Family Guide 2023-2024

18 The Best of Monterey Bay® Family 2023-2024 Play Ball! When it comes to youth sports, should kids specialize or take part in them all? By Jeff Mendelsohn I t’s an age-old debate among parents of promising young athletes: play all the sports depending on the season, or focus on only one. While there are differences of opinion on which approach is the right one, the point is largely moot for most, as only a fraction of a percentage of young athletes advance past high school competition. But for the select few who do have the talent to play at the next level, the debate of whether or not to play all sports has found a clear majority. “For me, there is no doubt that it’s better for young athletes to play multiple sports,” says Gina Martorella. “I encouraged all of my kids to play seasonal sports, rather than focus on just one.” Martorella’s approach seemed to work, as all three of her children advanced to the collegiate level. Her oldest, Kyle Martorella, played football at Humboldt State. Her daughter, Marie, is currently a freshman softball player at Santa Clara, and her younger son, Nathan, played college baseball for UC Berkeley and is currently in the San Diego Padres farm system. “While it was obvious from an early age that Nathan’s future was going to be in baseball, I still encouraged him to continue to play football,” she explains. Despite having already signed with Cal on a baseball scholarship, Nathan, a decorated all-league football player for Salinas High School, continued to lace them up on the gridiron. Surprisingly, his future coaches at Cal were in full support of the decision. “As an athletic trainer myself, I believe it’s important to keep a balanced approach,” says Martorella, who was also the head softball coach at SHS for several years. “So I wasn’t surprised when the Cal coaches were supportive of (Nathan) playing football.” It worked out for Nathan, who went on to a decorated baseball career in Berkeley before signing with the Padres in 2022. He’ll open this season in high class-A ball in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The multi-sport approach also worked out well for another local baseball product. Ryan Jensen, a firstround draft pick of the Chicago Cubs, was also a multi-sport standout for the Salinas High Cowboys. But it was obvious that baseball was the sport that would take Jensen the farthest. Left: Nathan Martorella played both baseball and football in high school and continued as a two-sport athlete in college. He is now in the San Diego Padres farm system. Above: Ryan Jensen is now a pitcher at the Chicago Cubs’ class-A affiliate. He was a multi-sport star at Salinas High. Below: Marie Martorella now plays college softball at Santa Clara.