The first thing Mallard Creek baseball coach Ryan Resendez said about this year’s Mavericks team was that it’s the most committed group he’s had in his five years at the helm.
After graduating six seniors from least year’s team, including 4A I-Meck Conference Pitcher of the year Kayden Krause, no one would have blamed the team if it had entered the offseason with tempered expectations.
Seniors Alex Chicuchiolo and Nik Szot, however, are among leaders who have kept the Mavericks focused. Their influence can be seen on the Mavericks field, regardless of whether the team is out practicing on it.
Last fall, Chicuchiolo and several teammates came up with a plan to renovate their home field.
“We’ve never been blessed with a lot of money to do what we need to down there,” Chicuchiolo said. “We really haven’t had a field we’ve been proud of since I’ve been at the school.
“We never had a concession stand or press box,” he said. “My parents were always in charge of concessions, and they used to moan and groan. So one day we just figured, why not go ahead and build one?”
Since that day, the Mavericks have raised more than $20,000 to fix up their field, selling raffle tickets and running car washes.
But the hard work didn’t end when they reached their fundraising goal. Not by a long shot.
Throughout this offseason, the Mavericks have gathered at their field each weekend to continue to improve it. They’ve helped build a press box and the concession stand Chicuchiolo’s parents yearned for, and they’ve even repainted the dugouts.
“We’ve had the guys out there on the field all offseason,” said Resendez. “My coaching staff probably hates me for how many hours we’ve put in. The goal has been for people to respect our program and be able to see how committed we all are.
“With the field renovations over the summer, we’ve tried to change the culture here,” said Resendez, who credits his seniors with getting things rolling. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we hope the community is proud, too.”
“I’ve never thought too much about a home-field advantage,” Chicuchiolo said when asked whether he thought the renovations would affect on the team’s performance this season. “We just go out there and play. We always had pride in the program. Now we have pride in how the field looks, too.”
Although final cuts have yet to be made, Chicuchiolo – who carries a 4.7 weighted grade-point average (on a four-point scale) – is the frontrunner pitch on opening day for the Mavericks. At 5-foot-5, he’s not the kind of pitcher who’s going to blow batters away, but his ability to change speed and locate well has impressed Resendez.
“Alex is a pitcher that’s going to make you beat him,” said the Mavericks coach. “He won’t dance around hitters. He’s going to come right at them. He’s able to throw off-speed pitches in unfavorable counts. We know what were going to get out of him.”
After spending last year as the team’s third baseman and occasional reliever, Chicuchiolo – the team’s lone returning All-Conference player – was honored to hear that he was in line to start Game 1 this season.
“That means a lot to me,” he said, “just with all the hard work I’ve put in. I’ve been here for four years, (and) it means a lot to be able to assume that role for my final year of high school.”
Chicuchiolo probably also will slot into the Mavericks’ leadoff hitting spot once again this season. As a junior, he led the conference with 22 steals and finished second in runs scored with 22.
“Alex is one of the most exceptional kids I’ve met in my life,” said Resendez. “His work ethic is unmatched in the weight room and in practice. He’s an amazing baseball player. He’s got to be any coach’s dream. If I could keep him for another four years, I would.”