Broward High School Baseball
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Spartans Making Strides Towards Excellence

New Manager Thomas Marante has taken an unorthodox but effective approach to coaching.

The win and loss record did not reflect all of the positive things that the Hollywood Hills baseball team was able to accomplish last season. The Spartans went 7-16 and earned a spot in the regional quarterfinals, where they lost in the second round. Hollywood Hills proved this new wave of Spartans is ready to stake a claim by winning a district game and then playing a thrilling extra-inning battle with St. Thomas Aquinas.

The big graduating class of 2013 hit the Spartans hard on both sides of the ball. Primarily, they lost the top three arms on their pitching staff. However, that didn’t stop them from improving their team ERA by nearly two full runs in 2014. Leading that cause were newcomers Jordan Maldanado and Stephan Richards, a duo which held down a combined 28/4 strikeut to walk ratio and a 2.80 ERA over 32.2 innings.

Both Maldanado and Richards made their presence felt at the plate as well, knocking in 16 and 12 runs respectively and adding a total of 16 runs scored between the two of them. Given the success they had in just their freshman years, the sky is the limit for both Maldanado and Richards. Richards feels he has improved over the offseason and, ever the modest kid, equates that improvement to the aide and added support he has received from his teammates who are now much more familiar with him.

“Last year when I was making mistakes, they were just helping me pull up and I’d make the same mistakes,” Richards said. “This year, they’ve really helped me correct it. We are a lot more comfortable with each other.”

The Spartans may not have graduated as many players as they did in 2013 this off-season, but they did have one departure that could have affected the club exponentially: their Manager Charlie Cardinale. Enter veteran Manager Thomas Marante, who most recently served as Piper’s Pitching Coach.

Knowing he is the newcomer to a group of players that are already familiar with each other, Marante has taken more of a hands-off approach to leading. Instead, he has handed the reigns to his players and let them decide how far they want to take the team.

“I’ve given them what I expect of them. From there, I have let it be up to them how much they will contribute,” Marante said. “I don’t worry about them stretching, I don’t worry about them warming up because when they come here, they know they have to do that stuff. I don’t feel as though I have to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

In addition to baseball, Marante has experience coaching in a myriad of sports, including football and track and field. He will use the same philosophy in his return to baseball, because athletes, no matter what sport they play, are all analogous.

“Athletes are the same no matter what sport they play: they need a system they can believe in,” Marante said. “If they don’t believe, it doesn’t matter how good you are, the x’s and o’s. If they don’t believe, you’re not going to do well. They need limits. They want to know how far they can go and what is expected of them. Those expectations are there; it’s up to them to go ahead and reach it.”

While, for the most part, Marante has allowed his team to decide their own fate, he has imposed a few of the aforementioned limits. He is doing his part to give the Spartans the best chance to succeed.

“He’s putting us in all different positions; trying us out in all different spots to see what we are best at,” infielder Rene Lescano said. “Some kids are better at different positions. You have to play guys where they will give you the best production. He understands that.”

According to Richards, Marante has shown his dedication to the Spartans’ cause by dedicating an increased amount of time and effort to the team.

“We’ve been having a lot more practices, putting in a lot more work,” Richards said. “He succeeded in getting us new equipment, such as new bats, and he’s teaching us new things that we weren’t learning before.”

Marante hopes his overall supervisory approach will help the team form a stronger bond and better team chemistry. He hopes that the benefits of a strong relationship with each other will show themselves on the field.

“It’s a brotherhood,” Lescano said. “We all love each other, we all respect each other, and we are putting it all together.”

Although he admits the team may understandably struggle at the beginning of the year in their first few games, Marante is optimistic when when it comes to how far he thinks his team can go this season.

“I am very excited about the team,” Marante said. “I feel that it is a young team but a team that will grow as the season goes along. I don’t think the beginning of the season will be a telling; it’s going to be towards the end that you can really tell where we are”

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