As he stepped up to the plate last weekend for Cedar Valley College against Northlake, Branon Huff heard a familiar voice as the pitch came hurling toward him.
“He was joking with me from behind the plate when I came up to bat and talking to me while the pitcher was pitching,” Huff explained.
That familiar voice was catcher Omar Martinez, his former Bridgeport High School teammate. The two Bulls, who were part of three 20-win teams at Bridgeport, met for the first time as opponents in the college ranks.
“We gave a look at each other when Branon came up to bat,” Martinez said. “It feels good to have kids you played with in high school do good and to see them at the next level.”
For Martinez, it was the second time for the college freshman to see one of his former teammates in the opposing dugout. His Northlake squad faced Vernon College and former Bulls pitcher Reese Read in a doubleheader in February.
“Reese pitching to me felt odd and weird,” Martinez said. “Branon, Reese and I played together since we were in the fifth grade.”
Huff agreed it was strange to see Martinez in an opposing uniform.
“I’m used to him standing next to me and not on the other side. It was weird but fun at the same time.”
Huff, who is battling a leg injury, said he only played one game in the three-game series against Northlake. He is mostly playing right field. He missed a lot of his senior season at Bridgeport with an injury.
He’s glad to be getting the opportunity to play at the next level.
“I love the sport and never want it to stop,” Huff said.
At Bridgeport, Martinez pitched and played third base. On the mound as a senior, he posted a 2.91 ERA with 61 strikeouts. At the plate, he hit .419 with five homers on his way to earning the 9-3A MVP.
At Northlake he’s moved to catcher.
“I played there a lot during the summer,” Martinez said. “I never played there in high school. Coach [Ted] Leps said I’d wear out my arm.”
Martinez said the biggest adjustment to playing in college is learning new teammates.
“You don’t know anyone and have to adjust to new things,” he said. “But the baseball is baseball.”
Seeing a familiar face or two along the way adds to the enjoyment.
- It was spring break for Wise County schools this past week, except for baseball and softball players. Every school had at least one game during the week and several schools had district games. I understand the time crunch to get games in before the end of April, especially in the seven-and eight-team leagues, but there needs to be a way to schedule the high-leverage district contests around what should be a carefree week
- Next week, District 9-3A will start district play in baseball and softball. It will provide some normalcy for the Bridgeport and Decatur teams who have been spread thin playing in tournaments across North Texas. With the new UIL limits, baseball and softball teams were allowed only 14 games if they chose to play in three tournaments
- This baseball and softball season has produced some crazy scores, including Chico’s season-opening 42-19 victory over Whitewright. Friday, another football score was produced with the Decatur Lady Eagles beating Nocona 28-20
- We are four weeks away from district track meets. Several area athletes are already turning in impressive times. None may be as impressive as Decatur’s Brandon Rivera. In his past two 800-meter races, he’s turned in hand-held times of 1:58 and 1:57. It will be fun to see what he does when the weather warms up
- I couldn’t help but smile this week upon reading The Dallas Morning News‘ story about the UIL possibly moving the boys state basketball tournament out of Austin because of a conflict with the South by Southwest music and film festival. Several teams this year had to stay out of Austin and drive into the city on the day of their games because the festival swallowed up all the hotel rooms. As much as I love Austin, I do agree it’s time to move the tournament around. I would love to see it rotated through Dallas, Houston and San Antonio and played at the NBA arenas. It would have to be an added thrill for the athletes to know they shared a locker-room with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan or even Dwight Howard
- Despite the current state of college basketball with the best players only staying for a year before bolting for the NBA, I’m still excited for Sunday’s NCAA Tournament draw and the start of the tournament Thursday. Though I can probably name fewer than 10 players currently on a college team, I’ll fill out a bracket expecting to win.