Mario Santana is in his third year as the head baseball coach at Dickinson High School and there’s no question that this is his best Rams team to date.
“Last year was a learning experience for all of us,” said Santana, who is also a dedicated and respected assistant football coach at Lincoln. “We had a team full of sophomores and freshmen, playing teams that were much older. But this year, I expect a better performance. We also have freshmen this year who are going to make a positive impact on the team.”
Santana likes the fact that the Rams have been working hard throughout the offseason.
“They were all in the weight room all winter,” Santana said. “I can see that they’re hungry.”
Santana notices that teams are not taking the Rams seriously.
“People are sleeping on us, so if we can get a couple of wins early in the season, it will really help.”
Leading the returnees is junior Rafael Solano, who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors last spring as a utility performer.
“He’s basically my best player,” Santana said of Solano, who collected three of the Rams’ nine victories on the mound last season. “He’s a very good hitter and fielder as well, playing shortstop. Raf is our best take-charge kind of guy. He gets everyone going with the way he plays.”
Solano is also the team’s leadoff hitter who runs well. So Solano will be asked to get on base, steal his share of bases and score runs.
Junior Jose Garcia is another right-handed pitcher who will be an excellent complement to Solano.
“He keeps getting better and better,” Santana said. “He pumps strikes. He pitched very well for us last year as a sophomore. I’m expecting big things from him.”
Junior Jose Peralta is another righty to anchor the staff.
“He had a couple of wins last year for us in relief,” Santana said. “He had a huge win against North Bergen in relief in extra innings. He also comes in and pumps strikes, which is what we need.”
Junior lefty John Courtney is another effective pitcher who can start or relieve.
Freshman Diego Moran is a promising right-handed hurler.
“He plays the game hard,” Santana said of Moran. “He is really turning out to be a good pitcher.”
Left-hander Misael Moreta is proving to be a diamond in the rough.
“A lefty who can come in as a freshman and throw strikes is very hard to find,” Santana said. “He’s pitched very well in our scrimmages against Waldwick and Paterson Kennedy. I think he can become a very good one.”
Needless to say, that’s plenty of depth for a high school baseball team, especially having two talented freshmen to make a mark immediately. Not many teams can lay claim to having two frosh that will make a positive mark right away.
The catcher is senior Brian Torres.
“He’s been the starting catcher since I got here,” Santana said. “He controls the game. He gets the pitchers to throw strikes consistently.”
Torres is also the Rams’ cleanup hitter. He could have a monstrous season at the plate.
Junior Thomas Santiago is the team’s first baseman. Santiago made the successful leap from the junior varsity to the varsity last year and has now become a fixture.
“He’s a good fielding first baseman,” Santana said. “He constantly finds ways to get hits. I’m expecting big things from him this year.”
Freshman Moran will be the second baseman.
“He’s showed us a lot of things during the preseason,” Santana said. “He showed us that he belongs.”
Solano is the team’s shortstop. Solano can do so many things at the plate.
“He was our top hitter last year,” Santana said of the versatile Solano. “I love the way he plays.”
Solano, who hit .372 last year, is definitely a player to watch.
Junior Juan Perozo is the starting third baseman, but senior Norberto Estremera, the son of former Ferris baseball standout Pito Estremera and brother of Natalia Estremera of McNair Academic softball fame, is pushing his way into the regular lineup.
Norberto Estremera has the genetics to be a great player, considering both his father and sister were Hudson Reporter All-Area honorees (Natalia was a rare four-time All-Area selection).
“He definitely has to be in the lineup somewhere,” Santana said of Estremera. “He’s definitely one of our best hitters.”
Junior Edgar Garcia is the team’s left fielder.
“He’s good getting on base,” Santana said. “He’s our No. 3 hitter.”
Junior Jose Garcia is the team’s No. 2 hitter and centerfielder.
“He runs down balls that a lot of people wouldn’t get,” Santana said. “He’s very good defensively and helps our offense.”
The right fielder is senior Jason Colon, who also could pitch if needed. Colon has a strong arm in the outfield and will get his share of outfield assists during the course of the season.
The Rams will certainly be competitive, as long as they survive the early portion of the schedule, facing powerhouses like Memorial and St. Peter’s Prep during the first week.
If the Rams can remain competitive early on, then they have a chance to be competitive for the remainder of the season. –Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com