OLD ORCHARD BEACH – On Monday, Sam Canales and Christian Martin of the Old Orchard Raging Tide baseball team were at the Jameson Elementary School for an end-of-the year assembly.
The next night, Canales was at third base as the Raging Tide beat the Pittsfield Suns 7-6 at The Ballpark.
Along with playing a 54-game schedule, the players perform community service. Canales and Martin are Bowdoin College teammates.
“We spoke to the kids and answered their questions,” said Canales, who lives in Saco and played at Thornton Academy.
“They wanted to know how far we can throw a ball. They wanted us to give them high-fives and we signed autographs. It was a lot of fun.”
In his second year with the team, Canales, an infielder, has become a regular. Through seven games he’s batting .368, second best on the team, and has made only one error.
“I’ve been seeing the ball well,” said Canales.
Last season, Canales said he got to play every three to four games. Last season helped him prepare for this season.
“Having another year under my belt at school has helped. I’m a better player than last year,” said Canales. “I have a better idea of what to expect.”
Over the last two seasons, Canales has had to adjust to the speed of the pitching and using wood bats in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.
“In college they throw in the mid-80s. In this league they touch 90. You have to make sure you sit on the fastball,” he said.
Against Pittsfield, Canales didn’t have to wait long to make a play. He fielded a high chop in the first inning and threw out the runner. Canales came to bat in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded, two outs and a run in. His grounder near second was fielded by the shortstop, who stepped on the bag for the force.
Canales calls playing for the Raging Tide his summer job.
“I’m not working so this is my job. We play six, sometimes seven days a week. We don’t have many days off,” he said.
Canales said his goals are to become a more consistent player so he can help Bowdoin win a NESCAC title next spring and make the Futures League all-star team. This spring he started 36 of 38 games for the Polar Bears (24-14) and hit .310.
Canales has his game-day routine down.
“I work out in the gym in the morning, go home, have lunch and get to the ballpark between 2:30 and 3 for extra hitting. On away games we have to be here at noon for the bus trip,” said Canales.
With the exception of living at home, Canales said, “It’s like being in the minor leagues.”
And what does he think of his chances to get drafted and play professionally?
“I think it’s a little far-fetched right now. I’m just trying to get better for next season at Bowdoin,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. If it’s in the cards, that would great. It’s the goal of every college baseball player and the dream of any kid growing up to play professional baseball.”
Canales is enjoying his second Raging Tide season and confident of the team’s chances.
“We have a different group of guys this season. The team is looser. The players like to get here early and put in the extra work,” he said.
The Raging Tide have a mix of Division I, II and III players. Those from away live with host families.
“It’s fun to play with players from different schools,” he said.
And is it fun be a hometown favorite?
“It’s awesome. I have friends who come to the games,” said Canales.
Besides Canales, the team has several other southern Maine players. They include Zach Collett, Westbrook/University of New Haven; Louis DiStasio, Cheverus/Rhode Island; Jeff Gelinas, Thornton Academy/University of Maine; Harry Ridge, Cheverus/Bowdoin; Joey Royer, Cheverus/University of New Haven; and Nick Whittaker, Yarmouth/St. Joseph’s College. Mekae Hyde, who played at Lewiston High and now plays for Bates College, is also on the team.
In addition to new players, the Raging Tide have a new manager in 30-year-old Chris Torres, who played in the Tiger and Cardinal organizations. Torres still had some baseball left in him but wanted to get into managing to follow in his late father’s footsteps. Victor Torres, who died in May, was a hitting instructor in the Giants’ minor league system.
“This is a great league to start my coaching career,” said Torres. “We have a good group of guys and Sam is one of the catalysts. He plays the game hard and is one of the fan favorites. I’ve been very impressed with him.”
Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at: