PLEASANTVILLE — Alejandro Rosado changed Matt Zachariades’ mind with one swing.
Zachariades wasn’t sure if he wanted to coach the Pleasantville High School baseball team.
He attended an early-season game two years ago and watched then-Greyhounds freshman Rosado swing the bat.
“I was like, ‘This kid has talent,’” Zachariades said. “It was the way he swung the bat. Once I saw his talent, I told myself I needed to coach the team.”
Last season, Zachariades took over a Pleasantville baseball program that has struggled for years. It was just three years ago the Greyhounds lost a game 52-3. Pleasantville finished 5-13 last season, but the Greyhounds are optimistic as the 2019 season begins.
Rosado and senior Sleiter Suriel could emerge as two of the Cape-Atlantic League’s better players this spring.
Before his freshman year, Rosado thought about attending a high school with a tradition of baseball success.
“But then I thought, ‘Why can’t I come to Pleasantville and change the culture?’ ” he said. “I feel like recognition can come wherever you are if you play how you’re supposed to play.”
Rosado’s strength is his versatility. The junior plays just about every position in the field and pitches. Suriel plays center field and pitches.
At a Thursday practice, the duo’s natural ability was evident. Suriel easily glided after flyballs in the outfield. Rosado gobbled up ground balls in the infield.
Rosado batted .482 last season and played in the Carpenter Cup, a tri-state high school all-star competition run by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rosado grew up in Pleasantville and Atlantic City, and he’s played baseball for as long as he can remember. His father, Jose, played in Puerto Rico.
“I always forced my dad to go in the backyard to pitch to me after he came home from work,” Rosado said. “My mom always told me that I had the bat and the ball ready for him.”
Rosado and Suriel played Little League baseball together in Atlantic City. Suriel played his freshman season at Atlantic City before moving to the Dominican Republic. He and his family returned to South Jersey last spring. Rosado urged Suriel to come to Pleasantville after seeing on social media he was coming back to the United States.
“Having him as a teammate is amazing,” Rosado said. “I kept asking him and asking him and asking him to come to Pleasantville.”
The speedy Suriel runs the 60-yard dash in 6.5 seconds.
“It’s very rare,” Zachariades said, “to watch someone run as fast as he does and throw as far as he does.”
Zachariades teaches math at Pleasantville and is in his second season as coach. He grew up in Egg Harbor Township and played four years of baseball at St. Augustine Prep, where he graduated in 2010.
St. Augustine is one of the state’s best baseball programs. Zachariades says it was an adjustment coaching the Greyhounds. In an early-season game last year, a Pleasantville player walked, took off his helmet and placed it on home plate for the next hitter to use before running to first base. That was what players in neighborhood leagues do because equipment is scarce.
“It was something I’ve never seen before,” Zachariades said. “It was definitely rough at the beginning.”
But now, the baseball team hopes to be a part of a Pleasantville sports resurgence. The football team made the South Jersey Group II semifinals in the fall. The boys basketball team won 20 games this past winter for the first time in at least 19 years. The baseball team wants to build on that energy. Pleasantville hopes to contend for the CAL United Division title and qualify for the S.J. Group II playoffs.
“People think we’re going to be like we’ve been in the past years,” Suriel said. “But we’re going to surprise them.”