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River Dell grad Corey Martinez displays perseverance as pitcher at William Paterson

From River Edge, New Jersey, Corey Martinez enjoyed playing basketball all the way up until middle school, but he knew success would come on the baseball field. Despite the River Dell Middle School not having its own baseball team and towns of Oradell and River Edge fielding two separate teams, he enjoyed the competition in semifinals and finals of tournament games and taking the best kids from both towns and putting them on winning teams.

When Martinez reached high school is where his numbers on the baseball diamond skyrocketed. His senior year, Martinez batted .453 with 30 RBI while on the mound registering an 11-3 record and 2.90 ERA, earning him all-county honors. Martinez credits his family and Head Coach Brandon Flanagan for his success.

“My parents really pushed me on and off the baseball field and they have not missed a baseball game since I was eight years old and would come to see me pitch,” said Martinez. “My sister who is now a medical student at Rutgers would miss class and drive to see me play. Coming from a family that gave me anything I would ask for and made it all possible. Having my dad be an athlete when he was younger made it a lot easier because he wanted to throw to me in batting practice.”

“In high school it was all about a winning record and Coach Flanagan pushed us to win games and do it in the classroom and gave us the knowledge in practice and before games. I enjoyed having all that talent behind me. Beating Bergen Catholic my junior a memorable moment in my high school career as we had a chip on our shoulders going up against a parochial school.”

Making the decision to attend William Paterson University turned out to be an easy one to make for Martinez due to academics majoring in marketing, students on campus and baseball head coach Mike Lauterhahn and athletic facilities.

“Coming in as a freshman I knew it would be difficult for me to jump right in and help my team being an 18-19 year-old kid and as I got older became more familiar with the conference and figured out physically I could go out and compete but in this conference (NJAC) is more of a metal game. No matter whom you are playing against whether it be first or last anything can happen and every game feels like a championship game. Some of the hitters and pitchers you face and say why are they not at bigger Division I schools. The athletic department are probably our main supporters when it comes to social media, our uniforms and keeping fields ready for use.”

“Coach Lauterhahn expects a lot out of us in practice with working out our skills set and getting better at it. It’s easy to play for play and he is not going to get on you for making a physical mistake but a mental mistake he will let you know about that and to be better. He knows when you miss a class, not there, miss or fail a test or homework assignment. He will call, e-mail or text us and say you have to get on it and will reach out to professors. I don’t know too many professors willing to do that one and off the field and another reason I chose this university.”

“It’s important to have a fall back in baseball because you never know when it could be your last pitch in an inning or game. We have a different campus for business and I’m comfortable going into the real world with what I have learned and degree I’m receiving. I have so many good friends at William Paterson on and off the field and in the classroom with the professors who were nice enough when I was stressed out about a test and made it easy to succeed in the classroom. I thought when I came here it would be all about baseball but learned really fast in order to be on the baseball field you have to do well in the classroom.”

In his freshman year Martinez posted a 2-1 record, 4.88 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. The following season Martinez made two appearances before a serious injury forced him to miss the rest of the year. Granted a medical hardship waiver, Martinez returned in 2017 finishing with a 4-1 record, 4.86 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 46.1 innings. Last year Martinez turned the corner in 11 starts notching five wins while lowering his ERA down to 2.10 with 42 strikeouts.

“The biggest thing when I got injured was my physical therapy whether here at school or in Allentown. Instead of making it with massage and icing they gave me a workout and I came back stronger from the injury. Being a fifth year senior after I got hurt my sophomore year gave me a different advantage with the hitters and been around long enough and knew exactly what I had to do to keep cool in tough spots and get the ball working in the right direction. Our pitching coach Mike Santana has helped me develop since I was 18 years old and gave me the confidence I needed.”

In his final season with the Pioneers, Martinez dominated on the mound logging a 6-1 record in 73 innings pitched with a 2.44 ERA and 59 strikeouts earning him NJAC Honorable Mention honors.

“I give credit to my defense, attacking the zone as much as possible, working faster and keeping my pitch count low. Getting deeper into game with double plays, diving catch or catcher throwing a runner out. I knew my team was depending on me a lot when it came to go seven innings and not wasting pitches.”

“Our offense contributed to us having a big lead early and I could go out there and cruise instead of working hard to keep a close game. I knew if the ball was hit to any of our infielders or outfielders with two outs I would be walking off the mound so that made my job a lot easier.”

Despite being eliminated in the second round of the NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference) tournament this season, William Paterson won 25 games and Martinez points to the make-up of the roster for the success on the field. Martinez also got the opportunity to play with a fellow River Dell player in Steve Yelin.

“I think it started with the freshman class we had last year and who are sophomores this year and turned the organization around. They are the hardest working group I know and first ones on the field and last to leave. Having the seniors be all pitchers’ and best friends for four years. When we’re not practicing, we are hanging out every single day and going out to eat. A great feeling to have 25 wins this season, as a freshman we had decent teams but our competition was a lot more prepared and older.”

“Steve (Yelin) wanted to go to a different school in the NJAC. We played on a summer team, coaches said that we needed to get him here. I pitched all summer and he caught me every time and we were very successful together and imagined how fun it could be this spring.”

“Coming into my freshman year I looked up to the seniors and seeing them on senior day and saying that is never going to be me and so far from that and nothing to worry about. Being a younger guy looking up to certain pitchers and infielders who took me under their wing and understanding the game of baseball. It’s easy to look over and take it for granted how fast it goes by in a blink of an eye. I still can’t believe I had my senior day and last time pitching on our field.”

With the graduation ceremony fast approaching Martinez had this message for younger athletes, “Chase a goal and dream, go after it and don’t allow someone to tell you can’t do something because I have been on different traveling teams telling me I’m not good, big or strong enough. Keep working hard every single day because it could be your last.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Since July of 2014 Sunil Sunder Raj has been with In The Zone. Sunil has experience covering minor league baseball, high school and college sports. A beat writer for the Rockland Boulders for six years, Ramapo College men’s basketball for four years, NJIT men’s basketball and Seton Hall women’s basketball. Now focusing on feature articles about athletes, coaches and sports media professionals. A graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism.
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