He didnt recruit him to UL, didnt sign him.
Before becoming head coach of the Ragin Cajuns last summer, in fact, Matt Deggs didnt really know much at all about catcher Sebastian Toro.
But Toro is Deggs kind of player, and after watching what hes done lately, its easy to understand why.
The kid just is a ball of energy. Hes so much fun to be around, Deggs said. His teammates love him. He loves to work. He loves to laugh.
Hes got a little flare to him, and Im drawn to that. I like guys that play with passion and flare, and play with confidence, and they want to drive the train and be the spark.
Hes got a lot of those qualities, Deggs added, and hes a great receiver, and he can really throw.
Can he ever.
More: Deggs looking for Cajuns to 'compete' at the plate
Ragin' Cajuns catcher Sebastian Toro celebrates on third base during a 1-0 win over Sam Houston State last Saturday at The Tigue.(Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
Twice last weekend, actually, the redshirt junior from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, ended games a pair of victories over Sam Houston State, the team Deggs coached from 2015-19 with his arm.
And he did it after things didnt exactly go his, or the Cajuns, way on the first night of their three-game series with the Southland Conferences Bearkats.
On Friday, SHSU beat UL 5-4 in 11 innings.
In the top of the 11th the Cajuns intentionally walked Sam Houstons top two hitters, Jack Rogers and Colton Cowser, to load the bases before the Bearkats scored what proved to be the winning run when a wild pitch in the dirt from Connor Cooke got past Toro, who couldnt make the block.
Related: UL plan unravels in 11-inning loss to Sam Houston
But rather than keep him down, or make him gun-shy, Toro dusted himself off and bounced right back duringthe ninth inning of a 1-0 win the next day, one in which he singled and later scored UL's lone run.
First, with Cowser at the plate and the Cajuns clinging to their one-run lead, he popped up from behind the plate to pick off Anthony MacKenzie at first base for the second out of the inning, daring to make the same play he tried but failed in a game earlier in the season.
Then, with Rogers up after Cowser had walked, he gunned down Cowser at second to end it the first time in his career the U.S. Collegiate National Team member had been thrown out trying to steal.
Deggs called it a game-saving play, one that polished off pitcher Brandon Youngs three-hit, complete-game gem. Toro simply called itspecial.
A day later, with the series still undecided, Toro again threw out Cowser trying to steal second in the ninth, this time to preserve a 7-5 Cajuns victory and a 2-1 UL series win.
No wonder teammates love him.
Toros amazing behind the plate, UL senior outfielder Gavin Bourgeois said. He has great energy, and hes really fun to watch.
Oh, and hes hitting a team-high .300 too heading into games Friday afternoon against Samford, Saturday afternoon against Michigan State and Sunday afternoon against Troy at Blue Wahoos Stadium in Pensacola, Florida.
Related: Toro keeps Sam Houston from stealing a thriller with UL
More: UL baseball defeats Sam Houston State 7-5
UL catcher Sebastian Toro talks to teammates during a game against Sam Houston State last Friday night on M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field at Russo Park.(Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
Toro is a product of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, a renowned program located not far from San Juan that has produced major-leaguers including Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa and Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez.
From there it was on to Seminole State College in Oklahoma, where Toro spent two seasons.
And last season, his first at UL, he got off to a strong start as a Cajun.
Toro was hitting .308 with six RBIs, and sharing time behind the plate with then-senior Handsome Monica had started seven of the 11 games in which he played.
More: Cajuns catcher Monica not ready to rest his case just yet
What's in a name?Monica wasn't born Handsome
In one early season outing against Maryland, he was 2-for-3 with two RBIs. In another against Loyola Marymount, he had two hits and scored a run.
But then his arm went sore.
Initially, late Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux who passed away last July, leading to the hiring of ex-UL assistant Deggs thought hed get Toro back before seasons end.
In time, though, it became apparent that wasnt going to happen. Toro wound up taking a medical redshirt instead.
It pained him to do so.
More: Bond is big for Deggs, Ragin' Cajun coaches still grieving
Related: Ragin' Cajuns unveil Robichaux statue 'just too soon'
It was frustrating, said Toro, who has had to overcome injury before.
My sophomore year (at Seminole) I broke my hand. But we were in the playoffs, so I didnt miss a lot of games. But last year it kind of hurt myself. I wasnt ready to play. My arm wasnt ready.
It kind of got me hard not playing, losing games, Toro added. Last year, I didnt do nothing to help my team win.
But that was 2019.
This is 2020, so Toro erased all memory of a year lost.
Its a new season, he said. You cant worry about what happened the last season.
But Toro didnt just think that.
