Alex Mauricio’s first Triple-A road trip is a homecoming for former Norfolk State star

NORFOLK — On Sunday, Alex Mauricio got a call saying he’d been promoted to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.

“Being in this organization, it’s tough to move up, being that we have so many high-quality individuals in every position,” Mauricio said this week as the RailRiders visit the Norfolk Tides at Harbor Park. “You’re always waiting for that call and when I got it, it was definitely surreal for me.”

That promotion put Mauricio, one of the best players in Norfolk State’s recent history, in elite company.

Norfolk State has had just five players make it to the Triple-A level, according to Baseball Reference. Mauricio is now the sixth Spartan to make it one step away from the big leagues and the first in almost 20 years. Scott Schneider did it last in 2005.

“It feels like I’ve not necessarily entered a club or anything like that, but there’s a very special sentiment to that,” Mauricio said. “To be able to come out of there and represent Norfolk State at this level means everything to me.”

It was perfect timing that two days after being called up, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre started a six-game series at Harbor Park. It made Mauricio’s first road trip with the RailRiders a homecoming of sorts.

Mauricio made his first appearance at Harbor Park on Thursday, allowing three runs and three hits and striking out three over two innings. He allowed a three-run homer to Michael Perez after a misplayed pop fly and infield single.

“It means the world to be able to come back here and compete for the Yankees in front of the team that I grew up playing against,” Mauricio said. “We had an exhibition game here, started every year, while I was at Norfolk State. So it’s nice to be back.”

Mauricio’s journey to Triple-A has been a long time coming.

The Midlothian native did it all in three years for Norfolk State. He was used predominantly as a pitcher, but also logged several starts as an infielder.

In 2016, his sophomore season, Mauricio was named an All-MEAC relief pitcher after putting together a 3-1 record with a 3.23 ERA in 16 appearances. During his junior season, he was named the MEAC Player of the Year after dominating at the plate and on the mound. He posted a .359 batting average while also compiling a 3.49 ERA along with 55 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings pitched.

Mauricio is the only player from Norfolk State to ever win MEAC Player of the Year.

That dominant 2017 season ended with Mauricio being drafted by his favorite team — the New York Yankees — in the 27th round. No Norfolk State player has been drafted since.

“To be able to play for this organization means the absolute world to me,” Mauricio said. “I’ve said it several times, I thank God for allowing me to be a Yankee. So I can’t imagine myself playing for another team, but I don’t take it for granted playing for this one. That’s for sure.”

Mauricio’s journey in the minor leagues started off promising, but quickly soured.

While preparing for the 2019 season, Mauricio noticed pain in his arm. Instead of stopping, he decided to push through.

In his first appearance for the Yankees’ Class A affiliate, at the time the Charleston RiverDogs, he took the mound and only topped out at 87 mph. Opposing batters got to Mauricio right away as he gave up seven runs and five hits, two of which were home runs, in 1 1/3 innings of work.

Mauricio had completely torn his UCL and had Tommy John surgery soon after.

In December of the same year, Mauricio decided to hang up his cleats and began working for a local landscaping company. Eventually, he got the itch for baseball again and began training kids and giving lessons at Vertex Performance.

In a similar fashion to the classic baseball movie “The Rookie” — which Mauricio said is his “newfound favorite” — those very kids helped motivate Mauricio to give baseball another shot. He started training again, even playing adult ball in the Tidewater League, and was eventually given a second shot by the Yankees’ front office in February 2022.

“That moment was a challenge for my mental health,” Mauricio said. “So I used those two years to be able to strengthen that area of my game to the point where I could come back and advertise myself the right way. You hear it all the time, this game is mental.”

Mauricio started his minor league career all over again in 2022 after he was assigned to the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Yankees’ high-Class A affiliate. He earned a win against the Greenville Drive in his first game for the Renegades, his first professional game in over two and a half years.

A 4-0 record and a 4.78 ERA in 2022 earned Mauricio a promotion to Double-A in 2023, where he spent the whole year with the Somerset (New Jersey) Patriots. With the Patriots, Mauricio made 36 appearances and had a 3.14 ERA.

“This has always been my love, it’s always been my passion, it’s what keeps me sane,” Mauricio said. “So to be able to coach those kids, go out there and still throw bullpens, and them look at me and tell me I don’t need to be here, I need to be out there throwing — that definitely drove me to come back out here and perform until I can’t.”

Mauricio credits his family for giving him the support he needed to push through his 2 1/2-year hiatus, saying they’ve made him better every single day.

Family, friends and college teammates have all come out to support Mauricio at Harbor Park this week and will continue to do so until the final game of the series Sunday.

Although he’s already joined elite company by making it to Triple-A, Mauricio has a shot at joining an even more exclusive club if he were to get called up to the majors.

Mauricio would join Eric Cozier and Terry Bradshaw as the only players from Norfolk State to ever play in MLB, per Baseball Reference.

While that would be a wish come true for Mauricio, he’s focused on staying present and proving his worth at Triple-A first.

“It’s really easy for you to get caught up in the hype of who’s next,” Mauricio said. “But at the end of the day, it’s just about staying present, knowing that you’re gonna be controlling the things that you can control and things that are out of your control are out of your control. Being able to handle that in a professional manner, I think, is what will separate some people from others.”

Michael Sauls, (757) 803-5774,