Alessandro Fernandez (St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School), Hudson Koczwara (Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center), Mario Menendez (Island Christian School), Ryan Mittleman (Nova High School) and Eva Sirlin (Miami Country Day School) are the Miami Marlins/Miami Herald Team Players for August.
These standout student athletes, who also display community involvement and sportsmanship, were congratulated by Marlins pitcher Scott McGough and lovable mascot Billy the Marlin near home plate during a ceremony before the Marlins game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park.
Ceremony video courtesy Marlins Vision
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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 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 nominated 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 an autographed certificate of achievement, two tickets and complimentary parking.
Intro, interviews, ceremony video
YouTube jim varsallone (jimmyv3 channel)
ABOUT THE HONOREES
Alessandro Fernandez, 10, is in fifth grade at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Miami. He is recognized for his sportsmanship and scholastic achievements as well as baseball acumen.
This year he decided to join the South Miami Youth Baseball 10U travel team playing various positions. With his efforts, he helped his team reach the finals.
In addition to baseball, Alessandro played on a competitive soccer team and was part of his school's track & field team where he also excelled.
Solomon Frieder, physical education teacher at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School, said: “Alessandro was a pleasure to coach this year. He is a great competitor and follows all of the rules. Alessandro is always willing to help others even if it is a player from the opposing team. He is an asset to any team. I would love for all of my players to have his attitude, work ethic and determination.”
Besides sports, Ale finds time to take piano lessons. Sports and piano, and he still completes his school work, which is most important. Ale has been recognized all four quarters for achieving his accelerated reading goals. His grades were outstanding, and he earned a vocabulary award.
Cecilia Guara, fourth grade teacher at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School, said: “Alessandro is a very hard-working and sweet boy. He is always kind to his classmates and willing to help them.”
He is very kind to others, especially his grandmother.
Hudson Koczwara, 8, a third grader at Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center in Bay Harbor Islands, competes for the Miami Marlins in North Miami Beach Little League.
Hudson shows a tremendous amount of sportsmanship on and off the field. He never complains. He is a great athletes but also great student. He has made the honor roll all year and has also been involved in services through the community. He has worked tremendously hard on and off the field.
Leslie Fernandez, second grade teacher at Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center in Bay Harbor Islands, said: “Hudson Koczwara is a highly intelligent student and is able to apply his knowledge in the classroom setting, as well as in his daily life. In addition, Hudson is thoughtful and kind toward others and is very much liked by his peers and his other teachers alike.”
Coach Pete Viola of North Miami Beach Little League said: “Hudson is the little engine that not only ‘could’ but almost always ‘will,’ and he loves the challenge of a pressure situation. While almost always playing up with older kids, Hudson more than makes up for a lack of size with an abundance of heart. Just tell this kid that he can't do something, and you will provide the motivation for Hudson to prove you wrong.”
Coach Kenny Fill of North Miami Beach Little League said: “Hudson is the most fearless kid I have ever coached. No matter how big the situation is, he is ready to perform. His courageousness inspires everyone around him.”
Mario Menendez, 12, is a pitcher, catcher, utility player, and switch hitter for the Upper Keys Storm 12U travel baseball team.
Upper Keys Storm Manager Brian Tiedemann said: “Mario is that kid every coach wants on his team. The kid that is out there to get better every day he hits the field and the kids always asking the coaches if they need any help. He is one that will make sure his teammates, when down or upset, pick themselves up. Mario is also that kid who will do anything asked no matter what as long as it is to help his team succeed.
“For instance, our starting catcher was put on the shelf for a couple months this season, and when I approached Mario about having a look at him behind the plate to possibly be our replacement, he did not hesitate to accept the challenge. Because of his selflessness not only did he help the team keep its success going, but he expanded his talents.
“Mario has now become an excellent catcher in the short time he’s had behind the plate. This not only demonstrates his drive for self-improvement but also shows how great of a student he is in the classroom where he was an Honor Roll student each grading period this past year.”
Mario is a seventh grader at Island Christian School in Islamorada. During the 2014-15 school term, he earned As and Bs.
During the summer, Mario played a pivotal role in the Upper Keys Storm’s success as he was the off-speed pitcher who threw an unhittable curve ball, when at his best. He helped The Storm place 42nd of 104 teams at the Cooperstown Dreams Park Tournament in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Tiedemann said: “Watching Mario develop in to such a great young man over the years has been a pleasure to see, and he has a very bright future.”
Ryan Mittleman, 15, has been playing baseball for nine years. He began with T-ball at Rotary Park in Hollywood with his dad as his coach and mentor.
Ryan has steadily progressed from the early T-ball years to most recently playing elite travel baseball. Currently, he is playing with the Box Elite Travel Team in Sunrise and hopes to have to a successful first year of junior varsity baseball at Nova High School in Davie.
Through the years, Ryan was determined to become a successful pitcher. He worked with coaches, and his parents enrolled him at Bommarito Training Performance for conditioning, strength and speed. His commitment and determination are extraordinary. He sets his alarm to wake up early every morning for individual workouts. He looks forward to practices and workouts just as much as games. His parents are tremendous supporters, but Ryan thrives because of his own desire to continually improve. In fact, his parents have always stressed the importance of the invaluable life lessons that can be learned from sports and made sure Ryan absorbed and practiced these skills on and off the field.
Ryan’s academics, leadership and citizenship have been outstanding. At Nova Eisenhower Elementary School and Nova Middle School, he continuously earned straight A’s and was honored for outstanding academic achievement.
Ryan was president of the student body as a fifth grader at Nova Elementary and gave the graduation address. He set a record for most points ever earned in the history of Nova Eisenhower for reading, and he parlayed that into a book club for students that was held at his home once a month. His love of reading encouraged him to collect used books from family and friends and build a library at a homeless shelter in Miami. He and his sister also volunteer serving food at a homeless shelter several times a year.
Ryan remained active in student council throughout middle school. He is currently a member of the National Junior Honor Society and spent two weeks in the summer volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House in Broward County. Ryan already has a weighted GPA of 4.875 in high school. He just entered ninth grade, but he completed several high school courses while in middle school and plans on remaining active in student council. Ryan created a teaching video that is currently being used by one of his past teachers to promote a business class that is being introduced to schools across the country.
Eva Sirlin, 14, was a starter as an eighth grader on the Miami Country Day High School varsity softball team. Playing right field, she helped the Spartans go 13-4 and win their second consecutive district title.
Former Miami Country Day Assistant Varsity Softball Coach B.J. Teltsher said: “Eva is a tough, determined student-athlete. She went from only getting two at bats last season to being a full time starting outfielder this season. Her outstanding play as an eighth grader helped the Lady Spartans win the district championship for a second season in a row.
“She balanced school, club volleyball and softball masterfully as a middle school student-athlete. She is determined to get better in all she does and is willing to stay longer at practice to achieve her goals.”
Eva is also an excellent student. In 2014-15: Honors English 96-95-98; Integrated Math 95-90-95; Social Studies 86-92-89; Physical Science 94-96-90; Honors Spanish 97-97-95; Intermediate Instruments 96-100-94; Physical Education 93-90-92.
She also competes for the school’s volleyball team. Miami Country Day School is in Miami Shores.