The fiery, wide-smiling, charismatic Puerto Ricanlived it, and teammates could tell.
He really didnt complain at all when he had the injury, which is something pretty special, senior pitcher Young said. You know, a lot of guys kind of mope, kind of get down.
But he had his energy all the time, and its been paying off for him.
Has it ever.
More: Cajun arms getting it done as UL preps for road stretch
Related: Stacked UL pitching staff looks the part going into 2020
In 10 games played, nine of them starts, Toro already has thrown out 10 of 16 runners trying to steal.
He didnt have that kind of arm last year, Young said. Hes gotten a lot better.
Im surprised if he doesnt get his name called in the (MLB) Draft this year, for sure.
All this from someone whose arm, still on the mend in the fall, prevented Deggs from fully appreciating him early on.
UL's Sebastian Toro celebrates a double against Sam Houston State last Friday night at The Tigue.(Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
Didnt know a lot about Sebastian coming in, because he was hurt, the first-season Cajuns coach said.
He hit a ball off the centerfield wall against us a year ago at Sam, and that was basically my experience with him.
I havent even heard about it or talked about it, Deggs, whose Cajuns are coming off Tuesday night's 11-2 win at Rice,said with reference to the arm injury. He just jumped in with both feet, and hes gone.
Related: Seven-run fifth pushes the Ragin' Cajuns past Rice
Its the new arm, though, that really has Toro going. That, and the bat, which has produced five RBIs and nine hits in 30 at-bats this year.
He didnt have surgery on the arm, but said he instead underwent PRP.
According to multiple medical websites, platelet-rich plasma therapy involves transfusion injections of a concentration of a patients own blood platelets to promote and accelerate the healing of damaged tendons, ligaments, muscles and joints.
I came out with a lot of confidence in myself right now, especially hitting too, said Toro, whose first language is Spanish.
Sometimes if I dont hit my confidence goes down, but I just try to be the same guy every day.
During the middle game of a home series with Virginia Tech the weekend before the one with Sam Houston State, Toro struck out four times in row.
For the three-game series, he fanned six times in all and finished 2-for-11 at the plate.
Related: Cajuns strike out 16 times and 15 are stranded in loss to Virginia Tech
Toro knew he had to do something, anything, to shake the feeling.
So, for starters, he did what anyone else in his position would.
Just show up to the field, Toro said.
But before that he made a call.
I talked to my Dad (Anthony), Toro said.
I said, Hey, theres nothing I can do more. I just keep showing up, working hard, just try to get hits.
Reflective of the confidence he has in Toros bat, Deggs also did his part.
He had Toro hitting cleanup to open the SHSU series.
More: Alcohol cost Ragin' Cajuns baseball coach Matt Deggs, but Tony Robichaux saved him
Ragin' Cajuns catcher Sebastian Toro (center) is welcomed back to the dugout after scoring UL's lone run in a 1-0 win over Sam Houston State last Saturday.(Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
When I saw that, Toro said, I was like, Man Im not used to hitting in the four-hole.
But I just used it as a challenge. I was gonna get there, get some pitches and try to get ahead and try to get in scoring position.
Toro went 3-for-5 with a double and one run scored in ULs first game against Sam Houston, and he finished the series 4-for-8 with just two strikeouts, showing defense isnt the only reason hes a cut above.
The Cajuns carry three catchers, and all three have started at least once behind the plate this year.
But Toros play of late earned has earned him starts in four straight games and seven of 5-8 ULs last eight.
Its also prompted Deggs to find other places to play the Cajuns two reserve catchers so he can get their bats into the lineup too, prompting playtime at third base for junior backup Nick Hagedorn while Jonathan Windham deals with a hand injury and opportunity at first base for hot-hitting freshman Julian Brock.
More: Deggs' 2020 Cajuns loaded with 'interchangeable parts'
With the way he plays defensively, not to mention the bat, the Cajuns coach simply wants Toro in the lineup as long as he can hold up.
And why not?
The arm really is a weapon, a deterrent that could easily keep even the speediest of base-runners from trying to steal too much from the Cajuns.
He makes you extremely uncomfortable on the bases, Deggs said. It tightens up leads. Guys dont want to run as much, and its a definitive advantage.
Ragin' Cajuns catcher Sebastian Toro waits to tag out a Virginia Tech runner at the plate earlier this season at The Tigue.(Photo: James Mays/Special to the Advertiser)
Toros arm eases stress on Cajun pitchers too.
I dont have to make perfect pitches with a guy on first or second, at least, Young said. If I throw it a little out, (or) my timing can be a little off, and I know hes got me nine times out of 10 times.
Deggs understands well just how much that can lead to mind games in the opposite dugout.
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