Hayden Carson (Omni Middle School/Delray Beach Little League/West Palm Beach Vipers), Jack Sampedro (Belen Jesuit School/STC Thoroughbreds), Holden Shechtman (Manatee Elementary School/West Boynton Little League/West Boca Panthers), Alexander Smith (Dade Christian School/Tamiami Youth Baseball League/TbS Nations Baseball-USSSA/ESP Matrix) and Caroline Zamek (Palmer Trinity School softball) are the Miami Marlins Team Player Honorees for August in conjunction with the Miami Herald.
They were recognized for their academics in the classroom and sportsmanship on the field. Marlins pitcher Austin Brice and lovable mascot Billy the Marlin congratulated them during the ceremony, before the Marlins/Chicago White Sox game at Marlins Park.
In an effort to recognize deserving South Florida youth baseball and softball players for doing well in school and displaying sportsmanship on the diamond, the Miami Marlins have once again partnered with The Miami Herald to co-sponsor the Team Player spotlight on the Sunday Youth Sports pages in the Neighbors section of The Miami Herald in print and online.
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Youth league coaches, team representatives, teachers, friends or family members can nominate youth baseball or softball players, who display sportsmanship and good grades or academic improvements. Eligible nominees are from the recreational in-house league, travel league or school league (elementary school or middle school aged) from any season of the year.
About the honorees
Hayden Carson, 13, of Delray Beach is an eighth grader at Omni Middle School in Boca Raton. A ‘Straight A’ student, he has earned Honor Roll or Honor Society status every grading period since fourth grade.
On the diamond Hayden is also a standout. He is a perennial all-star in Delray Beach Little League and a standout player for his West Palm Beach Vipers travel team.
Hayden is humble and displays amazing examples of sportsmanship. Before each game, he introduces himself to the umpires and thanks them for working the game. At the end of each game, win or lose, he thanks the umpires again as well as his team’s coaching staff.
Hayden often volunteers to sit the bench allowing other teammates more playing time.
Coach George Lago of Delray Beach Little League said: “Hayden is the most dominant player I have seen come thru our league in the past 15 years. Hayden sets himself apart as a pitcher. A true workhorse in the mold of a Roger Clemens. A pure power pitcher with amazing accuracy. He was always capable of throwing a no hitter on any given day. I have witnessed several no hitters and probably would have seen more, if he wasn’t pulled early to preserve his arm.
“At 5-10, 190 pounds, he is a big boy with plenty of strength and very deceptive speed. His arm strength and accuracy also make him a solid third baseman and virtual wall at first base. Oh yeah, he swings a big bat and is very tough out in the third or fourth position. I expect to hear big things about Hayden. I know he has a bright future playing high school ball, and if he continues to work hard, which I know he does everyday, he could play big time college or maybe even pro ball.
“To me, what is most impressive about Hayden is his hard work in the classroom. He is just as proud of earning his Honor Society Certificates as he is all star or MVP Trophies. I understand he has been a straight A student all thru middle school. Hayden is also a gentlemen. He never leaves the field after practice or a game without thanking me and my assistant coaches. Very polite and respectful. a pleasure to coach.”
Jack Sampedro, 13, of Miami is an eighth grader at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School where he plays third base, second base and pitcher for the middle school baseball team. He also competes with the STC Thoroughbreds baseball team, a travel team that plays its home games at Tamiami Baseball Field.
Coach David Guevara said: “Jack is an unbelievable player with outstanding work ethic. It is easy to see how his work ethic on the field relates to his work ethic in the classroom. Jack tries to be the best that he can be at everything he does. If he runs a mile, he's mad because he didn't run it fast enough; if he hits a home run, he's mad because it didn't go far enough. That attitude is going to get him far in life and it is what has made him into the outstanding young man that he is today.”
Jack also has a GPA well over 4.0.
Holden Shechtman, 9, of Lake Worth plays for the West Boynton Little League and the West Boca Panthers 10U travel team.
He helped the West Boca Panthers 9U travel baseball team win a state tournament in Sanford. He pitched a complete game, allowing no earned runs, three hits and no walks.
Stephen Clyne, West Boca Panthers 9U baseball coach said: “Holden is one of our team leaders on the field. Although at just 9 years old his focus and work ethic to improve himself daily is a coaches dream. He asks questions and is always curious on how to improve his ability to help the team win. He respects his teammates, his opponents, and most importantly the game itself. No matter what position on the field or in the lineup he goes to work, excels, and always does his best to put the team first. Holden has a bright future ahead of him.”
Now in fifth grade at Manatee Elementary School, his academic accomplishments and demeanor are just as impressive.
Teacher Becky Benitez said: “Holden is a very sweet and sincere boy. I never doubt his honesty, and he takes his work seriously. He always puts forth his best effort on anything he is asked to do, which I imagine carries over onto the ball field. Sports are very important to Holden, so there is no doubt in my mind that he will approach his skill development with an exceptional level of dedication and enthusiasm. I have been lucky to have him in my class.”
Alexander Smith, 8, of Miami Gardens is in third grade at Dade Christian School where he is a Straight A student. Since pre-kindergarten he’s received all A's on his report card. He made the Principal’s Honor Roll three consecutive years.
On the baseball diamond, Alexander is a fierce competitor. His fascination with the sport began at 18-months-old, when he picked up his first bat. He started T-ball at age 3 and now plays baseball year round.
From the humble beginnings of rec ball with the Tamiami Youth Baseball League, Alexander currently competes for the ESP MATRIX 9U travel baseball team. He and his teammates, most of whom began playing together since age 5, have won many championships throughout the state and are regarded as a high caliber, highly respected ball club.
This multi-ethnic 9U team values achievements on and off the field. In the Summer 2015, they were second of 18 teams nationally at the Disney Elite World Series at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. The team was featured on MLB.com network.
Alexander’s primary position is second base. This season he is batting .420 with five home runs.
In July, Alexander won the Scotts Pitch, Hit & Run Championship in the 7-8 age group during the MLB All-Star Week at Petco Park in San Diego. In June, Alexander won the Miami Marlins area competition at Marlins Park. From a pool of 30 champions in his age group (one from each of 30 MLB teams), he was one of the top three scorers, thus qualifying for the finals. It has been several years since the Marlins had an athlete represent their club in the finals.
Caroline Zamek, 11, of Miami is a seventh grader at Palmer Trinity School.
She made the Palmer Trinity School varsity softball team last season as a sixth grader, competing against high school freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. A solid player off the bench, she occasionally played the outfield and recorded her first varsity hit.
Palmer Trinity Coach Jennifer Cerda said: “Caroline Zamek was very brave to even play softball as a 6th grader on the varsity team. Those upper school girls can be intimidating. She was a pleasure to have out there and seemed to always have a fun positive attitude. Although she didn’t play in the games much, she made the most of every at-bat and every pinch running opportunity. She steadily improved all season and always had every teammate and fan cheering for her. She was responsible, always letting me know if she had to miss practice. Caroline always offered to carry equipment or help out a teammate. The softball program will be lucky and privileged to have her with us for the next several years.”
Off the field, Caroline is an outstanding student.
Mrs. Andrea Fresco, Palmer Trinity science teacher: “Caroline is a very hard worker and always eager to learn new things. I love that she is not afraid to ask questions and is truly interested in understanding. She has a positive attitude and is extremely polite.”
Adam Baitsell, Palmer Trinity English teacher: “Caroline is a very kind and thoughtful young lady. Her constant smile and positive attitude make her a joy to teach.”