05/23/2018 11:11 AM -
After nearly a decade of playing independent baseball around the country, Quijano settles down in Chicagoland, juggling two coaching jobs around his family
Alain Quijano is what you can call an independent baseball lifer. After growing up and attending college in Iowa, Quijano left home embarked on a decade-long adventure through independent baseball that took him around the country.
From 2005 to 2014, Quijano spent nine seasons riding the buses of nine different teams in five different independent leagues from Texas to New England. He’s pitched in two leagues—the Northern League and Central League—that are now defunct.
However, even during the middle of his career when he was bouncing around from team to team, at the end of the day, Quijano always seemed to make his way back to the Gary SouthShore RailCats.
After spending the 2009 season with the RailCats, Quijano returned for the 2011 season, then came back once more to anchor the rotation for the 2013 squad that won the American Association title.
After a final season in 2014 pitching in the Atlantic League, his old manager, Greg Tagert, invited him back to become Gary’s pitching coach for the 2015 season. Now, four seasons into his latest gig, Quijano has finally been able to settle down, living in Oak Lawn, Illinois with his wife and two children.
“I just picked up and followed this baseball dream, then you meet a girl and fall in love,” Quijano said. “Then you find the program that you really fall in love with and take care of that.”
The program Quijano refers to is in fact two programs: the RailCats organization, and the baseball team at Olive-Harvey Community College, where Quijano has spent the last two seasons as the head coach.
With the added coaching role, Quijano aims to delicately balance the demands of travel, preparation and coaching up his pitchers to compete in the American Association, while simultaneously having to guide an entire junior college program. For Quijano, that had an interesting impact late last season as the RailCats made their run into the American Association playoffs at the same time that Olive-Harvey was playing their 20-game fall schedule.
“The excitement of the playoff run was everything you wanted it to be,” Quijano said. “But the next day, or sometimes even later that night, I had to construct practice and fall games for the college, so it was a lot.”
For Quijano, though, he gave no indication that the challenges of juggling both roles is too much for him. Part of what keeps him coming back to the RailCats is the opportunity to work for Greg Tagert.
“What everyone comes back to is that Greg makes you feel at home,” he said.
After calling Gary home for three separate stints as a player, Quijano is now fully invested as a coach, working to help pitchers thrive under his tutelage.
“I get my gratification through guys going out there and either having good outings or figuring something out that works for them,” he said.
Thus far, Quijano’s tutelage has paid dividends. After finishing tenth in the American Association in ERA during his first season coaching in 2015, the RailCats pitching staff has finished in the top-5 in the circuit in team ERA in each of the past two seasons.
Furthermore, Quijano has seen five of his hurlers sign affiliated baseball contracts under his watch, most recently Carlos Diaz, who signed with the Miami Marlins following the 2017 season. Another one of the five, Alex Gunn, signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks midway through the 2016 campaign before returning to Gary before last season.
Gunn leads a core group of pitchers that returns for the 2018 season that also includes Daniel Minor, Sam Myers, and Jeff McKenzie. Quijano partially credits the high number of returners to Greg Tagert’s genuine and up-front manner that he believes builds a comfortable environment for players. That effect rubs off on the coaches too.
“Watching them come back and get excited for the things we’re doing excites me. It almosts rejuvenates me every year,” Quijano said.
This year, the RailCats look to return to the playoffs after last year’s thrilling run, and Quijano will of course have his hands full. With his family at his side and two baseball teams that rely on his knowledge and coaching prowess, Quijano nonetheless feels as comfortable and at home as he ever has.
“The kids are fun, and everything’s starting to work out here. We enjoy it.”
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