6A District 16 Preview
One of Miami-Dade’s largest districts is as competitive as ever this season. State realignment did not change a lot, as these clubs have traditionally always competed against one another. The last few years the district had been slightly top-heavy with some powerhouses at the lead, but the overall growth and development of these programs has helped to narrow that gap and put everyone in a realistic position to compete. With each club playing two district games against the rest of their district rivals, it should provide plenty of fireworks in the battle for the top seeds.
“It’s an underrated district and I don’t think people give the credit to teams like Jackson and ATM, who are both very good this year,” said Miami Springs manager Julio Mednoza. “I would go so far as to say that Jackson is a top dog, even giving credit to Goleman being a 20-game winner last year. You can’t look past the great coaching and 20-game winner at Goleman, but it is still a tough district with teams like Jackson, ATM, and a very scrappy Norland team. You have to go in there prepared and it is a very competitive district.”
The Hawks will host the district tournament this season, which serves as extra motivation for the team. The players know the games at the end of the season will be played on their home field so they are pushing to make sure they will be a part of that.
Although the programs are familiar with one another, in some cases the new teams coming together represent unknowns with less familiar challenges. How well clubs adapt to these new rivals and learn their areas where they can be exploited could go a long way to determining who is there in the end.
“We have some new faces in the district and a lot of unknowns,” said North Miami Beach manager Alex Rodriguez. “But we have a goal of not only reaching the playoffs but hopefully of making an impact and goi9ng deep.”
Carol City – Team Page
2015 Record: 0-15
Manager: Randy Rodriguez
Key Returners: Ayeobele Randolph, James Falmer, Jeremiah Blake, Theron Peterson, Miguel Angel, Darrius Rhome, Brian Perez, Brian Hernandez, Trenton Williams, Joshua Williams
Newcomers: Mark Dyer, Dorian Johnson, Qwamie Lofters
Team strengths: Chemistry
The Chiefs are not at the same place as the rest of the clubs in the district may be. While they may not be ready to contend for a district title just yet, the guys can take a lot of pride and excitement in knowing just how far they have come too. Last season a group of athletes with nearly no baseball experience began the learning process together, and the dedication and commitment they have put forth is already showing in how far the development has moved along.
It is tough for such a young and inexperienced group to bare the burden of a long losing streak in the program, but it is also something that gives them motivation to overcome. Things that other teams may take for granted are the things the Chiefs are striving to feel too, and there is no greater fuel towards that then the heart and passion that these young men have exhibited.
Manager Randy Rodriguez deserves a ton of credit for the patience and dedication he has shown towards his team. Being an alumni from the school fills him with pride and love for the game, being a coach inspires him to keep teaching and guiding them forward and being a leader allows him to feel the pride that comes when his guys accomplish another milestone.
Big news for the team this season also comes in the fact that two members of the team have recently signed college letters of intent and will go on to play college baseball next year. Ayeobele Randolph and James Falmer will both play next season at Morris College. This is a huge accomplishment for these two young men and their personal lives, but it also helps to add more excitement and foundation to the program.
“I’m not even worrying about it anymore; I am just worrying about the season,” said Randolph, who earned a scholarship both academically and athletically. “Coach has had my back so I have his back now. We have to produce wins and I have to help the team step it up a notch. That is all I am worried about it.”
For Falmer, the accomplishment is as huge as could be expected. It was only a little over a year ago that he picked up a baseball for the first time, and in doing so he learned quickly how much he loves the game. Every day since Falmer has continued to practice and improve. He became such a fixture at All Star Warehouse where Rodriguez works with fellow Carol City alumni and Miami Counry Day manager Paul Barrios that they have hired him as an employee. Baseball found James Falmer and it has helped shape his life in a great direction.
“I just love the game and being around it,” Falmer said. “It opened opportunities for me to get a better education and be the first in my family to go to college.”
Goleman – Team Page
2015 Record: 21-4
Manager: Jose Lopez
Key Returners: Kevin Perez, Brandon Paez, Jeremie Garcia, Michael Avendano, Ricardo Jimenez, Thomas Hernandez, Jan Rodriguez, Xavier Posada, Adrian Garrastazu, Jasiel Perez, David Fernandez, Mario Fernandez
Newcomers: German Villar, Hezaed Rodriguez, Justin Baly, Jose Fernandez, Juan Lugo, Mario Morales, Peter Sardinas, Ramid Alvarez
Team strengths: Offense
If there is a favorite in this tough district the Gators would be that club. The team is coming off a monster year in which it earned the district title and barnstormed its way through most of its opposition. Goleman was strong with a balanced attack that made it tough to beat, and now it returns this season with many of those guys back in the saddle ready to aim even higher this season.
