Nunez taking advantage of his chance at WNC

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Victor Nunez.

BRAD HORN/Nevada Appeal Victor Nunez.

Ever since he was 17-years-old, Victor Nunez chose to make the kinds of sacrifices for his family that most his age wouldn't be willing to make.

Now five years later, Nunez - thanks in large part to the sacrifices his family is making - is receiving a second chance to play the game he loves, baseball. In a nutshell, Nunez is what junior colleges are all about and is what Western Nevada College is all about.

The 22-year-old Nunez is the third string, bullpen catcher for the Wildcats. But Nunez is just happy to be on the field again. While he did play in an adult league at Moana Stadium on the weekends, other than that, this is the first competitive baseball Nunez has had the chance to play since he was a junior in high school.

The odyssey for Nunez began his senior year in high school when his girlfriend, Vibeka, became pregnant with his daughter.

There was no doubt in the mind of Nunez what he was going to do. He already had one job and he picked up another job. He worked two jobs as a cafeteria cook and for a cleaning services company.

"I knew I wanted to commit, to start my life with her," said Nunez about Vibeka. "I had a second job within a week.

"I was making money to support my family. I was going to have to make the sacrifices to make the family successful. That's the way I looked at it."

Nunez was attending high school in Austin, Texas and had the chance to play baseball his senior year.

"I did have the the opportunity to play my senior year," he said. "I decided to put my family first."

Nunez graduated from high school in 2003. His daughter - Trinity - was born on June 16 of that year. He and Vibeka then married shortly thereafter in July.

There's no denying that teenage pregnancy is always a difficult situation. But Nunez said he's a person who has always looked forward.

"It's always been the best thing that has happened to me," he said. "It's always been a blessing. I couldn't be happier."

But Nunez also didn't want to raise a family in Austin. "Austin wasn't a town to start a family," he said. "There was just too much temptation."

Since Vibeka had a great deal of family in Northern Nevada, Victor and his family decided to move to this area and they now live in Sparks. The plan was for Victor to work to send his wife through school and then once she was finished, she could send her husband through college.

So Victor worked as a cable technician for Charter Communications, allowing Vibeka to earn her nursing degree from the University of Nevada and now works at Saint Mary's Hospital. The family is going to have a house built in May.

Along with the chance to go to college came the opportunity to play baseball. "I just never gave up on it," Victor said.

"I just kept calling him," said Victor about contacting Western Nevada College coach D.J. Whittemore.

After a tryout in June, Nunez earned a place on the team. "He said I was going to be a bullpen catcher," said Victor about what Whittemore told him. "That I was going to be asked to make the team better any way I could and that it wasn't going to be an easy road.

"It's just an uphill battle because it's a few years since I played. These guys are right out of high school."

Victor has also been realistic about his role in a program that advance to the JUCO World Series last year. "He told me where they had gone last year and where I stood," said Victor about Whittemore. "There wasn't a lot of bargaining power on my part."

Nunez is pleased with the progress he's made. "I think it's pretty exceptional, how much I improved from where I started to where I am now," he said.

And at WNC it's stressed that no matter what the role, everyone on the team should be ready to play and that's something Nunez has taken to heart. "I think I go beyond what is pushed and what is expected here," he said.

And Nunez has gotten to play in three games this year, including one crucial situation in the series at College of Southern Idaho.

Nunez said his preparation made him ready for that experience. "I was just completely focused," he said. "No nervousnes or uncertainty on my part."

And when he goes in, Nunez is expected to take on all of the responsibilities expected of the first two catchers - Chuck Howard and Darren Bruhns. That means calling all the pitches, which Nunez did at CSI.

In addition, Nunez takes his role as bullpen catcher seriously. "You've got to build up your pitching staff and build their confidence," he said.

"I think the players look up to me now because my playing time is limited. I've got the worst job on the team, but my attitude is one of the best. There's rarely a day off."

A 4.0 student while taking classes at WNC and Truckee Meadows College, Nunez plans to study engineering at the University of Nevada. He's leaning toward electrical engineering.

He carries 17 units, above the 12 that is required of athletes. "I knew I wanted to go out and try out," he said. "This is the best place.

"It was a long shot to get on the team but it was worth it. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team. Not everybody gets the chance I have."

And Nunez is well aware of the sacrifice his family has made. "That's always in the back of my mind to make the most of it," he said.

"I think the thing that motivates me the most is the sacrifice my family makes for me to be here. It take a lot of time away from them to be here."

And what advice would Nunez give? "Dont' give up on your dreams," he said. "Don't give up on yourself. Hard work goes a long ways."


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