From Tesoro to UC Riverside, AJ Roldan found his place on the mound. As a left-handed pitcher, Roldan saw plenty of at-bats in high school, but he is sticking to pitching at the Division I level.
Roldan threw 12 strikeouts in 19 appearances – sharing time as a relief pitcher for the struggling Highlanders’ team. Roldan’s individual performance and stats will be key to achieving his MLB dream with UC Riverside’s team record at 8-45 this past season. With his freshman season behind him, he is ready and willing to work to improve upon those numbers this coming year.
“I’ve got a personal goal,” says Roldan. “I want to be a starting pitcher with one of the lowest ERAs (Earned Run Averages) on the team.”
While his talent is evident, Roldan recognizes he must put in the work to take that next step. On an average day of training, he wakes up before 7:00 a.m. with his teammates for weightlifting, heads to study hall at 9:00 a.m., class from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., and then practice 2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Playing a sport can make the transition from high school to the college world difficult, but Roldan is most surprised by the level of individual play. Every player on a Division I roster was a star on their local team growing up, but there is no way they can all be the best at the next level.
“It was a wake-up call. It tells you to work harder if you want to be better,” Roldan explains. “I think it was a change for the better for me because now I just want to work harder.”
At 6’1” and 195 lbs, Roldan is well beyond his Ladera Ranch Little League days. Playing baseball his whole life, Roldan realizes that failure is as good a teacher as any.
“It really is a game of failure,” Roldan remarks. “The greatest athletes in the sport fail 70% of the time. They hit .300, and they’re in the Hall of Fame.”
There is no Plan B for Roldan; he will go all out to lace up in the Big Leagues. While he has the talent and determination to take that next step, it is a long and competitive road to the top. Following his Senior campaign, Roldan will shoot for the 2025 MLB Draft. Much more complicated than other professional sports, the MLB’s 20-round draft pulls players from high school, junior college, universities, and abroad with a large player pool from Latin America and Eastern Asia.
“There’s times I think about the logistics of getting drafted, and it looks like it’s impossible,” says Roldan. “But I’ve learned I just need to have the confidence and believe in myself because that’s the only way I’ll make it there.”
Making it as a professional athlete is not the easiest career path, but Roldan’s maturity and understanding of what it will take give him an edge. His past coaches and teammates would not be shocked to see “Roldan” on the back of an MLB jersey in the future.
Excited to do anything he can to fulfill his own goals at the next level, Roldan advises, “Whatever sport or hobby you love to do, do it with 100%. Never go half effort, there's no point.”