Bradley Melzer considers himself fortunate to be playing for Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School’s varsity baseball team, laying the groundwork for a new generation of players he hopes to inspire.
A team captain and four-year starter, Melzer had considered suiting up for perennial area high school powers such as Gilman or St. Paul’s. But the Pikesville native felt there was more room for growth at Beth Tfiloh — where he attended the lower and middle school — despite BT not boasting a reputation as an athletic powerhouse.
In part, he wanted to create his own legacy — away from the shadows of the area’s other top talent — and to put the Warriors’ baseball program on the map.
“I think at one of those other schools, I would have just been one of the fish in the pond,” Melzer said. “But at Beth Tfiloh, being that big fish, I think that has taught me more than I would have been able to learn had I played anywhere else. I’ve really learned to be a leader.”
Throughout his time with the team, Melzer, a senior, has worked to improve and maximize his talent at the plate and on the mound. That work ethic has perhaps never been more apparent for the three-time all-Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference selection than this season.
Zac Sigler, BT’s third-year head coach, said Melzer possesses a team-first approach that makes his teammates much more confident in themselves to win every time they take the field. Melzer operates essentially as an on-field coach, Sigler added.
“He’s just someone who has never-ending hustle,” Sigler said. “We have a lot of kids here who maybe didn’t play baseball until high school or late in middle school, and Brad has always been willing to teach them the little things and the basics. His attitude is infectious, which is something we are really going to miss next year.”
For as much as the Warriors will miss Melzer for his mentoring skills after he graduates this spring, they will also miss the physically imposing 6-foot-2, 205-pounder for his steady on-field production.
“He definitely has this certain presence about him whenever he steps onto the field,” said Brady Greenberg, a sophomore outfielder. “There’s just a bunch of great energy that rushes through our veins, because we know he’s going to hit the ball hard or dominate on the mound.”
Through six games, Melzer, primarily playing shortstop, boasts a team-high .615 batting average and .772 on-base percentage with six doubles, four RBIs and nine runs scored.
As good a hitter as he is, Melzer is in his natural element as a pitcher. The self-described “crafty” right-hander, whose repertoire includes a four-seam and two-seam fastball, a changeup, a curveball and a slider, boasts a 1-1 record with 15 strikeouts in two starts spanning 10 innings.
“I try not to think about the individual numbers too much,” Melzer said. “If they are there, that’s great, but I want to win. I’ll do anything I can do to help Beth Tfiloh win. That’s my top focus.”
While his time at BT is coming to an end — Melzer will depart the team after its April 27 game for the school’s annual senior trip to Poland and Israel — his playing days are far from finished.
Melzer is in the process of deciding whether to play at Division III schools Franklin & Marshall College or Washington College. He expects to make a final decision within the next week.
Regardless of which school he chooses, Melzer said he will do whatever the coaches ask of him, whether it means giving up pitching or being a position player, for the betterment of the team.
“If I can, I would love to both play the field and pitch, but that probably won’t happen,” Melzer said of his college baseball plans. “You have two different workout regimens, which is tough. Whatever I can do to play and contribute the most at that next level is more than fine with me.”
Before he gets that chance, Melzer will continue sharpening his skills with the Putty Hill Panthers, a premier local baseball club he has been involved with since age 12.
But for now, Melzer is doing his best not to look too far down the line. He organized a team practice over BT’s break for Passover to ensure neither he nor his teammates would lose a beat when they return from the long layoff on April 20.
The Warriors, sitting in sixth place in the highly competitive nine-team MIAA C Conference with a 2-4 record, hope that extra work with their team leader pays dividends when the postseason rolls around in mid-May. BT has not won a league championship in nine years and has posted just two winning seasons since, most recently in 2011.
“I think we all are always trying to learn something from him,” said senior pitcher/infielder Sammy Spern, who has played the last four years with Melzer. “No matter what, he’s always there for us, to help us and to give us little tips here and there that go a long way in helping us improve.”
For his part, Melzer would get no greater satisfaction than seeing the team’s younger guard build on the example he has set.
“I want the guys to pick up the slack and lead this team to a prosperous future,” Melzer said. “I really want to get to that point where spring season isn’t just about lacrosse when you think about the face of sports at Beth Tfiloh.”