April 23, 2012
STORRS, Conn. – Throughout the history of baseball, New England has been a talent and recruiting powerhouse. The state of Connecticut is no exception, and this fact is best represented by the University of Connecticut's baseball team. Over half of the Husky roster is comprised of in-state student-athletes, ranging from promising freshman to experienced veterans. This depth of talent speaks to the quality brand of baseball being played in the state from the little league level through high school. Despite this growing player pool, there are some like senior captain Tim Martin who feel the state is still not given the recognition it deserves when compared with other areas.
“I think it’s underrated. Coach [Jim Penders] has been able to keep the guys in state. The top players are known to go down south, but we’ve done a good job getting the guys to come here and we’re winning games because of it.”
Martin, a native of Stratford, Conn. who plays four different positions for the Huskies, is one of many examples of home-grown talent that is a staple of the team's roster. A unique feature of Connecticut's lineup is that some players were high school teammates. Martin, for example has a strong bond with senior catcher John Sulzicki. The pair has been together since before high school.
“We played little league together,” says Martin, “I’ve been on the same team with him [Sulzicki] for the last ten years. I’ve known him my whole life; he’s one of my best friends so it’s pretty cool we get to play together in college.
While Connecticut may have a strong talent pool, one must wonder why so many of these student-athletes would choose to stay so close to home. Southern and West Coast schools have the appeal of mild winters and warm springs as well as having strong baseball reputations of their own. Certain players on UConn had the ability to play at these other schools. For sophomore pitcher Anthony Marzi (Berlin, Conn.), the decision to join the Huskies was about state pride.
“I had offers from the University of Rhode Island and Bryant, but I think it’s cool to represent your own state and its university.”
Along with playing for his home state, Martin also feels that the University of Connecticut will give him and his teammates a strong, valuable education for later in life.
“The school itself was the best opportunity I had to get a good degree for after baseball. For me it's a combination of both school and baseball.”
With the roster having a majority of Connecticut natives, many Huskies have been playing with and against each other for years. While there are some friendly rivalries which have carried over from high school, this team remains tight knit.
“It’s always fun.” says Marzi. “You always hear guys reminiscing about high school games and people who matched up against each other. It is something we all have in common.”
Because of the state’s small size, information about emerging baseball talent spreads quickly amongst teams. When these players get to college, it is as if they have already known one another.
“You know each other before you even get here,” Martin says, “If you didn’t play against somebody, you know about them.”
With the steep baseball tradition found in the state, it is easy to explain why the Huskies have brought in so many of these young student-athletes. Though the talent found in Connecticut may be undervalued by outsiders, UConn has found tremendous success in targeting these local players and this pipeline will continue to provide fortune in future years.