Youth Sports

Miami Marlins honor Javen Harris, Rocco Nappi, Adrien Reina, Francisco Soto, David Tamen

Miami Marlins reliever Bryan Morris and Billy the Marlin congratulate Javen Harris (Florida International Academy), Rocco Nappi (Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School), Francisco Soto (St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School), Adrien J. Reina (Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard School) and David Tamen (North Beach Elementary School) for being for the July honorees of the Miami Marlins/Miami Herald Team Player Program. The standouts were recognized during a ceremony before the Marlins game against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park.
Miami Marlins reliever Bryan Morris and Billy the Marlin congratulate Javen Harris (Florida International Academy), Rocco Nappi (Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School), Francisco Soto (St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School), Adrien J. Reina (Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard School) and David Tamen (North Beach Elementary School) for being for the July honorees of the Miami Marlins/Miami Herald Team Player Program. The standouts were recognized during a ceremony before the Marlins game against the Washington Nationals at Marlins Park. Photo By Jim Varsallone

Javen Harris (Florida International Academy), Rocco Nappi (Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School), Adrien J. Reina (Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard School), Francisco Soto (St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School) and David Tamen (North Beach Elementary School) are the Miami Marlins/Miami Herald Team Players for July.

These standout student athletes, who also display community involvement and sportsmanship, were congratulated by Marlins reliever Bryan Morris and lovable mascot Billy the Marlin near home plate during a ceremony before the Marlins game against the Washington Nationals 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.

Youth league coaches, team representatives, teachers, friends or family members nominate youth baseball or softball players, who display sportsmanship and good grades or academic improvements. Eligible nominees are from the recreational in-house league or travel league or school league (elementary school or middle school aged) for any season of the year.

Each honoree received a certificate of achievement, two tickets, complimentary parking and an autographed Bryan Morris card.

They also answered questions prior to the ceremony.

Here is a video of the interviews and ceremony.

YouTube jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)

About The Honorees

Javen Harris, a shortstop with the San Francisco Giants of Claude Pepper Park in North Miami, is not only a good baseball player, but he displays sportsmanship on and off the field.

Javen, who recently completed sixth grade at Florida International Academy in Opa-locka, maintains an A-B-plus average. As a 12-year-old, he is very wise and a great student of the game of baseball, which he eats, sleeps and breathes.

Lucas H. Bailey Sr., president of North Miami Little League, said: “Javen has been a part of our program for four years now. He has come up the ranks from T-ball to Majors. Javen is also a joy to instruct as he always takes coaching advice and excels and makes necessary corrections.

“Javen also exemplifies what leadership should be within the team model as he always motivates his teammates to strive harder for improvements in their game as well. He’s a player who you can place anywhere on the diamond, and he will shine, Javen is truly a gem to our program, and I’m proud and happy that we will have the joy of seeing this young man blossom even more in the near future.”

Javen’s uncle, Mike Francis, has been involved with youth sports (mainly football in South Florida) since 1989. He is currently the football director of Florida Youth Football League, a member of the Orange Bowl Youth Football Alliance.

He said: “Javen is a student of the game of baseball which he fell in love with at age 4. Javen could be seen at his grandmother's house, sun up to sun down, playing one video game -- baseball. Javen also does well in the classroom. As a family, we are very proud of him. His parents, Jarazz and Kithia Harris, are to be saluted for doing such a great job of raising a very fine young man.”

Rocco Nappi, 12, was one of the top students in sixth grade at Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School.

He not only made the Principal’s Honor Roll, but he is very respectful on and off the baseball field.

Ms. Soliman, sixth grade science teacher, Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School-Central Campus, said: “Rocco is a young man who has a way about him that just lightens up anyone's day. Caring and hardworking, he is the first one to help a classmate in need. With his kind heart and positive attitude, Rocco is going to impact so many lives, of that I'm sure.”

On the field, Rocco has fire in his eyes and the heart for baseball. Since he was three, Rocco dives for balls, earning the nickname ‘Superman.’ He plays second base for the West Pines Cobras travel baseball team that is entered in the Dreams Park Tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Rocco wants to be a Miami Marlins baseball player.

West Pines Coach Robert Pineyro said: “Heart, passion, and the love for the game make Rocco a pleasure to coach.”

Adrien J. Reina, 10, who started playing baseball at age 4 in T-ball, continued with the Perrine Khoury League for five years.

He also competes in baseball and all sports for the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary-St. Richard School in Cutler Bay under the guidance of Bryan Darias, a first grade teacher and athletic director. In soccer at school, he scored 24 goals during the 2014-15 season.

Darias said: “Adrien J. Reina is a outstanding multi-sport athlete at our school. He plays basketball, baseball, soccer, cross-country and track & field both in his age group and in higher age groups. Adrien not only displays leadership on the court/field but in the classroom. He is in the top 5 percent of his grade level in academics. He is really becoming a great kid on and off the field.”

Adrien played for the Phenoms 9U travel baseball team when they were ranked No.1 in the nation. The Phenoms participated in many tournaments including the Elite 32 at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista. He currently plays for the Team Miami 10U travel baseball team.

