The Gulliver Prep High School baseball team is gearing up for a new season with a big goal in mind. The varsity players are coming off of a below-average year and a 20-9 record.
Gulliver alumni and recent University of Miami hall of fame inductee Javy Rodriguez is entering his eighth year as head coach. He says after a year of rebuilding, he is confident this year’s team is bound for glory.
“I feel like this is probably the best team I’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Rodriguez. “We have 14 seniors and they all contribute a lot, and we have some underclassmen that are just phenomenal athletes.”
Despite several years of scoring district and regional championships , Gulliver’s first and only state win came in 2004. Rodriguez says this year they won’t settle for anything less.
“Our goal is to win a state title,” said Rodriguez. “Anything short of that will not be a successful year for us. That’s how we feel and that’s how the players feel. We have a very strong schedule so we’re hoping it will get us through to playoffs.”
In addition to a squad of veterans, the Raiders are revamping their coaching staff with a little help from a Major League All-Star. Jorge Posada comes onboard as the head coach of the junior varsity after spending 17 years behind the plate with the New York Yankees. His son, Jorge Luis, joined the JV team as a freshman this year. Rodriguez says adding Posada to the staff helps get the players excited about hitting the field while adding an extra level of expertise.
“He’s at every practice whenever we need something,” said Rodriguez. “Between workouts, hitting and defense, he works great with the catchers and does a little bit of everything.”
Rodriguez expects this year’s pitching staff to keep the varsity team in contention when they face a tough schedule in spring. That schedule consists of three road trips across the Sunshine State — including another match up with the team that knocked them off last year, the Key West Conchs.
Most of the senior athletes are setting up plans to play ball after their high school careers come to an end. Senior co-captain Davis Brown has already committed to Amherst College in Massachusetts.
With Davis and Alex Valverde on the mound and Oscar Marchena and Javy Valdes in the infield, Rodriguez thinks his players can take the team far past the regular season. Brown attributes the high level of talent in South Florida to setting players up for success on the field after graduation.
“I think I’m prepared because the level of competition in Miami is so high,” said Brown. “Its kind of like you’re already playing in college because you’re playing against a lot of guys who will get drafted and go very far.”
When they’re not playing ball, the boys participate in different activities to strengthen their bond as a team and give back to the community. Between attending UM games and volunteering at a homeless shelter, the Raiders continue to learn and grow both on and off the field. Brown says being part of the Gulliver family is what he will always remember.
“What we’ve had together for four years is what I’ll miss the most,” said Brown. “A lot of guys have been together since they played at Gulliver Academy when they were 10 years old. We are always helping each other out.”