Incredibly, almost unbelievably, Victor Guzman had a dream as a little boy, playing in the Greenville American Cal Ripken baseball league.
“I dreamed that I would hit a home run to win a state championship,” said Guzman, the Hudson Catholic senior. “I seriously had that dream.”
Last Saturday, Guzman and his Hawk teammates went to Toms River to try to do something that no Hudson Catholic baseball team had ever done – win an NJSIAA state title.
The Hawks faced St. Joseph of Hammonton for the Non-Public B state crown on the same day that the Hawk seniors graduated from the school.
As Guzman sat on the bus with his teammates, he thought of that lasting dream.
“I really felt good,” said the affable right fielder. “I thought we had a good shot. Going into the game, I wondered what it would be like to win.”
After struggling a bit toward the middle of the season, Guzman was saving his best for last.
“Victor was a little hot and cold this year,” Hudson Catholic head coach Alberto Vasquez said. “But he never once lost his composure and focus. His head stayed in the game. Over the last two weeks, he has been getting a lot more fastballs and he’s been hitting the ball hard. He’s done what he’s had to do.”
Guzman delivered two hits, scored two runs and had an RBI in the Hawks’ win over Montclair Kimberley Academy in the Non-Public B North semifinals. He added two hits, including a double, scored two runs and had an RBI in the win over St. Mary’s of Rutherford for the state sectional title that enabled the Hawks to take that sojourn south to Toms River and the state title game.
With the Hawks leading, 3-0, in the state final, Guzman stepped up with runners on first and second base.
“I was just looking for a pitch to drive,” Guzman said. “I wanted to hit the ball hard to put more runs on the board. I wasn’t looking to hit a home run.”
But that at-bat represented the last chance Guzman had to make the dream he had as a 12-year-old become a reality. That never crossed his mind.
Guzman got a fastball and laced it to right-center field.
“At first, I thought it was going to hit the wall,” Guzman said. “I did hit it pretty good.”
“It was the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit,” said Vasquez, who played at Rutgers after his playing days at Hudson Catholic were done. “Right off the bat, I knew it was gone. He tore the cover off it and crushed it.”
Guzman’s blast carried over the fence for a three-run homer that pushed the lead to 6-0. The final score would be 7-0, giving Hudson Catholic its first-ever state title.
More importantly, Guzman’s premonition became fact.
“It’s a dream that came true,” Guzman said. “I can’t believe it, but it did.”
For his efforts and forever being linked with Hudson Catholic folklore, Guzman has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Guzman is the final honoree for the 2013-14 scholastic sports season. The Hudson Reporter will present its Male and Female Athletes of the Year in the coming weeks.
Guzman liked the way he ended his season.
“The ball looked like a beach ball to me the last few games,” Guzman said. “I really started to hit the ball better down the stretch.”
Vasquez said that when Guzman was struggling, he had to drop him in the batting order from fifth to seventh.
“He never complained,” Vasquez said. “He was always even-keeled. He’s a great, positive person. He’s a quiet leader and a good teammate. I’m serious when I say that the kid never complained once in four years. Whether he was starting, not starting, where he was batting, whatever.”
Vasquez said that he couldn’t be happier for a player.
“It’s unbelievable,” Vasquez said. “This is the kind of gift you’d love to give to a senior. He hits a home run and we win the state championship. It doesn’t get any better than that. Victor is a wonderful kid, a real sweetheart. He’s always there for his teammates. I would take 20 kids like Victor Guzman. He’s never said a negative thing about anyone. He’s always so calm and relaxed.”
Except for when he’s rounding the bases after hitting a three-run homer that sealed the deal on a state title.
“I did get a little excited,” Guzman admitted. “It was the best feeling. I started the season with a homer against Bayonne and I ended the season with a homer in the state championship game. As I rounded the bases, I started to think that this wasn’t just a win for us. It was a win for Hudson Catholic. To win a state championship in our final game is just amazing. I had no idea what the excitement would be like.”
Guzman leaves his legacy as a state champ. He will now move on to play at Sussex County Community College in the fall. Vasquez believes that Guzman can be a good college baseball player.
“He has the size, the body, the physique, the arm,” Vasquez said. “He just needs a little fine tuning and needs to be a little more consistent. But I think he can be a pretty good player on the next level, even later at a four-year school. He has the ability.”
So Guzman was one of the fortunate ones. He was able to live out a long lasting dream.
“On the day we graduated, I hit a home run and we won the state championship,” Guzman said. “Can it get any better than that?”
No, not really. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.