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Chris Arroyo: Rewriting the Record Books

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What looked to be a gamble at first, is starting to look like a sure bet for Chris Arroyo.

The baseball program at Pasco-Hernando State College is already collecting its winnings. In only one year at the school, Arroyo produced perhaps the best season in the proud history of a program that dates back to 1992. Arroyo re-wrote the record books while leading the Bobcats to a 33-22 record.

More importantly, the left-handed pitcher/outfielder/designated hitter put himself in a unique position for what looks like a limitless future. He just might be on a no-lose path that could make him the next Babe Ruth or Shohei Ohtani. That’s not an exaggeration.

When the Major League Baseball Draft is held in mid-July, Arroyo could be a high pick. But he already has made his large contract expectations known to Major League teams. If they don’t step up and meet his price, Arroyo said he’ll be more than happy to make a stop at the University of Virginia, a school that is known for strong academics and an outstanding baseball program. If that goes as planned, professional teams will have no choice but to pay his price in another year or two.

So, how did Arroyo put himself in such a commanding position? Well, he took a roundabout route that led him to Pasco-Hernando, where he was named first-team All-American — twice. After a record-setting season, Arroyo also was named the National Junior College Division II Two-Way Player of the Year by junior college baseball media influencer Noah Sharp.

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“I trusted God and he led me to Pasco-Hernando,” Arroyo said. “I’m very happy that I ended up there. It was the best thing for me. The coaching staff was awesome and I got everything I wanted out of Pasco-Hernando. Actually, it was even more than I expected.”

It wasn’t just an act of God that led at Arroyo to PHSC’s main campus in New Port Richey. Pasco-Hernando coach Lyndon Coleman also played a major role.

“Coach Coleman became like a second father to me,” Arroyo said.

In the summer of 2023 Arroyo, who spent one year at the University of Florida after a stellar prep career at Parkland’s Stoneman-Douglas High School in South Florida, was at a crossroads. He already had decided to leave Florida because the Gators insisted that he focus solely on pitching and took the bat out of his hands.

But Arroyo spent last summer playing in the prestigious Valley League, a collegiate wooden-bat league with teams all around Virginia. It just so happened that Coleman was coaching Arroyo’s Valley League team.

“I went into it knowing Chris was a pitcher – and a very good one,” Coleman said. “But his high school coach kept texting me and saying, “Chris can hit. Chris can hit.” Then, we got into a situation where I was out of hitters and I remembered that. I put Chris in as a pinch-hitter and he drew a very impressive bases-loaded walk to bring in a run. After that, I started to let him hit regularly.”

Arroyo hit so well that Coleman offered him a deal. Coleman told Arroyo that he would get to pitch and hit if he came to Pasco-Hernando. The rest is history.

Despite missing the first 12 games of the season with an injury, Arroyo looked a lot like Ruth and Ohtani — history’s best-known two-way players. On the mound, Arroyo went 5-4 with a 3.53 earned-run average while striking out 63 batters in 62 innings.

But Arroyo stood out more as a hitter. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Arroyo hit for average and power. In 44 games, he batted .403. But his biggest accomplishment was hitting 19 home runs to shatter John Holiday’s 1998 school record of 15 home runs.

“I had no idea I was anywhere near the school record,” Arroyo said. “I didn’t even know what the school record was. But, when I hit it, my coaches and teammates all started yelling and I knew something important had happened.”

Arroyo also drove in a team-high 52 runs and stole nine bases. All those numbers added up to Arroyo being named a National Junior College Athletic Association Division II first-team All-American and a National Baseball Coaches Association first-team All-American as a designated hitter.

“He might have hit 24 or 25 home runs if he didn’t miss those games at the start of the season with an injury,” Coleman said.

Coleman likes to say that junior college baseball in Florida is a launching pad for bigger and better things. Arroyo is a prime example. His accomplishments as a pitcher and hitter at PHSC convinced University of Virginia coaches to bring him on as a two-way player.

“I fell in love with Virginia when I was in the Valley League,” Arroyo said. “A lot of my teammates were at UVA and I really liked Charlottesville. My time at Pasco-Hernando helped me get where I want to be.”

Virginia is where Arroyo wants to be — for the time being, anyway. Eventually, he wants to play Major League baseball. What position he wants to play still is up in the air.

Ruth and Ohtani began their careers splitting time between pitching and hitting. Eventually, both gave up pitching to focus on hitting. Arroyo said he’s not ready to decide between the two.

“Maybe I’ll get drafted this year, but I’m not planning on it,” Arroyo said. “I’m planning on going to Virginia as a two-way player and winning a national championship. If I have to make a decision at some point in the future, then I’ll make a decision. But, right now, I’m a two-way player.”

Patrick Yasinskas
Patrick Yasinskas
Pat Yasinskas is an award winning writer now in the fifth decade of a career writing about sports on all levels. He previously covered the National Football League for The Tampa Tribune, The Charlotte Observer and ESPN.com and has written numerous freelance stories on all sports for multiple national and regional magazines and newspapers. He's covered 23 Super Bowls, been a member of the Selection Committee for The Pro Football Hall of Fame and co-authored a book on the NFL's Carolina Panthers in 2007. He began his career covering sports in Hernando, Pasco and Citrus counties for The Tampa Tribune while a student at Saint Leo University in the late 1980s. His first full-time job was covering Hernando County sports for The Tampa Tribune from 1990-92. He's thrilled to be back writing about sports in Hernando County, where it all began.
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