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Fidel Ulloa

Fidel Ulloa fulfills Mexican dad’s dream at LSU

Junior transfer Fidel Ulloa embraces LSU's championship expectations

HOUSTON – After a long shift painting homes, Fidel Ulloa Sr. would often take side projects to supplement his income. The Mexican immigrant from the state of Nayarit would usually arrive at his Lodi, Calif., home long after his wife and three boys ate dinner. 

At times, Ulloa would get home at 7 p.m. Other times he wouldn’t arrive until 9 p.m. His work clothes were often dotted in paint, different hues dotting his hair and arms, representing an honest day’s work.

“Look at me,” Ulloa would say in Spanish to his oldest boy Fidel Jr., a junior reliever at LSU. “Try hard in sports and your studies so you don’t have to work like this.”


“Echale ganas!” Ulloa would say, uttering a popular Spanish encouragement among Mexicans urging their kids to give their best.

Fidel Ulloa Jr., who is at Minute Maid Park with LSU this weekend for the Astros Foundation’s College Classic, listened to his dad. More importantly, Fidel Jr. has capitalized on the lessons he learned from his parents, Fidel Sr. and Norma Ceja.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound righthander from Lodi has embraced the responsibility of building on his parents’ sacrifices. He welcomes the opportunity to serve as an example for his two younger brothers, Juan, 17, and Nicolas, 6. 

Fidel Ulloa Sr. was 19 years old when he left his hometown of La Curva, Nayarit, for a better life in the United States in 2000. Norma Ceja, who works at a winery, was born in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

Fidel Ulloa
LSU righthander Fidel Ulloa Jr. holds his brother Nicolas while posing with his parents, Fidel Jr. and Norma Ceja.

Fidel Sr. and Ceja met at a restaurant in Stockton, Calif. They built their family and saved steadily over the years before finally buying their first home three years ago in Lodi, Calif.  

“Both my parents have worked ever since I was little,” Fidel Ulloa Jr. says. “Going to work early and then coming home super late. My mom would always have a cooked meal for us even after she got home from work. 

“I always thought that meant a lot. They always did the best they could to take care of me and my younger siblings. I’m just super grateful.”

Fidel Ulloa Jr. followed dad’s baseball games

When Fidel Sr. wasn’t working, he could usually be found playing catch with his three sons or playing in his own baseball games. Fidel Sr., 43, still plays in the Cal-Mex Sunday men’s baseball league in the Stockton area. 

He’s a catcher for Los Diablos, a team he formed after initially playing for Los Cachorros de Lodi after he arrived from Mexico. Fidel Jr. developed his love of baseball while following his father around the Mexican Sunday baseball circuit in Lodi and Stockton.

“He was always walking behind me with his glove and bat,” Fidel Sr. says of the LSU righthander. “Since he was six years old, he would go with me to my games.”


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Fidel Ulloa Jr. didn’t draw much attention from recruiters coming out of Lodi High. He made the best of his career at the local junior college, though. 

Fidel Jr. was 5-1 with a 4.09 ERA with 75 strikeouts and a 1.29 ERA as a sophomore last season at San Joaquin Delta. LSU head coach Jay Johnson was tipped off about Ulloa by Delta College head coach Reed Peters and catching coach Brian Kohndrow. 

‘Need to get him’

“They called me last fall,” Johnson says of Peters and Kohndrow. “They said, ‘Hey, I know what you’re doing right now, but we actually have a guy.’ So I immediately sent Josh (Jordan) out there. He saw him, and he’s like, ‘Coach, we need to get him.’”

Much to Johnson’s satisfaction, Ulloa Jr. called him to commit to LSU while on another recruiting visit.

“I thought that was pretty awesome,” Johnson says with a smile.

Fidel Ulloa Jr. has collected one save while pitching 4 ⅓ scoreless innings over his first three appearances with the Tigers. He has allowed two hits and one walk while striking out five of the first 16 batters he has faced in Division I.

“Obviously what we all want to accomplish is a national championship,” he said. “Being a transfer, it’s pretty cool. Coming from a junior college it’s a pretty different experience.”

Ulloa is a long way from his modest beginnings in Lodi. He’s a member of the defending national championship LSU Tigers, one of the elite programs in college baseball. 

A father’s dream

Fidel Sr. was reminiscing recently about the obstacles his son had to overcome to be noticed on the baseball diamond. Unable to speak English fluently, Fidel Sr. endured the politics and the slights when his oldest son would be slighted at times during Little League and travel baseball.

He would encourage his boy to keep an open mind and embrace the advice from others who traveled on the journey he sought toward college baseball. Fidel Jr. is proud to show his siblings and other Mexican Americans that there is a place for them at the highest level of college baseball.

“It’s something to be proud of,” Fidel Jr. says of being one of a small percentage of Mexican Americans in Division I baseball.  “I feel like … you hear a lot about Dominicans and Cubans in the league. I feel like you don’t hear as much about the Mexican community and I think it just means a lot.”

It definitely means a lot to many Latinos to see a Mexican American playing for LSU. Fidel Jr. is living out his parents’ dreams for him, capitalizing on their sacrifices.

“His brothers admire him,” Fidel Sr. says of his son. “We have great pride to see him there. When he was very young, it was my dream to see him play in college. That was my dream for him.”

The painter’s son continues to show how far ganas and talent can take you if you put in the work. 

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