“The number one priority is to win the district title and from there everything else is icing on the cake,” said manager Jose Lopez. “Our number one priority is to win the district and we’ll hopefully move on and produce so we can go to a higher level and perform at that level.”
While most teams focus simply on getting to the district final and earning a spot in regionals, the Gators always set the goal to win that district crown. They take pride in being the top team in the district, in putting a target on their backs and embracing the challenge when teams came at them.
“We expect to win our district, and everyone around school and the teacher even do too and they cheer us on,” said senior Michael Avendano. “Having that mentality of winning districts helps us be successful as a team. Our record shows for it because all of these wins will lead up to winning the district title. So that is what we do.”
Miami Jackson – Team Page
2015 Record: 10-12
Manager: Rafael Jiron
Coaching Staff: David Herrera, Wally Rosa, Mandy Prieto
Key Returners: Joel Rivera, Giovanny Ocampo, Hector Rodriguez, Luis Polido, Ricky Guerrero, Kerlin Mateo, Yoan Rosales, Lester Ayerlis, Jaime Rodriguez
Newcomers: Armando Prieto, Julio Santana, Edgar Zapata, Edgar Cruz, Cesar Morales, Yordi Cabrera, Jeffrey Diaz, Jeason Diaz
Team strengths: Offense
Miami Springs – Team Page
2015 Record: 10-15
Manager: Julio Mendoza
Coaching Staff: Angel Posada, Anthony Castillo, Jorge Filgueira, Ibrahim Silwany
Key Returners: Dylan Carter, Edrick Gonzalez, Frank Lopez, Gabe Perez, George Gonzalez, Yadel Abreu, Rodolfo Rodriguez, Bryan Garcia, Orlando Borotto
Newcomers: Steven Torres, Michael Fulgueira, Michael Amat, Ricky Alvarez, Tommy Diaz, Javier Cruz, David Remus, Andre Ramirez
Team strengths: Pitching, Speed
Three years ago Julio Mendoza was the youngest manager in Miami-Dade as a 21-year old at the helm of Miami Jackson. After a few seasons back as an assistant, Mendoza has returned an experienced veteran coach back in the lead saddle as the new manager at Miami Springs. Mendoza admits he is as prepared as ever and content with where he is as a coach. While knowing there is always more to learn, he approaches the season with the right attitude that he will continue that process every day as he and the team grow together.
“Taking a step back from being the head coach and being able to be an assistant coach again was actually great for me,” Mendoza said. “I’ve benefited a lot these last two years coaching with Ernie Padron at Coral Reef and then with Luis Padron at St. Brendan last year. I was able to learn a lot. Ernie Padron is probably one of the most knowledgeable coaches, right up there with Fred Burnside. I learned so much in my one season with him at Coral Reef then I probably did in my five years total in baseball. It was definitely good for me coaching under Ernie, and then Luis Padron was a very different style of coaching. So I learned from him as well, and especially how to carry myself.”
Mourning – Team Page
2015 Record: 12-13
Manager: Edwin Bonilla
Key Returners: Brandon Rios, Brandon Sims, Marcel Guardarrama, Anthony Antigua, Edward Alvarez, Michael Mendez, Christian Abreu, Anthony Petit, Jose Marquez, Jim Varona, Fabian Ortega, Max Liff, Sebastian Nunez, Cory Gomez
Newcomers: Daniel Manzanero, Ismael Astacio, Richard Gavarete, Richard Perez
Team strengths: Pitching, Chemistry
A year ago the Sharks were bringing along a younger group that was learning how to come together. Heading now into the 2016 campaign there is a tight bond that is essential for any team to be successful. When manager Edwin Bonilla took over a few years ago he was handling a roster with guys mixed in from all over and it was a challenge to bring them all together. But this current group represent the ones who have come up through the system together and they are truly a representation of the identity Bonilla envisions for his program.
