More than many other sports, baseball, America’s original national pastime, carried a father-son theme. Heck, many movies have featured this as their main storyline.
In the DiMartino house in Huguenot, it still resonates strongly.
It starts with dad John, who passed on his love and knowledge of the game to his first born and namesake and continues to emanate from his youngest – Nicky.
The family business is throwing – and they’ve all excelled at it.
The sporting success of the DiMartino clan was not limited to men, however.
Lauren, Christine and John’s middle child, didn’t lack talent genes either. The soft-shooting guard scored his 1,000th point as a junior at St. Joseph Hill and despite a serious injury that limited him as a senior, finished with 1,379 points – sixth-best at Arrochar School and in the top 40 in Staten Island. all-time list of nearly 150.
John and Lauren have since moved on to college, leaving high school center stage to their “little” brother – a commandeered Nicky with a dazzling Oscar-like performance as a junior.
And as the CHSAA league season is about to begin, the senior St. Joseph by-the-Sea is the No. 1 high school must-see attraction. He was that good last season.
How good is this?
For starters, in 41 total innings of work, he hasn’t given up an earned run. That’s not a typo… his ERA was 0.00 for the whole season!
DiMartino was 6-0 overall with one save, allowing just under four hits per start while striking out 47 and walking just 12 with a 0.98 WHIP in 10 appearances.
It all helped the Vikings and first-year head coach Nelson Ortiz win the CHSAA Archdiocese Championship, the school’s first title since winning the Intersectional crown in 2010 under manager of legendary trainer Gordon Rugg.
How Nicky became the pitcher he became is the story behind the success.
father to son
It starts with his father and his pedigree.
John went to Williamsport with the South Little League 12-year-old stars in 1985 as the team finished seventh. He was also on staff for the South Shore Babe Ruth League team that won the All-Star World Series Championship 17-18 in 1990 during his days as a quality pitcher at Tottenville HS. He had more success at Brooklyn College and LIU. But perhaps his name is more synonymous with excellence than anyone else on the sandy grounds of Staten Island, primarily for Brothers Pastries.
The old-school right-hander turns 50 in October, but he hasn’t stopped throwing or winning as he competes in New Jersey’s 30-plus league and 40-plus loop on the island, and if Brothers reaches out, he always answers the call.
It is his recipe for success that he passed down from father to son.
The art of the pitch
John taught his sons proper pitching mechanics first and foremost, of course. It’s his belief that bad mechanics are what cause arm injuries, not too much pitching. As a result, Nicky has never been shy about throwing – a lot – since the day he first hit the rubber at the age of 6-7.
“He taught me everything I know and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him,” Nicky said. “If I failed, I knew we would discuss what I had done wrong and what I could do to succeed. And he always trusted me enough to put me back in that situation at the next opportunity. That way, I wouldn’t be afraid to fail.
That being said, there is a lot more to the art of throwing than good mechanics and throwing a lot. There is the How? ‘Or’ What. And a lot of baseball purists think the saber metric guys are too hung up on speed and spin rates and the like. to recognize when an athlete understands how to throw – how to get people out, how to win.
John instilled all of his keys in his sons. Talk to Dad and Nicky separately and there’s no hesitation. It is one voice.
“The most important thing is Strike 1,” Nicky said. “I try to throw fast and contact, let the defense make plays and avoid walks at all costs. If I do that, I’ll keep my countdown, stay in matches longer, and be able to pitch again sooner.
Nicky has an impressive arsenal, even if he didn’t hit 90 plus on the radar gun. “He’s got a good two-seam fastball, articulation curve and devastating slider and he can put those throws where he wants, when he wants,” Ortiz said. “Hitters can’t sit on any pitch because he can throw anything at any time, regardless of the number.”
The mental part
“Dad always insisted on keeping the mental side of the game under control,” Nicky said. “You lose your temper, everything falls apart, your mechanics go and everything breaks down.”
Ortiz speaks enthusiastically of Nicky’s knowledge of the game, her attention to detail, and, oh yes, her tenacity.
“He knows the game, studies hitters, takes notes on opponent tendencies,” Ortiz noted. “Besides, he’s a player, a bulldog and there’s no way to intimidate him. He always keeps his emotions in check.
Everything about him is quite familiar to the Viking Mentor.
“I watched DiMartino’s three men pitch,” he said, “and everything is the same, the mechanics, the repertoire, the demeanor and the will to succeed. It’s like watching the same person – a real family affair.
The championship season
Ironically, Nicky followed in his brother John’s footsteps and signed up with Monsignor Farrell (John was part of the Lions Intersectional Championship team in 2017). He pitched on the Lions freshman team and was brought up to the JV for the playoffs. Then CoVid wiped out its sophomore year. It was then that he decided to transfer to Sea where his cousins and all his South Shore Little League buddies were playing. That was where his “baseball” family was.
“We had a good deep team,” Ortiz said, “but he put us over the top.”
The Vikings started the year 1-3 before what Ortiz calls his “four aces poker hand” rolled the team (they finished 21-5-2). By the time the playoffs began, however, “DiMo had taken over,” he said.
He threw a hit in a 5-0 win over Iona Prep in his first start, then allowed two hits in a 3-1 six-inning, 90-pitch win over St. Raymond’s to propel Sea into the league match at Maimonides. Park at Coney Island – home of Brooklyn’s cyclones.
Three days later, guess who was back on the mound?
“He wanted the ball,” Ortiz said.
Of course he did.
“I love having it,” Nicky said. “I’m used to these situations. I don’t think there’s any pressure, it’s just that the coach trusts me to do the job.
He needed just 79 pitches (he struck out eight and walked one) for the seventh-seeded Vikings to earn their sixth straight road playoff win – a 3-0 victory over Kennedy. Catholic for the title.
Sea was hit hard by graduation, but with a JV Championship replenishing the roster and three of the aforementioned aces returning, Ortiz and the Vikings will be tough as they try to repeat as Archdiocesan champions and have the chance to compete for the intersectional crown as well (it didn’t happen in 2021).
DiMartino will attempt to replicate the SI Baseball Oldtimers Pitcher of the Year award he also won as a junior. If he does, he will become only the fifth player to win the prestigious award twice and the third pitcher. John Baggs of Tottenville, a teammate of Nicky’s father was the first pitcher, and Nick Pavia of Sea was the other.
“Obviously I can’t control the results,” said Nicky, who committed to Felician University in New Jersey, “but I will do my part, I will throw hard and I will try to do the same things. than a year ago.”