Cousins Erubiel and Jeimer Candelario spent the past few weeks training at their family’s baseball training center in the Dominican Republic. Erubiel, a junior at Marist, is one of the baseball team’s top pitchers heading into their 2021 campaign. Jeimer, a six-year veteran in Major League Baseball, is the starting third baseman for the Detroit Tigers.
Born in Manhattan and growing up in the Bronx, baseball is rooted in the Candelario family. Dario, Erubiel’s uncle and Jeimer’s father, moved to the Dominican Republic with his family when Jeimer was just five years old so that he could open up a baseball training center. Today, both Dario and Erubiel’s father Amado work together at that same facility.
Erubiel first started playing organized baseball at seven years old when he joined a Little League team. “It was one of the first times that I was able to play baseball outside of my neighborhood,” he said.
At the age of 10, Candelario started playing in a local baseball league. Some of his friends had told him about a travel team they were playing for featuring some of the “best players in the area.” After playing one game for them, team manager and recruiter Alan Dylan offered him a spot on the team. Traveling to different states and receiving treatment like a real baseball recruit, it was an incredible opportunity. “When they started bringing me around to these different places, I started to notice that this is what I want to do for a long time,” Candelario said.
As time passed, Candelario spent more time playing baseball and perfecting his craft, and he began to wonder how he could take the next step in his game. When he went to high school, Candelario determined that he “just wanted to play baseball somewhere,” and in his sophomore year of high school he committed to Marist. Initially recruited to play baseball at St. John’s, Candelario stated that academic differences caused the school to choose another player over him.
Then, when Marist gave him an opportunity shortly after, he jumped on it. Candelario said that Marist simply “felt like the right choice.”
Candelario arrived at Marist in the fall of 2018 and primarily played third base when he got to campus. He had experience playing nearly every position in high school, from all over the infield to the outfield, and that experience was extremely beneficial in being utilized by his new team. As his freshman season came around in the spring of 2019, Candelario spoke with head coach Chris Tracz about how he could truly apply his talents and potentially create a path towards playing professional baseball. Soon after, he became a full-time pitcher for the team.
Appearing in 15 games with three starts in his freshman season, Candelario pitched over 33 innings and ended 2019 with an ERA of 4.28 with 23 strikeouts on the year. Then, during his COVID-shortened sophomore campaign, Candelario recorded an ERA of 4.09 across 22 innings with 22 strikeouts, one less strikeout than his freshman season despite 11 fewer innings pitched.
Mike Coss, a Marist graduate in 2018 and a member of the 2017 Marist MAAC Championsip team, is now amongst the team’s pitching coaches. When asked what he sees in Candelario that makes him stand out amongst the crowd, he said “maturity and dedication – he’s the hardest worker on our staff.”
As a member of a conference championship team, Coss knows what it takes to see a team succeed and come together to achieve a common goal. “It’s interesting to see it from a different side and to know what you need to do to make it that far… you realize how important that stuff plays into being that last team standing,” he said.
Having achieved what each team every season sets out to accomplish, Coss understands how Candelario can further execute his own personal goals. “He wants to be at the next level, and that directly correlates with making it to the next level,” he said. “Erubiel will continue to mature.” In his third year with the team, Candelario’s passion and devotion towards success can only help him upon entering the spring 2021 season.
With the Tigers, Jeimer has faced some of the best pitchers in baseball, such as New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and Houston Astros star Justin Verlander. Discussing Jeimer’s mentality in the big league, Erubiel said, “Jeimer told me to never put anybody above you. Last year, he went up to bat and focused solely on hitting the baseball and looked at the pitcher as an equal.” As a pitcher himself, Erubiel gets the opportunity to use that advice in reverse. When facing some of the best hitters in the conference, he can simply look at the batters “as an equal.”
Heading into his third season and his second as a full-time starting pitcher, Candelario seeks to “be more consistent, throw more strikes, and continue to build off of every game” in 2021.
Coss mentioned that he is more anxious heading into this season due to such a long layoff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but he also believes the time off has given pitchers “more time to prepare” and to “extend their pitch counts” before the season begins. He hopes to get Candelario, along with his entire pitching staff, to “extend their outings” as far as they can this year. Candelario, throwing a fastball at a maximum speed of 96 mph, is certain to remember those words.
Since he was a kid, Candelario’s dream has been to play professional baseball. It would be a “blessing and a dream come true,” he said specifically. Now with a season and a half of experience, Candelario heads into the 2021 campaign with more determination to succeed than ever before. There’s no doubt he will be watching his cousin in Detroit along the way.
Edited by Nicholas Stanziale and Sam DiGiovanni
Photo Credit: Marist College Athletics