Team manager's big moment clinches playoff spot for Jersey Village
When Jersey Village played host to Cy Springs on Thursday night, the home team won 10-0. The story, however, didn’t lie in the final score but the final run that scored.
A senior singled on senior day. It was his first career hit. In fact, it was his first career at-bat.
“Manny means so much to this team,” Jersey Village coach Robb Jensen said. “He’s with us every day at practice. His hustle is just awesome.”
Manny is Jersey Village's senior team manager Manny Zaragoza, who is known throughout the district for the enthusiasm of which Jensen speaks. He’s the one leading the cheers on game day. He’s the one playing catch with the left fielder when his team trots out to play defense. And he’s autistic.
“I’m sure he’d love the opportunity that we all have,” Jensen said. “He’s the most excited guy when we win. To watch a guy who just loves life keeps us all grounded.”
Thursday night Manny got that opportunity, and he hit a 1-1 pitch for an infield single.
“That place went crazy when he made contact,” Jensen said. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.”
Of course, as the team manager, Manny needed more than just his coach’s willingness to get to the plate on Senior Night. Cy Springs coach Scott Gierzak said it was an easy call, though.
“Before every game Manny comes and shakes my hand, says hello and we talk baseball,” Gierzak said. “In conversation with Manny and while observing Manny leading cheers during the game, it's easy to pick up on the fact that Manny has a passion for the game. To allow Manny to take part in the game he loves and contribute to his Falcon team was an honor and a privilege.”
To hear it from all involved, it was a moment that resonated not only with both coaches and the home fans, but with the Cy Springs crowd, the umpires, even the opposing team.
As Jensen concedes, the ball Manny hit appeared to be one on which the Panthers infielders could have made the play. He reached safely, though, and the courtesy runner that took his spot crossed the plate a few batters later to end the game by 10-run rule.
It was a win that combined with losses by two district rivals to clinch Jersey Village at least a tie for the final playoff spot. It was the 24th loss of the season for Springs. The moment that led off the fifth, though, was bigger than the result for either team.
“A few years down the road many people will not remember the score of the game,” Gierzak said, “but being part of Manny's moment was a win for all involved.”
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