COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Rafael Pineda came to College Station in the fall of 2009 with dreams of pitching at Olsen Field, but it took more than two years for that dream to come true.
"I was healthy 100 percent coming in and felt great the first couple of weeks," said Pineda. "I think the transition from having to lift weights on a daily basis and also throwing everyday is what really got to me and didn't transition well and ended up tearing my rotator cuff."
The surgery meant Pineda didn't see the field in 2010, but the most damaging blow was missing the entire 2011 season as well.
Pineda said, "I was still throwing fine but it wasn't a healthy it was a strain and it hurt, so we decided that another couple months could only do better."
Aggie head coach Rob Childress added, "He was literally put on the shelf after that for year and a half and when you are put away and the seasons just pass you by it's sometimes more emotional than it is physical from a rehab standpoint."
While the Aggies were making a magical run to the College World Series, Pineda was having a hard time dealing with the fact that he couldn't help.
"It was kind of a jealous, like a bittersweet thing watching the team do so good. Happy for my teammates but at the same time the bitter side not being able to help to do anything. I though of transferring first. It was just kind of embarrassing coming in and not being able to do anything from the get go, getting hurt right away. It was really embarrassing. It kind of hurt my self esteem. My teammates stuck with me, my coaching staff stuck with me and everyone supported and motivated me and that helped a lot."
After a year and a half of rehab Pineda finally made his Aggie debut on February 19, capping the first series at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park with a masterpiece. He took a no-hitter to the 7th inning, allowed just one hit, and picked up his first college win.
"The last two years, all the work I put in just for that moment, just for that two hours of baseball with my teammates, it was an indescribable feeling," said Pineda. "Being able to come off the mound and, you know, Olsen field giving me a round of applause, it was touching, man, I almost cried. It was amazing, it was a great feeling."
Aggie pitcher Michael Wacha, who saw all the hard work Pineda put in behind the scenes, couldn't have been happier for his teammate. "It was incredible, an incredible day not only for us in the dugout and stuff but for him as well having his family here watching him come out and pitch for first time."
Pineda has continued to shine since that Sunday, going 5-1 with a 2.61 earned run average.
"I think his better days are in front of him and he's thrown more innings to date than he probably has in his whole life at any one period of time whether it be high school or summer league and he's handling it very well," said Childress.
Pineda added, "I throw a little bit softer, less velocity after my surgery, but I think the competitiveness that's grown inside of me being at Texas A&M, just the intensity, I think that's what set me apart from before surgery to now."
Pineda's mother was diagnosed with cancer before he came to Texas A&M and doctors didn't think she'd live to see him pitch his first game.
Over two years after the diagnosis, she, along with Rafael's nearly one year old son Julian, were in the stands to see him get that win over Illinois-Chicago.