Cougars Beat caught up with signee Evan Maldonado during the hiatus from baseball as we all navigate these interesting times.
Evan is in the final weeks of his high school days at Sharyland Pioneer in Mission, Texas. And in just a few months, Evan will shed the red and charcoal gray of Sharyland Pioneer for the scarlet and white of the University of Houston.
Evan Maldonado is all about baseball, it has been a lifetime pursuit and it started when he was just four years old. “When I was four, we started playing at the Boys and Girls Club, we started t-ball over there, then started just moving up,” Maldonado said. “Starting at about coach-pitch we started playing some Select Ball and leaving the Valley, going up to Houston, Corpus.”
In 2019, as a junior, Evan was instrumental in leading his team all the way to the state baseball tournament in Round Rock, one of the final four teams still standing in 5A. When it was all said and done, they finished with a 37-9 record. Sharyland Pioneer was the first team from the Rio Grande Valley to advance to the state tournament since 2007.
Maldonado spent the majority of his time either playing shortstop or pitching, and even playing some outfield when needed. Evan was part of a championship-level starting rotation. For his part, he went 8-0 on the mound throwing five complete games. Defensively, it did not matter at which of the nine positions Evan played, at the plate, he hit .408 with 51 base hits, 2 homeruns, and 45 RBI.
Last November, Evan formally signed his letter of intent with the University of Houston. Two nights later he caught six receptions for 128 years and a touchdown as part of his school’s football team. He had not played football for two seasons, having last played in his freshman year. “I started playing football in sixth grade and I played freshman year. For senior year, I was like ‘you know what, let’s try football one more time’ so I started playing football again,” Evan stated. “It turned out pretty good,” he said with a chuckle.
He chuckled because his team went 11-2, winning nine straight games at one point and making the state football playoffs. As a wide receiver, Evan caught 35 passes for 590 yards, and scored four touchdowns. Asked if he ever thought of pursuing football beyond high school after a successful senior season he replied, “No, that was just for fun.”
Evan’s future is all about baseball.
Evan and his 2020 Sharyland Pioneer teammates were playing a tournament in San Marcos on Friday, March 13 when they were told before their doubleheader that day that the season might be over after their games were finished that day, there was no guarantee about tomorrow. Pioneer won both games, and had won five straight when the season paused, possibly to resume around May 4.
As of now, Evan is supposed to report to the University of Houston campus in early July, but everyone is remaining watchful and flexible, prepared to play things by ear as the date gets closer. Whether the high school season resumes or not, Evan plans to play baseball right up until the time he leaves his hometown and makes his way to Houston. Societal circumstances could also play a role depending on when people are able to gather again.
If his high school season is finished, Evan ends 2020 batting .415 with 17 hits, 3 homeruns, and 15 RBI in fourteen games. Some summer Select Ball is in the offing, again, if the state and country are in a position for people to gather without worry at that point.
Evan and his Pioneer teammates await the UIL decision about whether to resume the season after May 4, or whether season ends with a 12-3-1 record and in Evan’s case, a senior season cut short in what was likely to end in another deep playoff run.
Sharyland Pioneer head baseball coach Casey Smith had nothing but positive things to say about Evan, “One of the things that stands out to me as a coach about Evan is his competitive spirit; he loves to compete, he loves the big moments, he enjoys playing the game.” Talking about Evan’s upside and potential, coach Smith said, “He’s got an extremely high ceiling, he’s very projectable, he’s going to be a lot more athletic as he grows into his body. There’s some real growth potential for Evan there on the mound and at the plate.”
The Cougars are getting an athlete and a young man devoted to baseball. Evan played Texas high school football “for fun” but baseball is what he is serious about. That is a competitor. Asked about his role when he joins the Cougars baseball team, he said, “I’ll go anywhere, I can play anywhere they want me to; literally anywhere they want, I’ll play.” Maldonado concluded, “I’ll play anywhere. Anywhere to help the team.”
2020 is shaping up like a year none of us has ever seen in our lifetimes. Baseball is something that takes us away from the pressures of the real world and we enjoy sport and watching kids, young men, and sometimes older men compete on a diamond for a few hours at a time. In times of chaos or tumult, baseball has always been a great uniter. This is a year when adapting is called for and things are uncertain.
The Houston Cougars are getting a young man in Evan Maldonado who can adapt, who is suited for times like this, and whenever it is that he gets on the baseball field at the corner of Elgin and Cullen, he will be ready to represent Mission, Texas and the University of Houston with all that he has for the game that he has been working at since he was four years old. –