Cyle Figueroa: The Love of The Game Keeps Me Chasing My Dreams
From A Players Eyes
My story really begins at a young age growing up in a baseball family, which was really the start of my love of baseball.
Ever since I can remember, baseball has been a part of my life. As a young kid growing up in Tallahassee, Florida, I grew up having a baseball name. My Dad, Bien Figueroa, was an All-American shortstop at Florida State University and he was fortunate enough to make it to the Major Leagues in 1992 with the St. Louis Cardinals. From there, the bar was set pretty high for me and my two older brothers, Cole and Correy.
Both my brothers also made a name for themselves. In 2014, Cole made his MLB debut with the Tampa Bay Rays and played with the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates and Correy played with the Kansas City Royals farm system for a couple of years. So having the opportunity to watch them play as I was growing up and seeing them get drafted was a big motivation for me to try to get to where they were.
My journey began after graduating from Lincoln High School in 2010, as I committed to play at St. Pete College as a catcher. When I arrived at St. Pete, we had a lot of guys that transferred in from a Big time D1 programs, like FSU, Georgia, Miami and USF, so I knew I had to go in and really prove myself if I wanted it.
In my Freshman year, our coach was let go in the fall and we had a new coach from Ole Miss come in but we were postseason ineligible for two years. I stuck it out because I really enjoyed the way the team came together and we all decide to stay. Once the fall season started, I knew I had to compete with all these big time D1 guys and I proved myself as I ended the fall hitting .340. Best part was my coach telling me, he didn’t know where I was going be playing at, but I would be in the lineup. So once the spring season started they moved me to left field and that’s were I played my first college season ending the year hitting .290.
After that I decide to transfer to Florida State College in Jacksonville. But my first year there was cut short as I had to red shirt because I tore the PCL in my knee. Therefore, I spent the season rehabbing so I could come back strong the next season. The following year, my season was cut short again as I was ineligible to play due to my grades. My whole baseball career was kinda going downhill, so I decided to hang up my cleats until I was fortunate enough to get a job at a hitting facility in my home town. This gave me the privilege to work with two guys, John-Ford Griffin and Bryan Brown.
John-Ford was a first round pick with the Yankees in 2001 and Bryan was with the Houston Astros. These two guys brought me in and taught me so much about the knowledge of hitting. I worked there for about a year and they wanted me to coach a kids travel team and that’s really where everything turned around for me. Those kids that I coached really made me start loving the game again. So, I made it a point that I was going to do something. I decided to accept an offer at a NAIA School in Georgia.
Right before that, I had a buddy who coached with me, and signed a contract with an Independent baseball organization. One of the guys that helped him sign there called me and asked if I was interested in playing and going to spring training; I accepted. So, my buddy and I drove all the way up to Ozark, Missouri where we thought we were going to start our professional careers. To our surprise, once we got there the league folded. After that there was this other league starting up and I signed up to play, but then another two weeks that league also folded and I was crushed. I spent all this time getting ready and played two games in two months, it was just devastating.
I returned home thinking that was it, until everything changed again. I got a call from a representative with the South Florida Winter League and was asked me to come play there to see if I could earn a spot with an established league. Going there was an eye opening experience playing with guys that played in the Frontier, Can-Am, American Association and other affiliated guys. I wasn’t really in the best shape and knew I had my work cut out for me. During that season, I played really well and was offered a contract with the Vallejo Admirals in the Pacific Association in California.
Once I signed with the Admirals, I knew I had to get to work on my body right so I met these two guys at an FSU football game that ran a gym in Tallahassee. Stanley Bell and Andy Mahoney, plus the whole Orange Theory training staff took me in and gave me a home to train. They worked me harder than I ever worked in my life. It was a daily grind at the gym but the payoff was that I cut 15 pounds.
In May, 2016 I went to Vallejo for spring training and I was in shock, as there were 85 guys at their spring training camp, with only 22 spots to fill. I knew I had to show what I could do quickly and with 10 catchers, most of them having experience, I was at a real disadvantage but it didn’t stop me. One thing I knew is, I love to compete and I did just that. My hard work paid off as I earned the backup role for the start of the season.
On Opening day in my rookie season I was really nervous, but I was also thrilled because I knew I was going in the right direction, that all my hard work was finally landing me at a starting point on the road I had been working towards. As the season rolled on, I did not get many starts and was just a bullpen catcher as well as pinch running until we had a manager change.
Our new manager, PJ Phillips, gave me my first opportunity and I ran with it and never looked back. I finished the season strong as I hit .300 in the last month. My teammates and the veterans rallied around me and gave me confidence when I really needed it as a starter and I think that’s why I did so well.
At the end of the past season, my teammates voted for me for two awards, which was a great honor. Also, I was a nominee for Rookie of the Year in our league. I guess this journey of where I was, to where I am entering now had many hurry ups to hit a road block. However, when one payoff comes or making an impression that someone notices, keeps that drive or inner spirit pushing me to continue to want more of this roll coaster life. It’s a love for the game, the excitement of an ending. A true story.
Now I am striving to be the best I can be, a mentally sound player as well as being in great physical shape to be able to play at any position just to be in the game. I will be entering my second professional season as I have signed to play in the United Shore League with the East Side Diamond Hoppers.
I look forward to working hard and competing to get to the highest level I may gain as a professional player, giving the game my all. One thing I have learned in the journey is, if you want to chase your dream the road can be long and bumpy but you have to keep moving forward remembering why you started chasing the dream in the first place. It’s really not about the storm its about how you dance in the rain.
My support system such as my family and my friends, keep me going. I realize that it’s not always possible for everyone to get this chance. I am grateful that I have family and friends that believe in me to dare to dream and choose my own path, giving thanks to God for each opportunity and all the experiences I have had to better myself for the future. They provide the support needed to keep going. My journey is probably the dream of other guys, and I am just so grateful for all the people in my life that have made it possible for me to be where I am today.
From A Players Eyes is a feature that shares the baseball players Journey’s in their own words of whom are still working towards their dreams of playing Major League Baseball, as well as those that never got the chance and had to leave the game they love behind. Read their stories only at Legends on Deck.