VCU’s Vimael Machin puts college education ahead of major leagues


For many Puerto Rican kids playing baseball, Edwin Correa’s Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School is nirvana.

Founded in 2002, 67 students have gone on to be selected in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

Vimael Machin was no exception. But Machin, taken by the San Diego Padres in the 29th round in 2010 and again by the Cubs in the 10th round on Tuesday — chose a different path.

“It sounds like a good thing when you are in high school,” said Machin, a 2011 graduate of PRBAHS. “After the draft my parents and I talked. We came to the conclusion the best thing was to go to college to get an education.”

From Machin’s front yard in San Lorenzo to the PRBAHS campus in Gurabo was a mere seven miles. The next path Machin, a criminal justice major, would set out on wasn’t as publicized and was taken by only a few. This path was 1,500 miles long.

PRBAHS graduate Sergio Miranda was the first to embark on that trip to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Miranda was recruited by Paul Keyes, then head coach of the Rams.

Vimael Machin's father converted him to a right-hander when he was 5. (Photos by Will Stricklin via VCU Athletics)
Vimael Machin’s father converted him to a right-hander when he was 5. (Photos by Will Stricklin via VCU Athletics)

Carlos Rodriguez and Richard Gonzalez, other younger players at PRBAHS, caught Keyes’ eye while he was watching Miranda and would also eventually be bound for Richmond as well. Gonzalez, who was a teammate of Machin’s at PRBAHS, vouched for the kid from San Lorenzo with new head coach Shawn Stiffler. Even though Stiffler joined VCU in 2012, Machin remained on their recruiting radar.

“Coach Stiffler saw me play a couple of times,” said Machin. “When I had a tryout with a couple of pro teams he was also there. He came up to me after the tryout to talk about VCU. A couple weeks later they sent me an email about making an official visit.”

Before the visit to VCU, both college and pro scouts got in Machin’s ear about changing positions to make himself more marketable.

“My senior year, three or four months before the draft, I started to catch,” he said. “The pro scouts suggested it. It was a pretty hard thing to do to be honest.”

Machin was an infielder by choice, mostly playing shortstop and a little bit of second base. Going behind the plate was a major adjustment but he was willing to do anything. Years earlier, Machin’s father initiated a more drastic change.

“I was always a lefty,” said Machin. “He decided to change me at 5. He saw that lefties can only pitch, play outfield or first. I always liked second and short. Now I can’t even throw lefty.”

From the time Machin arrived on campus, he’s been playing shortstop. His skill level, developed and refined at PRBAHS, made him more than ready for college ball. Machin was inserted into the Rams starting lineup right away. As a freshman in 2012 he started all 59 games, hit an impressive .291 and was named to the Colonial Athletic Association rookie team.

Since that initial year he has been a mainstay for VCU. Respected as a senior, Machin’s offensive output this year has been a big difference since hitting in the cleanup spot. The last week of March the senior was named Atlantic 10 Player of the Week. Machin went for 11-for-18 that week and was in the middle of a 15-game hitting streak.

Machin’s .350  average and 53 RBIs lead the Rams (40-23), who advanced to the NCAA super regionals against Miami with a 3-1 victory over Dallas Baptist on Monday in an NCAA regional championship.

“Parents and family told me that I had to work hard every day not matter what and be ready to go every day,” said Machin. “I always think when I go to the plate that it is going to be my last at-bat ever. You have got to always give 100%.”

Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand is a freelance writer based in Ocala, Fla.