It’s been a whirlwind year for former Niwot pitcher Caleb Martinez, so when he was offered the chance to return to the friendly confines of Scott Carpenter Park and the Boulder Collegians for summer baseball, the right-hander didn’t have to think very hard about it.
“I played for the younger BoCo team when I was 16, and that was really fun and a good level of competition to be at,” Martinez said after a recent appearance on the mound for the Collegians, Boulder’s collegiate league team featuring players from NCAA programs across the country. “Now I play for the upper level Collegians, and this team is great. I’ve known Matt [Jensen] for a while, and it’s a great group of guys and a great group of coaches. For the most part, it just like a normal summer team to me—we travel around, there're doubleheaders all the time, there're 100-degree games, and a lot of rain outs.”
Martinez is enjoying the comforts of home after a freshman year that ended in a different place than it started. Last fall, he enrolled in the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota and started working out with the baseball team. By the end of the semester, however, he decided to take his talents to Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, Idaho) and compete for the Division II Nighthawks.
“It is a higher level and there is definitely a higher expectation for how you play, compared to high school,” he said of the collegiate level competition. “But I’m very happy where I’m at and I’m really pleased with where I’m going baseball-wise. A lot of upperclassmen graduated this year, so the coaches are asking the underclassmen to step up a little bit more, and I’m in that group, so I’m going to continue to get better, continue to get stronger, and hopefully do the best that I can for the team.”
After a bit of a rough start, Martinez is enjoying success with the Collegians this summer, especially since the last week of June. In eight appearances, he’s amassed a 2-1 record, and allowed 15 total runs on 26 hits. He also made an appearance in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Baseball League all-star game on June 26.
Martinez’s success on the mound isn’t a surprise to Collegians general manager and former Niwot assistant coach Matt Jensen. Jensen recruited Martinez to his youth club program and has followed his career closely ever since.
“It warms my heart to see a guy like Caleb—who a lot of people wrote off and who maybe doesn’t have overpowering stuff and throw 90 miles an hour—be able to go out there and compete because of the individual that he is. It goes to show you that substance outweighs talent any day.”
Jensen said that recruiting local players like Martinez is a top priority for the Collegians, who are now in their seventh season since Jensen resurrected the team back in 2013. Former Niwot standouts Bryan Meek (‘14) and Connor Messinger (’11) both played for the 2015 squad, and Connor’s brother Skye Messinger (‘17), now with the University of Kansas, was an infielder for the club two years ago. Boulder businessman Bauldie Moschetti owned and managed an earlier iteration of the club between 1964 and 1980, and more than 100 players from that squad went on to play in the major leagues, including Joe Carter and Tony Gwynn.
“I know how important it is to offer local guys an opportunity to play at a very high level, because I was one of those guys. I grew up playing right here on this field. I’ve told guys from the very beginning that I will take them if they reach out to me.”
The Collegians are currently 17-14 on the year, but sit in third place in the RMCBL standings, behind the Colorado Sox and Fort Collins Foxes. According to Jensen, the season has been a “bit of a roller coaster,” with pitching proving to be especially challenging, Martinez notwithstanding.
“That’s kind of the way it is almost every year. You find out who your players are who are dedicated and committed to being here. Everybody says that on day one, but it’s the guys who are here on the last day, that get the most out of the summer.”
Martinez definitely plans to be one of those guys. He and the team are heading out for a road-trip to Kansas and then will wrap up the season at home on July 17. If the Collegians qualify for postseason play, that will begin on July 22. Until then, Martinez plans to keep working hard and remains grateful for the opportunity for one more chance to play before a hometown crowd.
“It’s definitely been an experience. I had some mechanical issues at the beginning of the season, but I think I’ve worked through that, and personally I feel like I’ve been pitching a lot better. I think I’m on an upward trajectory.”