Respectful. Determined. Talented. Successful. These are all terms that can easily be used to describe Eckerd College alumni and distinguished pitcher, Joe Cuda, who was recently drafted by the Saint Louis Cardinals in the Major League Baseball Draft of 2012 and is currently pitching for the Class A Batavia Muckdogs of the New York–Pennsylvania League.
Another word that describes him? Humble.
Simply put, Joe Cuda is not your average 5’9” righty from St. Petersburg, Florida. In fact, unlike most athletes, he lives by one rule and one rule only: hard work pays off.
Hard work has certainly paid off for Cuda, who holds a 6-1 record in the minors and continues to reach for the stars on his journey to become a Major League Baseball player. His 11 starts have earned him a 4.01 ERA in 51.2 innings pitched, striking out 43 and allowing only eight walks, yet he continues to keep moving forward.
“My biggest source of inspiration is to see how far I can go,” says Cuda. “My main goal is to play Major League Baseball and be successful.”
For someone with such big dreams and talent, Cuda’s simple words of motivation have surely turned him into a strong representation for the Eckerd College community. At Eckerd's 2011-2012 Athletic Banquet, Cuda received the prestigious Male Harley Award and the Triton Award and was named the school’s Most Valuable Player because of his exceptional leadership in the classroom, on the field, and in the community. In addition to collecting numerous awards during his senior year with the Tritons, Cuda’s resume includes four Sunshine State Conference Pitcher of the Week awards, as well as three National Collegiate Baseball Writer’s Association South Region Pitcher of the Week awards. In his senior year alone, he was named to the All-Sunshine State Conference Second Team, the Daktronics All-South Region Second Team, and the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-South Region Gold Glove Team.
In addition to Cuda’s many awards, Eckerd head baseball coach Bill Mathews is not afraid to speak highly of his former pitcher. “In my 22 years at Eckerd College, he’s one of the top three arms that we’ve had in my tenure,” said Mathews. “He always led by example in terms of how hard he worked, day in and day out. He’s a true student of the game, as was exemplified by his ability to throw any pitch in any count for a strike.”
What Cuda really wants to be remembered for, however, is his character. “I try to be the same person to everyone,” he explains. “My mom is my biggest role model. I’m really thankful for her and her guidance; she instilled that doing the right thing pays off.”
Although Cuda’s words are simple and straightforward, Coach Mathews believes that Cuda’s impact on the team comes from something much deeper than just a scorebook. “If you can bottle what [Cuda] has to offer, we’d all be pretty good coaches,” said Mathews. “He’s a great kid and he was a great example for our program and a great representative of Eckerd College.”
In his decision to stay close to home after high school, Cuda chose Eckerd College as the next step in his career for simple reasons. “It was a good fit, a small school, and a place where I could get a great education and continue playing sports,” says Cuda. “I’m thankful for the experiences and relationships that I’ve made with people at Eckerd and along the way.”
His words are simple, appreciative, powerful, and honest.
And of course, they are humble.
About the author: Katie Gwinn recently completed a summer internship with the SSC office. A senior at Saint Leo University, Gwinn is majoring in communications management. She is the President of the Student Government Union at Saint Leo and has interned for the Lion athletics communications department since August 2011. A former student-athlete that is truly passionate about writing and sports, her dream is to become a writer for Sports Illustrated.