, Urso had Alfonzo come visit UT. Alfonzo right away fell in love with the city of Tampa and the school.
Alfonzo was quickly thrown into the swing of the baseball program, and even under the intense pressure of being a new transfer, quickly adapted into the foundation of the team.
“Anytime we get a DI transfer, there’s always a little bit of transition period for them. A lot of them come down with the conception that it’s going to be easier. This, however, is one of the top programs in the country, and he bought in quickly to what we believe in here,” Urso said.When the official season began, Alfonzo was not particularly satisfied with his starting performance, but towards the end, he was able to get hot at the right time and play well, making the SSC team for the region and leading them to the World Series.
Although the team suffered a heartbreaking loss in the College World Series, Alfonzo successfully developed a significant role on his new team both on and off the field. “Giovanny has great leadership and communication skills, he’s just a good person in general, and fortunately for him he’s a very talented baseball player,” said Assistant Infield Coach Frank Maldonado.“He just constantly wants to work, constantly wants to get better, motivates his teammates, and right away you can tell he’s a leader out there.”
Alfonzo has not only impressed the coaching staff of the program, but has also captivated the hearts of his teammates.
“Gio is a huge part of our success here on and off the field. We get a lot of transfers and that can mess with team chemistry, but Gio is one of those guys who has a great personality and makes everyone feel welcome,” said senior outfielder and fellow captain Stephen Dezzi.“Even when he transferred in he was outgoing and made it a point to become a part of our family as quickly as he could. He’s an extremely talented guy and someone that our team can count on. I’m proud to suit up with him and make a run at a championship.”
As for the future of this season and his journey after playing for UT, his coaches are confident that he will lead the Spartans to a Championship.
“I think he’s going to have a great senior season… he has high expectations to win a national championship and go on to play professional baseball.. him being the shortstop a captain of the team, I think he will be a very huge asset to the guys this season,” Maldonado said. As far as going on to play professionally after his collegiate career, he has already heard from a number of scouts and is seeking the right opportunity to follow in his family’s footsteps.
Regina Gonzalez can be reached at email@example.com