By Ray Hamill — Good things apparently do come to those who are patient and work hard.
That’s certainly been the case for former Fortuna, College of the Redwoods and Humboldt Crabs standout Kokko Figueiredo, who will play Division-I college baseball this spring for the North Carolina Central Eagles.
After seeing his senior season at Cal State Monterrey Bay canceled twice because of COVID-19, Figueiredo went looking for a new program and landed a D-I scholarship at the very school he had wanted to play for a few years ago.
“I didn’t really want to wait another year at Monterey,” he admitted. “So I started looking for other places to play and (North Carolina Central) gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
Figueiredo, who received numerous offers, had considered playing for the Eagles when his time at CR was winding down, but declined a walk-on invite after receiving a scholarship offer from D-II Monterey.
Three years on, however, the Eagles came calling again, this time with a scholarship offer, and he jumped at the opportunity.
He joins a program that has been competitive in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in recent years, and a team that plays its home games at a very iconic stadium.
From 1926 to 1994, Durham Athletic Park was home to the Durham Bulls, a famous minor league team that was featured in the 1988 Kevin Costner movie Bull Durham.
Considered one of the greatest baseball movies of all time, it was filmed at the stadium that Figueiredo now calls home.
“The field is still really nice and in perfect condition,” he said. “It’s one of the nicest stadiums I’ve played at, and it has some history that’s for sure.”
After two very productive seasons under head coach Brad Morgan at CR, Figueiredo took his talents to Monterey in 2018, impressing at the D-II level for a season and a half.
The starting infielder hit .368 with a team–leading 18 RBIs in 22 games last spring before the COVID shutdown hit, and he earned all-conference honors for the second straight year there.
But after receiving an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic, Figueiredo saw his senior season canceled again when the California Collegiate Athletic Conference announced in December that all sports were being shut down for the school year.
Figueiredo says the news had been expected and he had already been considering his next move, receiving the offer from the Eagles in mid-December.
He left for North Carolina the day after Christmas, making his first-ever trip to the East Coast.
“I really like it,” he said. “There’s a lot of history here.”
There are also a lot of big-name colleges within a few miles, including Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State.
Figueiredo is expected to play a utility role for the Eagles, who will begin the season in three weeks, and he knows he needs another big campaign if he wants to keep playing beyond this year, with eyes on June’s MLB Draft.
“That’s the hope,” he said. “I’ve just got to play really well and have a good season and see what happens.”
Playing at the D-I level will certainly give him more exposure to pro scouts, especially on a team that has multiple pro prospects.
If he doesn’t get drafted, Figueiredo says he will likely play a third and final summer for the Crabs, after seeing last summer’s season canceled because of the pandemic.
The former Fortuna and CR standout says his time at both schools helped prepare him for where he is today.
“I got lucky,” he said. “I got some really good coaching at a young age.”
Morgan coached Figueiredo at summer camps, at CR and with the Crabs, describing him as one of the best hitters he’s seen come out of this area in recent times.
Fortuna coaches Tyson Fisher and Ruben Rios each also were influential.
“When I was at Fortuna, I was lucky because I was coached by two Division-I players,” Figueiredo said of Fisher and Rios. “I’ve been coached by some guys that were able to play at a high level and knew what it takes to get there.”
He also paid tribute to his father, Bob Figueiredo, whom he says has played a huge role in his success.
“My biggest influence has been my dad,” he said. “He’s been to all my games. Always been there.”
Figueiredo has already earned a bachelors degree in Exercise Science and is now working toward a masters in Athletics Administration.