CHICAGO—Scarlet Hawks fans, it’s NCAA Division III week! We will be profiling different Illinois Tech student-athletes all week. Each one will give us insights on their time at Illinois Tech, some of their favorite memories, and more!
Today’s spotlight is on Orlando Cardenas-Juan of baseball. Check out what he had to say:
Q: What is the best part about being a Division III athlete?
A: For me, I think the best part about being a Division III athlete is that you meet some very genuine people who are very passionate about the sport you play. Division III Athletics isn’t exactly in the spotlight all the time, so you must really have a passion and a desire to participate in collegiate sports if you go that route. I can say during my time here at Illinois Tech, I have met not only some great athletes, but I have found myself surrounded by some of the most coolest individuals who share the same passion about sports as I do.
Q: What is your major and what are your plans and ambitions in your area of study after graduation?
A: I am currently a third-year architectural engineering major who wants to specialize in construction management. Post-graduation is still a little bit of a blank in terms of a specific company I would like to work for, but I do know that I would like to take my architectural engineering degree along with my passion for sports and work in developing sports venues and facilities for universities and professional franchises. The big dream is to be able to go back home (in California) and renovate some of the high school and youth recreational locations (whether it be gymnasiums, baseball fields, parks).
Q: What other clubs, positions, or activities do you have or are apart of at Illinois Tech?
A: I am currently a member of a fraternity on campus (Delta Tau Delta). I have been a member since the fall of 2017. Being a fraternity has been a great experience, as I have created a great group of brotherhood outside of the baseball team. It’s a great group of dudes who love to spend time together, and it’s just added to my experience here at Illinois Tech.
Q: Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions you must do before every game or match?
A: I like to say a prayer before the first pitch of the first game of the day (if we happen to have a double header) with one of my teammates, Joseph Hindy. It’s not necessarily the same prayer every time, and we take turns saying the prayer every game day. I am religious, so it’s just a little something I like to do before games for some good luck and good blessings.
Q: Who are some of your role models?
A: One person who’s a big reason why I wanted to play college baseball is my old travel ball coach, Coach Vinny. When I was 12, I was invited to play on this local travel ball team. When I joined, one of my teammate’s brother was invited to coach the team. At the time, he was a junior college pitcher at the local juco back home. He walked around with this chest pumped out and big chain dangling, and I thought this was the coolest dude I ever met. He helped me grow not only as a baseball player but more so as a person. I was pretty sheltered being an only child growing up, so having a college baseball player as my coach was definitely going to get me out of my comfort zone, whether I liked it or not. He always shared stories about what it was like being a college athlete, and even though it was at the junior college level, I still thought college baseball was one of the coolest experiences someone could have. From that point on, I’ve had a goal to play college baseball, and it’s led to where I am right now.
Q: What advice would you give to an incoming freshman student-athlete at Illinois Tech?
A: I’ll be honest here, you have to be a little crazy to play Division III sports. You have to really have a passion for your sport, if not, then it’s going to be a long season and school year. I guess biggest pieces of advice would be to have lots of patience and enjoy all the little moments. There’s going to be a lot a thrown at you during the season, and there’s a lot of things that can happen that are out of your control (on and off the athletic platform), so being able to adapt and adjust is something that you’ll have to learn throughout your career as an athlete. Lastly, the beauty is in the struggle. There’s going to be times when you have to wake up at 5 a.m. for practice or play in sub-30 degree weather; basically there are times when playing college sports is a pain. But, when your four years are over, you’re going to look back on those moments. You may be happy that you don’t have endure any of that anymore, but you’ll definitely miss the people and the memories you made during those times, so enjoy them to the fullest.
Q: What is your favorite Illinois Tech memory thus far?
A: The days heading into the first day of class my freshman year, I was still getting settled in and meeting everybody from the cross country team and the baseball team. A couple of teammates from the baseball team asked me if I wanted to go out to the planetarium with them at night, and since I hadn’t really been out to the city that much, I took them on that offer. To this day, the planetarium is my favorite spot in all of Chicago. The view of the skyline shining across the water, reaching all the way across Navy Pier, never gets old. I just met some of these guys that day, and right away I was having conversations with them like I had known them for years. That moment made me really excited to start school and to start my career as a Scarlet Hawk here at Illinois Tech.