Before they were old enough to date or take driver’s ed classes, Robb Paller, Joey Martinez, Dan Schwartz and Andrew Timko were playing baseball together, all the way back eight years ago with Youth Service.
Paller, Schwartz and Timko are Berkeley Carroll lifers, having attended the Park Slope private school together from the get-go. Martinez made it a reunion last spring after transferring from Xaverian.
“We’ve seen each other grow up so much, we know what each other’s thinking,” Schwartz said.
Now the four have one last season together in one of the city’s best private school baseball programs – which won the New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association title two years ago and produced Major League pitcher Adam Ottavino — a final go-around to win another American Collegiate Intramural Sports/Private Schools Athletic Association alliance league crown together, maybe get a crack at another state title.
“What we did sophomore year was special and it’s our turn to prove it wasn’t just those seniors that carried us,” said Robb Paller, who batted .425 with 18 stolen bases in 19 attempts, 18 RBIs, and 13 doubles last spring for the Lions. “It’s our time to show we can get the job done.”
Their futures are all extremely bright. Paller, the coach’s son, will play baseball at Columbia, Martinez at Division III Dickinson, and Schwartz likely at Haverford. Timko’s baseball career likely ends this spring, as he is set for Georgetown.
But right now, college is a long way off.
Despite a slow start to the regular season — Berkeley Carroll dropped consecutive games to Poly Prep and Madison after a 6-2 trip to Florida — the Lions have extremely high hopes. Longtime coach Walter Paller (24th year) said this is his most complete team and it begins with his four seniors, as much for their talent as their leadership qualities.
Obviously, their ability is paramount, Robb Paller as the club’s leadoff hitter, center fielder and sometimes closer. Martinez is the staff ace, starting catcher and biggest bat while Schwartz is the unlikely cleanup man, a smart situational hitter with surprising power. But before Walter Paller even mentioned what any can do with a bat or any other physical tools, he talked about subtle endearing qualities.
“What makes them great is they’re really smart in how they play the game,” Walter Paller said. “They’re also four of the best leaders I’ve ever had in one senior class. Sometimes you get a senior class, you have one or two guys you can count on and beyond that, you’re just hoping for some leadership here or there, but those four guys take their jobs so seriously. They have done more teaching at times than the coaches do.”
The hopes are high at Berkeley Carroll not just because of the veterans. Freshman Ian Miller has shown poise and ability beyond his age and will be one of the staff’s top starters, along with sophomore Jacob Udewitz and at times Timko. Freshman Yanai Feldman will start at third base while sophomores Max Jens and Anthony Spina and juniors Adam Kochman and Jesse Chalfin are key to the lineup’s depth.
“We have a lot of talent and I think we have more talent than we even know,” Robb Paller said. “A lot of our young guys are a little unsure of themselves and they’ve been there. But I think with experience, that talent is gonna show.”
Berkeley Carroll’s hopes, though, ride on the big four — Martinez replicating last season’s effort as the staff ace; Paller’s continued emergence as an all-borough standout and possibly even all-city; Timko giving Walter Paller good innings and steady play at shortstop; and Schwartz producing at the plate and at first base.
“We all want to go out with a bang,” said Schwartz.