From Saturday school to The Diamond, competition drives Arenado

Third baseman Jonah Arenado is in his second season with the Flying Squirrels. He hit .200 last season with five home runs and 39 RBI. Photo by Erin Edgerton

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

Saturday school: a high schooler’s worst nightmare. Four hours without his phone, staring aimlessly at the walls.

But for Richmond Flying Squirrels third baseman Jonah Arenado, one day at Saturday school brought news that changed his life. First, he had to persuade his teacher to let him answer his phone.  

“I got a call and it said San Francisco. So I had to tell the teacher that this was an emergency, I really got to go,” Arenado said. “She was like, ‘Nope, sorry no phones here.’”

But he pleaded his case to his teacher.

“I said, ‘This is an emergency, I’ve got to take this,’ and she said, ‘OK, hurry up,’” he said. “So I got to take the phone call and they said, ‘Hey, we drafted you.’”

The Lake Forest, California, native was picked in the 16th round of the 2013 MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants, becoming the second Arenado to be drafted out of El Toro High School.

His brother Nolan Arenado was taken in the second round of the 2009 MLB draft out of high school.

“When I got drafted, I didn’t have to make a decision right away,” Jonah Arenado said. “I had a few weeks to think about it. So I called him. We talked for a little bit, and I talked to my parents about it too.”

After watching his brother go through the ranks of Minor League Baseball, Jonah Arenado got an idea of what to expect playing baseball each day. But he got a firsthand look at the grind of the long Minor League season when Nolan Arenado played for the Modesto Nuts, the High-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

“When he was in High-A, I got to travel with the team,” Jonah Arenado said. “Their manager Jerry Weinstein let me travel with the team, practice with the team and workout with them. So I kind of got the feel of Minor League Baseball and that really drove me more than anything.”

Not only was the experience of being a Minor League Baseball player for a few days inspiring for the younger Arenado, but attending his brother’s first MLB Futures game in Arizona sparked him to play professional baseball as well.

Growing up in the Arenado household was full of a competitive spirit in almost anything that they played.

“All of us are super competitive — playing wiffle ball, ping pong, you name it,” Jonah Arenado said. “We never just did it for fun, we were trying to beat the other person and talk some trash … so when it came down to being competitive in baseball, it was never a problem because we’ve been doing it for so long.”

The competitive spirit produced a trio of professional baseball players: Nolan Arenado, Jonah Arenado and their cousin Josh Fuentes.

Fuentes made his MLB debut April 6 for the Rockies against the Los Angeles Dodgers and recorded his first MLB hit.

“Man, I wish I was there. I get the chills just thinking about it,” Jonah Arenado said. “He went from being a free agent signed to being a big leaguer, and not a lot of people expected that, which makes it even more special.”

Fuentes played in the same game as Nolan Arenado in his MLB debut, a moment that Jonah Arenado had last year

Jonah Arenado played against his brother in a spring training game in 2018, when the Giants played the Rockies in Arizona.

“One of my favorite players growing up was Evan Longoria, and so I subbed in for Longoria to go up against my brother, which is pretty cool,” Jonah Arenado said. “That was really special because I’ve never played on the same field as him competitively.”

The early spring evening in Maricopa County, Arizona, saw the younger Arenado score a run in his only game against his brother. The run was one of 13 scored by the Giants as they shut out the Rockies.

Jonah Arenado is in his seventh season of professional baseball, all with Giants affiliates. He has a career Minor League batting average of .250 with 44 home runs and 271 RBI.

San Francisco, though, did not know exactly where Jonah Arenado was on draft day when he received the call letting him know he was a Giant.

“I don’t think I ever told them I was in Saturday school,” he said.

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