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New Diana dedicates baseball season to 'Sam'

By Hayden Henry
March 18, 2017 at 10:54 p.m.

New Diana head coach Bernie Martinez has some company while raking the field prior to a game against Elysian Fields on Friday in Diana.

DIANA — When New Diana head baseball coach Bernie Martinez fired up the side-by-side to rake the infield, the noise from the machine was like an ice cream truck blaring its music from around the corner to the kids wanting to ride along for the pregame duties.

An ice cream truck would've fit perfectly into the scene at Eagle Field on Friday as the grill sending its smells over the family-heavy ballpark tucked just off U.S. 259 in the small, baseball-rich town.

After just a few short months on the job, the Martinez family has come to know just how much family plays a part in Diana as the community has rallied around their newborn son, Sam.

"It's just been unbelievable," Martinez said. "When he was first born, they cooked us meals for like a month. We didn't have to cook at all.

"Much more than that, they have been constantly and consistently sending up prayers and comments on Facebook. It's been so encouraging to see those all of the time."

Sam was born Aug. 15 just as Martinez, a former Longview High School coach, and the Eagles were preparing for the upcoming football season. Sam has been diagnosed with C.H.A.R.G.E syndrome, Martinez said, a genetic disorder that affects many areas of the body that has resulted in several stints in the hospital over the past few months.

With their immediate family far away and having just made the move to a new town, Martinez said that they've received all the support they could've imagined, and then some.

"For our family, it's been huge," Martinez said after the Eagles took a 7-1 win on Friday. "Especially for my wife. She's from out of town and that support system is far away.

"With our friends and this community here, we've had so much support and that's helped lighten the load."

With the baseball season approaching and expectations high as ever for the Eagles, the team itself has rallied around Sam, dedicating their season to him.

On Martinez' Facebook page, a picture shows the team at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas. On their wrists in that photo are navy and gold armbands with Sam's name. Those same wristbands were worn on Friday.

"Over the years, we've dedicated our seasons to people that mean a lot to us, people that we've lost or people in the hospital," senior Tristan Swain, who came up with the idea of dedicating the season to Sam, said. "Sam, he's part of our family. Coach Martinez is our coach, so it was easy that this season was for Sam.

"It's our first year with him, but our bond has grown quick."

Once the season started and tournament play sent the Eagles throughout the area, Martinez praised his team for their ability to handle their coach making trips to the hospital as well as juggling a heavy schedule on the diamond. They've handled it all well as the Eagles are off to an 11-3 start to the season, including a 3-0 mark in District 16-3A action.

"It's been a challenge," Martinez said. "I had part of my family in Fort Worth and I had games here and I was back-and-forth.

"There was a lot of juggling, but everyone has been so great with it all. I was nervous about everyone managing the flexibility of me not being here some. Their maturity of handling everything has been huge."

New Diana, sitting along atop the 16-3A standings at 3-0, visits Ore City on Tuesday and hosts White Oak on Friday.

(Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: @hayden_h)

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