This year’s Telecommunications squad doesn’t lack for talent, but it will be less reliant on star power.
Centerfielder Josh Palacios and ace Christopher Lee were key players when Telecom won its first Public School Athletic League baseball city championship last year. With both of them lost to graduation, the dynamic has changed as the team tries for a repeat.
“We have more of a balanced team,” said senior shortstop Anthony Nunez.
The Yellow Jackets showed that off in an 11–2 win in their league opener over host Lafayette on March 27.
Six different players collected hits and drove in runs, and senior starter Juan Rodriguez allowed just two runs and two hits over six innings of work, while striking out 10.
“I think we always had a balanced team, but I think it’s still balanced,” Telecom coach Ed D’Alessio said. “If you saw the lineup today everybody hit.”
His team returns an experienced core despite the lost of Palacios, who was last season’s All-Brooklyn player of the year pick by the Courier. The entire infield is back. Nunez will bat second in front of junior third baseman Johua Mercado and bruising first baseman Austin Ruiz. Sophomore catcher Isaiah Spears is also returning. D’Alessio raved about Nunez’s hot start to the season and believes Ruiz can develop into a dominant force with a little more focus at the plate.
“All of us have great speed,” Nunez said. “We all hit for contact.”
Four transfers from Bishop Ford, three of whom will start in the outfield, also bolster Telecom. Tyrell Hardy leads off and is in centerfield, Marcos Castillo will play right field and Kevin Urena is in left. Evan Layne will be part of the Yellow Jackets’ pitching rotation.
“All of them cover a lot of space back there,” Mercado said of the outfielders. “They are going to be solid for us.”
D’Alessio is also pleased with the quality of pitchers he can throw out there.
Javier Toribio threw a big inning in relief and will be aided by Mercado out of the bullpen. Junior Nicholas Candelerio will join Rodriguez and Layne in the starting rotation. Rodriguez is hoping to take over Lee’s spot at the ace of the pitching staff, but knows it’s a distinction he still has to earn.
“I want to show coach what I have,” Rodriguez said.
The players are trying to move past last season, knowing their new faces and new roles make this team a totally different squad from the one that brought home the hardware. Still they aren’t running from the expectations and the extra effort from opponents that comes from being the defending champions.
“You have to know that people are gunning for you,” Mercado said. “You use to be the underdogs, now everyone is looking at you as a top contender. Ever yday, every game, somebody is trying to get you. We just have to stay hungry.”