Jose Cuas and Kevin Martir joked about playing college baseball together, like all good friends and teammates do. The two played different positions, were both well-respected prospects and are basically brothers.
Neither, however, really expected it to happen.
“We planned it like friends joking around, ‘Imagine if we did this?’ ” Martir, the Xaverian rising junior, said.
David Owens, their summer ball coach with the New York Grays, took them seriously, making calls about the possibility. Maryland, it just so happened, was graduating its starting shortstop and catcher this coming spring and wanted both of the Brooklyn natives.
They wanted Maryland just as much and recently both Cuas, the smooth, 6-foot-3 Grand Street Campus shortstop, and Martir verbally committed to the on-the-rise ACC school.
“It’s really sweet,” Martir said. “We basically grew up together. We’re best friends, brothers.”
Martir, 17, and Cuas have known each other for more than a decade, going back to playing Little League together at Highland Park in Brooklyn. The two East New York residents went their separate ways for high school, but reconnected with the New York Grays two years ago. They have a unique bond, having played together for so long they use eye contact instead of words to communicate.
“They have their own little language,” Owens said. “If you watch the two of them, you notice they are really in sync, both on and off the field.”
The two picked Maryland for the same reasons: an opportunity to start right away, a full scholarship and the promise of a bright future. Though the Terrapins went just 5-25 in the ACC a year ago and 21-35 overall, it was the first season with third-year coach Erik Bakich’s nationally ranked recruiting class. A former assistant at national powerhouse Vanderbilt for seven years, 22 of Bakich’s recruits were drafted.
“I like his plans on building the program,” said Martir, who helped Xaverian to the CHSAA Class AA city title in the spring. “He was a big part of bringing up the program at Vanderbilt. Why can’t he do the same here?”
While Cuas, 16, may be the city’s top prospect next spring – he hit .620, bashed four home runs, had 34 RBIs and scored 28 times as a junior – Martir is impressive in his own right. Though he played first and third base for Xaverian as a junior to make way for Pittsburgh recruit Elvin Soto, Martir is a splendid backstop, Owens said. At the Perfect Game Showcase last January, Martir had the top POP – the time it takes a catcher to throw to second base after the ball hits his mitt — and has excelled this summer blocking balls and throwing out runners.
“Defensively, he has professional skills right now,” Owens said. “He just stops running games. That was one of the things the coaches at Maryland really liked.”
He’s been one of the Clippers’ top hitters the last two years on the varsity and has begun to spray line drives to all fields.
“Kevin will turn around any fastball thrown at him,” Owens said.
Martir committed first and Cuas followed shortly thereafter. Martir was overjoyed when his good friend shared the good news, saying “there weren’t words” to describe his emotions. The two missed out on high school together, but will get to grow into young men now alongside one another.
“It makes up for it,” Martir said. “It’ll be big, you have someone you can turn to, talk to, who will take stress off your shoulders. You won’t feel that far away from home.”