Big Train’s Championship Foundation Built with Returning Players

by Ian Domeika

Experience in summer league baseball is hard to come by. New rosters get filled out every year, and players on their journey to the major leagues find different homes to take their talents. 


Luckily for the Bethesda Big Train, eight players from 2023’s championship roster are back this year to continue developing their skills, and hopefully take home the team’s second consecutive championship. Junior Max Martzolf out of Florida Atlantic is beginning his second campaign with the team after recording twenty-two strikeouts for the Owls. For him, it was a no-brainer to return. 


“Coach Sal and Coach Lopez had enough confidence in me, to come do my thing and I appreciate them for having me back so I can play the game I love,” said Martzolf.   


Six out of the eight returners this year are pitchers, helping support a cast of twenty guys who will be tossing the ball for the Big Train this year. 


One of those returning pitchers, Sophomore Kevin Scully from James Madison, attributed the closeness of the returning pitchers to some of the early success the team is having. “I think with the decent amount of returners this year, we started bonding, and people really just joined in, especially on the pitching side.” 


The team's chemistry has been something many of the players have been noticingMartzolf recognized the tight-knit environment of the team, saying, “We already clicked right away, and I think this team is going to be a lot more successful, given we won the championship last year, but I think this team is going to be able to stay hot and never take our foot off the gas.” 


However, living up to expectations won’t be easy. A championship weekend sweep last year sets a lofty precedent for the team, but Martzolf is sure that they will be ready come postseason play. 

“We just have to keep playing the game we know how to play. It starts with the first pitch, and until that last out is made we need to just never stop playing baseball.” 


The experience had at Shirley Povich field is one that none of the returners are taking for granted. Junior Jack Robinson couldn’t wait to be back in Bethesda for this season after a great year for Roanoke College, where he posted a 3.95 ERA with nineteen strikeouts. 


“Last year was a lot of fun, I mean we won it all last year, plus good competition all the way around with these heavy hitter schools’ people are playing on, and I feel like everyone on this team just has fun.” 


Robinson shared similar sentiments with his teammates about how close the squad is this year, mentioning, “We are becoming one as a team quicker than last year, it’s a lot easier to talk to this team, no one's really shyI think a lot of guys are really looking to get something out of this, they want to improve themselves, and learn as much as they can.”   


The team's key leaders are looked up to by the first-year guys on the roster, but they don’t really feel out of their element stepping into a leadership role. 


“We definitely know the dos and don’ts of this team, especially from a pitching standpoint, I think the new guys definitely rely on us as leaders to just set an example for them, especially when they go out and pitch. We just tell them to go out and play the game that they know how to play.” Martzolf explained, “It’s definitely a good feeling knowing that we can talk to anybody on this team and know that they are going to go out and show it.” 


Having a steady presence in the bullpen has helped the team amidst a somewhat shaky start to the season. 


“Everyone is just going to do what they want to do and maintain focus throughout the game. Of course, no one has really taken charge of anybody, I think it's more of letting people know, especially us returners, we let the guys know what happens, how Sal wants pitchers to go in the game, and what he usually expects and how the organization expects us to win,” Robinson said, crediting more of the team's collaborative nature. 


Winning is what the Big Train does best, and the returners know it well, coming off last year’s Cal Ripken Jr. League victory over the Alexandria Aces. There’s a lot of season left, but with the strong veteran presence riddled throughout this year’s roster, The Big Train has all the tools to raise championship gold once again.