Gasolina: Minjarez Sparks NPC's Baseball Success
Picture this—you’re at the ballpark watching baseball on a sunny afternoon. Then,
over the loudspeaker, Daddy Yankee’s Gasolina begins to play. Number 24 walks toward
the plate. In the stands, fans start to dance—some even sing along. Suddenly, everyone’s
attention turns to the plate to see what will happen next.
This is the story for every at-bat for NPC’s Jesus Minjarez. A former Lakeside Ram-turned-Nighthawk, the Spa City superstar has a knack for delivering big moments in the spotlight.
“When I played at Lakeside High School, I had a Daddy Yankee song as my walkup song, and I noticed that it always gave me a boost at the plate,” Minjarez said. “So, I decided to bring it to NPC with me. The upbeat sound boosts my confidence and relaxes me so that when I step into the batter’s box, everything else leaves my mind.”
Minjarez’s journey to NPC started in Mexico, and his road to junior college stardom wasn’t without its challenges.
“I was born in Mexico and moved to Arkansas when I was four years old,” Minjarez said. “My parents didn’t know any English and we definitely struggled because of it. Back then, I didn’t have a teacher that could teach me how to speak English so I spent my free time watching TV to learn the language. Eventually, I got to the point where I could communicate in English and my parents would bring me with them everywhere they went to help translate.”
At Lakeside, Minjarez was well-known for punishing pitchers at the plate. In his senior season with the Rams, Minjarez boasted a .367 batting average, leading the team in home runs and doubles and drawing the attention of colleges across Arkansas.
“[Coach Leighton Hardin] was one of those coaches that wanted to win,” Minjarez said. “We kept that mentality throughout the way and it helped me strive for that next level.”
Recruited by former NPC baseball head coach Dillon Hargrove, Minjarez leapt at the opportunity to make history in an already-historic baseball city.
“Baseball in Hot Springs is something that goes way back,” Minjarez said. “When I heard that NPC wanted to bring college baseball to Hot Springs, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to help get the program started where I could succeed and pave the way for others to come succeed with me, too.”
Three years later, Minjarez ranks in the Nighthawks’ top three all-time in runs scored, RBI, hits and home runs and reflects on the growth of a program he helped build from the ground up.
“Our program has evolved tremendously,” Minjarez said. “From our talent to our coaching, it’s evolved faster than anyone expected. Coach Thompson and our assistant coaches have done a great job recruiting players who know how to play so that we can turn our program into something special.”
“We are proud that Jesus chose to be a Nighthawk,” NPC Athletic Director Jason Hudnell said. “It is always satisfying when we see our hometown student-athletes choose to stay close to home to further their education. Jesus has been an excellent leader, both on and off the field.”
With 15 long bombs last year, Minjarez helped propel NPC to 118 home runs last season—the most for any NJCAA Division II team in the nation.
“It brings everyone to the baseball games,” Minjarez said. “We talk to plenty of people around the community and they try to come watch every game to see what we’re going to do next. Having the community’s support has played a big role in our success as a program.”
With former MLB pitcher Rich Thompson at the helm for the Nighthawks, Minjarez is inspired to take his talents to new heights.
“Playing under Coach Thompson has been good,” Minjarez said. “Every once in a while, he tells us a story about the league and it inspires us to want to get to that next level. He knows a lot about the game and brings a good environment. He’s always joking around in practice, keeping spirits up and never trying to tear us down.”
“Jesus has brought on-the-field leadership with his clutch hitting and ability to control the game from behind the plate,” Thompson said. “He has also brought a great local presence and helped our guys from everywhere feel comfortable here in Hot Springs.”
This season, the Nighthawks migrate their nest to a new home—Hot Springs’ freshly-built Majestic Park baseball complex.
“Majestic Park is fantastic and playing there means a lot,” Minjarez said. “I remember growing up and playing on those fields at the Hot Springs Boys and Girls Club and they weren’t very nice. Seeing a new turf on the field and having the train pass by in the background is special. Playing there means a lot—not only for us, but for every kid in Hot Springs.”
Despite his accomplishments so far, Minjarez believes the best is yet to come for the high-flying Nighthawks.
“Hanging up a banner is something that’s on everyone’s minds,” Minjarez said. “My goal this year is to try to go to the next level. I want to leave NPC with putting my name on something—maybe it’s the home run leaderboard—something where people will look up and see my name and know that I accomplished something great in my time here.”
For Minjarez, his dreams of success go beyond the diamond.
“Throughout my career, I definitely wanted to do better to help my parents get whatever they needed,” Minjarez said. “My parents didn’t graduate high school. I was the very first person in my family to graduate high school. Now, I’m trying to be the first person in my family to graduate college. That’s what I’m striving for—being a leader not only for me and my parents, but also for my little cousins. I want to be a positive role model for them, too.”
Off the field, Minjarez is preparing for the future by pursuing a business degree at NPC.
“I want to work for myself when I get older,” Minjarez said. “I don’t want to work for anyone else. I want to run a business, make some money and give back to my parents and my family.”
Jesus Minjarez and the National Park College Nighthawks open their 2022 season at home against Central Baptist College on Monday, Jan. 31 at 12 p.m.