Manny Ojeda, president of Team Miami, said via email: “It's my honor to write about a player like him. I would love to have 12 players with not only his ability to play the game of baseball but his passion to drive himself for better, his dedication for perfection. I believe it all starts at home and the way he is raised with the ‘no excuse’ policy. With the way society is that kids have all the reasons not to play sports, Adrien is a great example for kids nowadays to play sports. His parents drive 45 minutes to practice and games to play at the highest level. I am very happy to hear that he will be acknowledged because he is well deserved of any recognition.”

Adrien has excelled at all positions on the field and is an A-B student in school. He is an easy going player and a teacher to others when necessary, competitive of course, and just a wonderful little kid who loves baseball. He eats, sleeps and lives baseball. His grandfather has to read the newspaper daily to keep up with Adrien's knowledge of baseball -- all the teams and all the players.

Jay Leavy, manager/head coach of the Perrine Baseball Softball Association Canes, said: “I have been a baseball coach for 15 years now and am proud to say that I know Adrien Reina. There are very few kids who really stand out in your memory. Adrien is one of them. He is one of those kids that you know in the back of your mind that he has everything and you might actually see him in the MLB some day.

“I have had the pleasure of coaching him for several seasons. Adrien is an extremely talented young man. He is smart, athletic, fast, dedicated, likable and well-rounded. Not only does he excel at baseball, but he also is an excellent basketball and soccer player. But most of all he is dedicated to his school work and consistently earns top honors. Adrien can be put in any position in baseball and will adapt to the position. He will always encourage his team and be humble in victory and gracious in defeat -- which would rarely happen with him pitching. As a coach, I'm happy that I could be a part of his life and enjoy watching him grow and learn. Any honors bestowed upon Adrien are well deserved.”

Francisco Soto is a stellar student athlete, recognized for his academic achievements and his sportsmanship.

Francisco recently completed fourth grader at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Miami. He maintains excellent grades despite the rigors of attending sports practices and games throughout the season. He recently received an Accelerated Reader award.

Ceci Guara, fourth grade teacher at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School, said: “As a student. Francisco is a very bright boy who is a hard worker in the classroom. He is very kind and well-liked by his peers. He always walks in the room with a smile on his face and ready to give the day his best.”

Francisco learned that when you fail, it just means to try harder, and so he does. Last year, he did not make his school baseball team, so he spent his entire summer playing baseball with his mom to get ready for this year’s tryouts. The hard work paid off as he made the St. Thomas primary team. He played well enough to earn a starting position at second base and batted third and fourth.

Michael Malzacher, athletic director and coach at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School, said: “Francisco Soto is everything that you want in a student and an athlete. Francisco is athletic, coachable, well-mannered, and hardworking. These qualities will allow Francisco to excel in baseball and all other aspects of life. It has been a pleasure coaching Francisco in baseball and I look forward to having him here at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School for many years.”

This year Francisco also decided to join a baseball team outside of school. He tried out and made the South Miami Youth Baseball 10U team, playing several positions infield, outfield and catcher. His South Miami team was a finalist in the post-season, reaching the championship game where Francisco recorded three of the team’s four RBI.

It was a difficult and challenging year playing baseball for two separate teams and maintaining his academic performance. The family travels an hour to take Francisco to school, and then they spend the afternoon in the car or at grandma's house doing homework, since they live so far from the school and the baseball park.

Despite his busy curriculum at school and schedule on the field, Francisco still manages to be a normal kid who plays at home, goes fishing, bowls, plays the piano and enjoys soccer. Most of all, he loves to play baseball with his father, mother and brother, playing 2-on-2 with plastic bats and baseballs at home. He is a simple 10-year-old boy who loves his 7-year-old brother, 10-year-old cousin, mom, dad, aunt, uncle and grandma.

Francisco learned that family always comes first and understands he is Blessed to have his family, his school and his sports.

David Tamen, 11, who completed fifth grade at North Beach Elementary School in Miami Beach, played baseball in the city’s program, but he elevated his game to become a true player under the leadership of Coach Brett Cummins with Danny Berry Little League Baseball.

David attends every practice and every game. Many evenings he doesn’t come home until 8 and then must finish homework. He has never complained because he loves baseball.

David has learned baseball skills, teamwork and sportsmanship from Cummins, who volunteers his time with the boys. It’s been amazing to see him blossom through Cummins’ direction.

The team is the Lake Monsters, and they play games twice a week at North Shore Park in Miami Beach. They practice Mondays and before each game.

Cummins said: “David was an absolute joy to coach. He showed up to practice eager to get better at baseball, never complained during practice and was very supportive of his teammates. I told the boys that we practice like we play - always hustle. David took that to heart for practices and games. David is an excellent listener, polite and simply a courteous boy. I am very happy that David was selected to be honored by the Marlins.”

Learning and playing baseball has not been detrimental to his grades. A ‘Straight A’ student in the gifted program, David was accepted into the Junior Scholars International program at Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach, where he will tryout for the school's softball team.