By MANNY NAVARRO
A special pre-game ceremony to honor the back-to-back 2001-2002 state championship baseball teams from Hialeah High will take place at Alex Fernandez Field in Hialeah Monday night.
Former T-Breds coach Rich Bielski, who still teaches math at Hialeah, said he expects more than 10 former players on those teams including All-Star pitcher Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals to participate in the festivities. Hialeah will then take on rival Hialeah-Miami Lakes at 7 p.m. in the season-opener for both teams.
"It's going to be really neat to see all those guys again," said Bielski, now the coach at Archbishop McCarthy in Broward, a program he lead to consecutive Class 4A state titles last summer.
"Those years at Hialeah just become more precious as time goes by. To see them now as successful adults with families of their own is really special."
Those championship teams featured 11 players that went on to play collegiate baseball, seven of which were drafted and four that played in the pros according to former Hialeah assistant Hector Aguila. Three former players on those teams now serve as assistant coaches in Dade and Broward.
"Those state championship teams were made up of some real good kids that have created lifelong friendships among them as well as with us," said Aguila, now a cooperative education teacher at HML. "We're similar to the '72 Fins, we try to get together at least once a year to relive those two magical years."
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
> Bielski, who joined Rich Hofman (Westminster Christian, Westimster Academy) and Gary Krey (Hialeah-Miami Lakes) as the only high school baseball coaches to serve in Dade and win at least four state championships, was named National Coach of the Year this past year by USA Today and Baseball America. His team at McCarthy was named National Champions by four different publications.
> Aguila, who served as a scout for three years with the San Francisco Giants, said he is now "a full time little league dad and enjoying it very much."
> Asst. Carlos Marti, who was Bielski's successor for six years at Hialeah, is now a scout for the New York Yankees and continues to teach Social Studies at Hialeah High.
> Asst. Raul Torres is no longer involved in baseball, but has become a successful entrepreneur with his business Highline Auto Transport, Inc. in Weston.
> Pitcher Camilo Vazquez, a First Team All-State selection and MVP of the two state title teams, was a fourth round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds and played pro ball out of high school. Camilo had a bumpy pro career filled with injuries. After having Tommy John Surgery, he was able to reach Triple A ball in 2008. But he suffered another setback which required a second Tommy John Surgery, which he opted not to do and just retire. He is presently working in the import/export business but has also developed a partnership and established an sub-agency representing baseball players under MLB agent Scott Shapiro.
> Pitcher Gio Gonzalez transferred to Monsignor Pace as a senior, but was a member of three teams that went to state at Hialeah. The 38th overall selection (sandwich pick between the 1st and 2nd round) in the 2004 draft by the White Sox, Gonzalez earned his first All-Star selection last season in Oakland. He is 38-32 with a career 3.93 ERA in the big leagues.
> Outfielder Yahmed Yema, a First Team All-State selection, went on to become a star at FIU where he was later drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the seventh round in 2005. His professional highlight was getting to play with the big league team in spring training. A persistent ankle injury forced him to retire. Yema is now a police officer in Miramar.
> Catcher/designated hitter Jorge Mico, who made First Team All-State in 2002, went on to play at Palm Beach Community College and starred at Bethune Cookman. He currently serves as a private hitting instructor.
> Catcher Chris Lopez was sixth round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays and played pro ball out of high school. After being released, he signed on with the independant league Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, whom he currently plays for. Lopez is currently starring in Country Music Television's reality show Sweet Home Alabama.
> First baseman Jeffery Rodriguez went on to play Nova Southeastern University. He is now a lawyer. He and former teammate Camilo Vazquez have established an sub-agency representing baseball players under MLB agent Scott Shapiro.
> First baseman Eugenio "Cookie" Abay has served as an assistant coach at Archbishop McCarthy under Bielski for four the last four years. He went through the police academy at Miami-Dade College and is currently a substitute teacher and baseball camp instructor at State Champs Baseball Camp.
> Third baseman Alex Rodriguez, a First Team All-State Selection, played at St. Thomas University and also earned his degree. He is currently a Social Studies teacher at North Miami Beach High School and also serves as an assistant baseball coach.
> Pitcher Raudel Alfonso played at the University of Miami out of high school and went on to transfer to both Miami Dade Community College and St. Thomas University to finish off his baseball career. He earned multiple degrees and now works in finance.
> Pitcher Javier Castellanos went on to play baseball at Harvard University and earned his degree. He now works in finance.