Melvin Martinez couldn’t walk away from his team.
The Grand Street Campus baseball coach stood in front of his players with tears in his eyes, unable to put into words how proud he was of them. It wasn’t easy, but Martinez did his best to express just how much this season meant to him —and how disappointed he was that it was over.
The Wolves dropped a 2–0 decision to visiting Tottenville in the Public School Athletic League AAA semifinals on June 4, ending a season that exceeded expectations. Grand Street also lost 7–5 to the Pirates on June 3 in the first game of the best-of-three series.
“I always thank the lord that we get the opportunity to be one of the last teams standing,” Martinez said. “That’s something you can’t take for granted. This is our fifth year in the last six that we’ve made it to the semifinals. I know a lot of teams wish they could have that opportunity. We continue to raise the bar here.”
Martinez had nothing but good things to say for his players after the loss, citing their lack of mistakes and ability to put bat on ball throughout the matchup. In the end, it came down to one play.
Tottenville’s Chris Mercado connected on the game-winning hit in the bottom of the sixth inning, driving in both runs and snapping a pitcher’s duel that had been nothing short of impressive.
“I’ve been hitting the ball, it’s just been right to the fielders,” Mercado said. “Finally I found a hole and it felt good. Both of my hits were in the same exact spot.”
As soon as bat hit ball, Grand Street (15–4) pitcher Jose Perez knew this was, likely, the game-changer. The senior, who racked up five strikeouts in six-and-two-thirds innings, couldn’t do anything but watch as the ball traveled down the third-base line. He could, however, feel his heart drop into his stomach.
“I felt like everything was on — it was just one bad pitch, and that was the game,” Perez said. “I thought for a second it was going to go foul, but once it stood in, I knew.”
Grand Street did have chances to put runs on the board.
The Wolves left runners stranded in every inning, but the team was unable to turn them as Tottenville’s (21–0) defense went to work. The Pirates recorded a handful of big-time moments in the field, highlighted by shortstop Daniel DiGeorgio’s diving catch in the bottom of the sixth.
“Tottenville’s second baseman and shortstop, they’ve got major-league range,” Martinez said. “I’ve been here for 20 years, and they’ve got the best major-league range I’ve ever seen in two players on the same team. I tip my hat to Tottenville.”
It’s a difficult end for Grand Street, which graduates 11 seniors, 10 of whom will play at the next level. Martinez struggled to officially put an end to the season, standing in the infield with his team long after umps called the final out. In the end, he told the team how proud he was to be its coach. In the end, that was enough.
“That’s our championship,” Martinez said of his seniors. “We’re changing lives here.”