Life has been full of surprises for Vince Arobio since he wrapped up his baseball career at Burlingame in 2013.
After earning second-team All-Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division honors as a senior shortstop last year, Arobio seemed destined to play at the College of San Mateo. But that all changed after a victory at Capuchino on May 8, 2013.
In the wake of the game — in which he went 1 for 3 at the plate, but also fired 1 2/3 shutout innings to earn the save — Arobio was approached by the Division I program at University of the Pacific with a partial baseball scholarship. And Arobio jumped on it.
“There was interest that was brewing for a while,” Burlingame manager Shawn Scott said. “It all kind of fell into place. They reached out to him and liked what he brought.”
While he was recruited as an infielder, Arobio quickly turned heads on the mound. During fall ball, Arobio’s dynamic arm put him in the mix as a two-way player — both an infielder and a pitcher. Once the regular season rolled around, however, it quickly became apparent the right-hander’s talents were best suited for the bullpen.
And it was as a reliever that Arobio excelled.
“I was doing well pitching,” Arobio said. “It was actually easy to accept no more position playing because I was still playing. It’s not like I was stripped of everything.”
While he received just 18 at-bats on the season as a position player, Arobio proved a late-inning fixture out of the pen. He ranked second on the Tigers with 22 appearances, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.63 ERA. A year after serving as Burlingame’s closer — in which he struck out 24 over 20 2/3 innings — Arobio maintained the production at the collegiate level, tabbing 24 strikeouts over 22 1/3 innings this season.
Not bad considering Arobio only started pitching as a high school senior.
“I always had a really good arm from shortstop and coaches would put me in because they thought I could pitch, and I’d be honestly terrible,” Arobio said.
With Burlingame’s stacked pitching staff in 2013, Arobio found his niche closing out games. Arobio notched eight saves in support of a starting rotation which featured right-hander Grant Goodman, who this year earned a spot in the starting rotation at USF, and left-hander Tommy Caulfield, who took 2013 PAL Bay Division Pitcher of the Year honors.
“He started finding his pitching stroke senior year,” Scott said. “It was always there. It was just a matter of confidence for him. He started getting his confidence late in the year, and we rolled with it.”
Going back to his days of Hillsborough Little League with Goodman, Arobio is still amazed at the depth of pitching the Panthers amassed in making a Central Coast Section Division II quarterfinal run in 2013. But Arobio’s importance in anchoring the Panthers at shortstop was what defined his role in high school.
“We tried (pitching on the frosh-soph team) his freshman year when I had him and he just didn’t have the confidence,” Scott said. “And he was too valuable up the middle at the time to take him away from shortstop. We had plenty of pitching so we didn’t need him as much.”
Arobio was predominately a fastball pitcher in high school, mixing in an occasional lazy curveball to keep batters honest. During fall ball at Pacific though, the Tigers coaching staff allowed their pitchers to only throw fastballs and changeups. It was there he scrapped the lazy breaking pitch altogether and refined his off-speed offering with a split-finger grip. It was the two-pitch combo which served him throughout his freshman season.
In an attempt to add a third pitch to his repertoire, Arobio is currently reworking his breaking pitch with a slider grip. Playing this summer with the Matsu Miners of the Alaskan Summer League, he has a rough timeline of two months to perfect the pitch. The Miners’ season got underway this week, and they hosted their home opener Monday night.
And while Arobio expressed the desire to ultimately earn a shot at becoming a starting pitcher, Pacific is poised to tout an exceptional bullpen in the coming years. The two standout freshmen on this year’s team were Arobio and right-hander John Jaeger, who took over as the Tigers’ closer midway through the season.
“I have an ambition to eventually be a starter, because that’s everyone’s dream,” Arobio said. “But as of right now — the bullpen. It was fun getting to pitch, if not every day, pretty often.”
With former big-leaguer Ed Sprague at the helm, Pacific finished the season with a 15-12 record in West Coast Conference play, but fell to sixth place by dropping two of three games to Loyola Marymount in the final conference series of the season. Only the top four teams in the WCC qualify for the postseason tourney.
“We came off a year that was really bad for the team,” Arobio said. “So, this year we had a bunch of great guys and all had a goal of working hard. … We had an absolute great year. We came within one game away from making the WCC tournament, which was our goal from day one.”