By any standard, 300 victories on the pitching mound is a milestone achievement. For Mike Cimilluca, it’s another mile-marker in his continuation of the sport he loves.
The Coral Springs resident recently hit the 300 mark on the hill as he sparked the Delray Mudcats to a 12-0 victory over the Margate Sentries at Pompano Community Park.
Cimilluca, 45, joined the semi-professional Federal League in the summer of 1997 with the Parkland Braves and promptly pitched a no-hitter in his first outing against the Coral Springs Reds. It was a sign of good things to come for the crafty right-hander, who has staked a reputation as the Greg Maddux of the league. He has since been part of four no-hitters.
“First of all, winning 300 games means I’m old, but mostly I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have played with a Who’s Who of league MVPs and All-Stars,” Cimilluca said, “and except for one hiccup, I’ve been relatively healthy since 1997.”
For Cimilluca, playing in a seniors circuit is not an option. He wants his abilities to be tested in the ultimate environment.
“I’ve been asked to play in other older leagues, but 18 and over is the challenge for me, and going against guys coming out of college is what you play for,” Cimilluca said. “Coming out and just being with the guys is what drives me.”
An integral part of the all-wood bat league that plays two seasons annually, Cimilluca has frustrated and baffled hitters with pinpoint control, ball movement and a devastating changeup, which serves as his bread-and-butter pitch. The speed of an 80 mph fastball doesn’t intimidate many of his opponents, who eagerly step into the batters box anticipating an easy challenge and a quick way to increase their batting average. A majority have left the dugout confused and disappointed.
Catcher Phil Laufman joined the Federal League right after Cimilluca made his debut and has played the role of a respectful opponent for 18 years.
“When you watch a few of Mike’s pitches, you can’t really appreciate what he does until you watch him pitch a full game, and then you leave scratching your head,” Laufman said. “He’s so predictable, but he pretty much executes all his pitches.”
Laufman refers to Cimilluca as an artist on the mound because of the craftiness of his pitches.
“Mike doesn’t throw 90, and a lot of these young guys go up there thinking they’re going to kill him,” Laufman said. “His fastball moves like crazy, and his changeup is so good that he can tell you he’s going to throw it, and it won’t matter. He’s the one guy I always want to face, but dread it at the end of the day.”
Federal League president Jamie Siragusa has marveled at Cimilluca’s consistency over the years.
“He’s the same guy after close to 20 years,” Siragusa said. “Mike changes his speeds and hits his location, so a walk is always a rarity. Winning 300 games is huge. He has three times the amount of wins compared to the next guy on the list. Since day one, he has been the ace of his staff and has 22 league championships.”
Cimilluca has been the pitching coach at Coral Springs High School since 2004 and gets to practice what he preaches. Whether he is working at his CBS Interactive Sports position, running half-marathons or coaching high school players, sports has played an integral role in his life.
He has even recruited some of his former students to continue to play baseball in the Federal League.