With a National Championship to defend, the Arizona Wildcats aren’t losing focus of the future.
Although he won’t be in an Arizona uniform for another two seasons, Handsome Monica made a bold move at the end of January and committed to play his college baseball in Tucson.
The Wildcats recruited the catcher out of St. Paul’s High School in Mandeville, LA, but his initial interest was peaked by one of his friends.
“One of my friends, Evan Hebert, who is also committed to Arizona, told me about it and how they are his dream school,” Monica said. “I started looking closer at them. I came in contact with Coach Cole and we started talking and getting a relationship built up.”
It was still early in his recruitment when the Wildcats wanted to get Monica on campus. The high school junior finally made a trip to Tucson over the winter and came away with a heavy favorite.
“Halfway through the summer, we started talking about me going down for a camp and getting to see the school and everything,” he said. “I went down on December 1st and I fell in love with the school. I love the coaching staff and just everything about it.
“I really like Andy Lopez and his coaching style. We get along really well and I just loved Arizona when I went out there.”
Monica took his time with the decision, but wanted to end his recruitment before his high school season started. He visited Arizona in December and let it sink in before deciding on a school in late January.
“I committed on January 25th,” he said. “I took a trip down to Mississippi State and I was expecting an offer. They told me that they wanted to see me play a little more before they offered and it just made my decision to commit to Arizona that much easier.”
Traveling across the country isn’t always easy for a recruit to think about during the recruiting process. Monica is living in the heart of SEC country, but is making the trip west. He won’t be alone when he gets to Tucson, though. Monica has grandparents and other relatives near Tucson and throughout the southwest.
“Tulane was in the picture. They’re right in my backyard and I really like their coaching staff and everything, but I have some family in the Tucson area, so I thought that it would be awesome to go there and have get to see me play.”
The 6-foot-2 right-hander will play catcher for the Wildcats, though he can also play third base and in the outfield. Over the next few seasons in high school, Monica will focus on his work as a catcher, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
“Behind the plate, I’d really like to work on my footwork,” Monica said. “Not to toot my own horn, but I have a pretty strong arm. I would like to get my pop-up time up. Right now it sits between a 1.9 flat and a 1.93, so I would like to get that down. I’m always trying to work on the mental aspect of the game, too.
"I want to call pitches behind the plate, because as a catcher, I really focus on the batter and what kind of pitch is being thrown. I want to be able to call my own pitches some day.
“Hitting wise, I hit every day. I can go up there and swing the bat.”
Monica has an intriguing name, but it wasn’t always that way. Originally, “Handsome” was just a nickname. Over time, it turned into something more, until Monica legally changed it.
“My birth name is actually Donald-Ray and I don’t know how I got the nickname, but everyone started calling me Handsome," he said. "As I grew up, everyone just called me Handsome. Then, I ended up going to a private school and they didn’t accept nicknames. So, we legally changed my name. Now, my name is legally Handsome Enrique Ray Monica.”
Over the next two years, there may be other schools that try to steal him away from the Wildcats. Monica remains firm with his decision and won’t waver on his choice.
“There’s nothing that is going to change my mind,” Monica said. “I am dead set on Arizona. I am excited to be a Wildcat.”