You have to forgive Danny Suarez if he was a little preoccupied as the high school season began. That’s because the third-year head baseball coach at Dickinson High School became a father for the first time a few weeks ago.
Jaslyn Olivia Suarez weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces when she entered the world March 21, making mom Edwina and coach proud parents for the first time.
“Everything is fine,” Suarez said. “Everyone is healthy.”
The same can be said for Suarez’s baseball team, which won nine games a year ago, but should be vastly improved this season.
“We basically have everyone back,” said Suarez, who won a Hudson County title as the head coach at Hudson Catholic a few years ago. “For me, I can see that they’re a little more confident and a little more experienced.”
Suarez bemoans the fact that the Rams suffered six of their 14 losses last year by a single run.
“When I took over, this team was never used to being in games,” Suarez said. “We were tied in games late or had leads and lost. But I can tell through our scrimmages this year that they know how to finish. They’re playing better defense. So with that, we had a sense of urgency to get this season started.”
Suarez said that the Rams’ collective attitude has changed dramatically.
“I want them to play with a chip on their shoulders,” Suarez said. “I want to embellish that, but I didn’t have to do much. They all feel that they have to prove themselves this year. This is not the old Dickinson teams that went 1-24. We’re coming to play this season. Teams aren’t going to 10-run us [mercy rule] and get back on the bus and go home after five innings. Every game is going to be a seven-inning dogfight.”
Leading the pitching staff is senior right-hander Luis Sepulveda, who won three games last year.
“He’s a gamer,” Suarez said of Sepulveda, who has already committed to William Paterson to play in the fall. “He’s learned how to compose himself on the mound. We’re going to ride him game in and game out. I’ll put him up against anyone.”
Another key pitcher is senior left-hander Jancer Guzman. Guzman will also go on to play college baseball, committing to Dominican College.
“He has a power arm in a small body,” Suarez said of Guzman. “He’s very deceiving with his motion. He pumps nothing but fastball strikes.”
Suarez likens the lefty-righty combo of Sepulveda and Guzman to the pair he had when he won the county title, namely former Hudson Reporter All-Area standouts Robert “Hammer” Doughty and Sean McGrath.
“They remind me a lot of those two,” Suarez said. “They’re going to be pushed early.”
The Rams have more pitching than just Sepulveda and Guzman. Senior lefty Marcos Romero, who had some quality outings last year, will be counted on again. Senior Ben Sierra will be the right-handed closer, a role he handled last year. Sierra also may get some big-time starts. Junior Lorenzo Falcon rounds out the Rams’ staff. He will spot start and throw in relief.
“This is the deepest pitching staff I’ve ever had,” Suarez said. “I’m very fortunate to have so many arms and they’re all healthy.”
The catcher is junior Darius Singleton, who started behind the plate last season.
“He’s very good defensively and he’s improved offensively,” Suarez said. “He has a good arm. He’s quicker behind the plate than he was last year. He’s had a vast improvement.”
First base duties will be shared by senior Julio Nunez and Sepulveda when he’s not on the mound.
Senior Lenin Guzman (no relation to Jancer) is the starting second baseman. Lenin Guzman is also the Rams’ leadoff hitter.
Senior Junior Cuello, who was a Hudson Reporter All-Area selection a year ago, returns at shortstop.
“He had a good year last year as our leading hitter and I expect him to have another good year this year,” Suarez said.
Sierra, another excellent hitter, plays third base when he’s not pitching.
“He’s also a utility player,” Suarez said of Sierra, who is considering offers from William Paterson, Rutgers-Newark and Lock Haven University. “He’s all around one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”
Left field duties are being shared by senior Josh Taverez and junior Chris Roman.
Junior Luis Perez is the centerfielder, with Jancer Guzman and Taverez sharing time in right field.
The Rams opened their season with games against St. Anthony and Union City.
“We’re going to see where we’re at right away,” Suarez said. “But I like this team. For the first time, I can say we’re not afraid.”
Little Jaslyn wouldn’t have her Daddy be any other way…
Professional boxing returns to North Bergen’s Schuetzen Park next Saturday night, April 13, with a card promoted by Global Boxing.
Two Polish boxers, Patryk Szymanski and Michal Chudecki, have been fighting out of North Bergen and train regularly at the Global Boxing Gym on Tonnelle Avenue. They will headline the card that will also feature Juan “The Beast” Rodriguez from Union City.
All three local boxers are undefeated as professionals.
It’s the first pro card at Schuetzen Park in four years, so it should be an exciting night of boxing. North Bergen’s other boxing superstar, Jonathan Maicelo, is getting a big break this weekend boxing on a card that will be televised by ESPN…
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.