“We have been together for a long time and last year we only lost two seniors so it is basically like the same team now,” said junior Jim Varona. “The chemistry is really good and we bond really well. We hang out not just during practice and games but outside of school too. We are just a tight group.”
Most of these guys have only played for Bonilla during their high school careers, and they have bought in to the goals. They expected to struggle some last season, and admit they may have achieved even more than expected at the beginning. Now that has encouraged them to raise the bar and try to make a run for regionals for the first time in program history this year.
“I think this team is very focused,” Bonilla said. “They run like a well-oiled machine now. Even if I am not there they should be able to run things and I believe in a lot of leadership in this team. They come in and do the work they need to in the morning and they do everything we need to do. We never take a day off.”
Norland – Team Page
2015 Record: 10-8
Manager: Andre Payne
Coaching Staff: Michael Jordan, Melburn Carter
Key Returners: Tyrone Miller, Roderick Lucas, Khalil Harris, Chavis Wright, Dimitri Divurger, Jahmar Bien-Aime, Brandon Carter, Mekhai West, Max Gordon, Dwayne Hickman, Ishmiel Bellamour,
Newcomers: Aaron Bomo, Anthony Thompson, David Russell, Dylan Daniels, Joshua Ceballos, Leon Butler, William Alvarez, Saadiq Cutler, Wilfred Collado
Team strengths: Speed
The Vikings have come a long way over the past few years. The club has improved tremendously over that time and many of the leaders on the club today were the young guys who dedicated themselves to making that happen back when they first started as freshmen. The team has earned more respect from their peers and no longer are teams counting games against Norland as just another easy victory.
“We are very excited because we feel like we made a change in the community,” said senior Khalil Harris. “Every time we work hard it shows on the field.”
The community has begun to show more support for the team and the excitement for Norland baseball is as strong as ever. Now the group is ready to build off where they have come and take it on to the next level.
“I am really relying on senior leadership to help us get over some of the humps that we couldn’t get over last year,” manager Andre Payne said. “We have a large senior class and they have been with me for a while now. I just want people to understand that when they do play us that we are going to go for seven innings. We are going to play hard, we are going to play fast and we are going to play loose. That is something that I stress in my kids. If we play 110 miles an hour every time baseball will take care of itself.”
The team plays an exciting and aggressive style of play, which fits in well with a district full of teams built the same way. The Vikings have earned a reputation as a team that flies around the bases, and with that there is a nice blend of power to compliment the contact hitters. The guys push the envelope a lot thanks to the tremendous speed up and down the roster.
North Miami Beach – Team Page
2015 Record: 7-11
Manager: Alex Rodriguez
Coaching Staff: Francis Kishman, Juan Rivera
Key Returners: Jose Abreu, Jesus Morel, Angel Morel, James Quispe, Jeremy Prudent, Carl Montoban, Allan Abbott, Joseph Ciccia, Eliakin Brown
Newcomers: Donovan Eliacin, Joel Zequera, Josue Polanco
Team strengths: Offense
Last season was the first time that a lot of the Chargers had even been in competitive baseball. The club came from a tough district the past few seasons that included state champion American, and yet they still were able to make strides with the club and accomplish a major goal.
“We achieved a lot last year in reaching the playoffs, which is something we had not done in a long time at NMB,” said manager Alex Rodriguez. “I think it was nine years ago the last time we reached the playoffs, so that was one of our goals. So this year we want to try and build on that and see if we can take it a step further and get into those regionals. to do that we have to get into that district championship game and who knows, maybe win a district title when we are there. I hope the experience will suit us better this year.”
Many of the guys that return to the team this year now have several years of experience, and that could play a huge difference in continuing the club forward in its development and improvement. No longer does the squad roll out a new group of untested players each season. Now guys are committing to the program as youngsters and sticking with it to create the foundation that is essential for any program’s survival. These veterans now were thrown into the fire as younger players, but thanks to their commitment the team does not have to keep doing that every year. Now there are veterans to lead the way and help mold the newer players coming up behind them.
“We still have a lot of young guys and they still need to understand that a lot of baseball is a mental game,” said senior veteran Jesus Morel. “They have to prepare for it and know what they have to do. Like Coach always tells us, know the situation before they occur so we make the right play and we don’t make those mental mistakes that always hurt.”