Senior Eliel Martinez Settles In at FHS


Matt Bogdanoff, Staff Writer

Moving to a different school is already a challenge in itself. However, moving 1,200 miles from Puerto Rico to Tampa is a challenge no one is prepared to face.

Senior Eliel Martinez was tasked with overcoming this obstacle after Hurricane Irma swept through his hometown of Gurabo in Puerto Rico, leaving millions without homes and power.

“My house compared to others was not as damaged but at one point it was flooded with water up to my ankles”, said Martinez. “My neighbor had three pine trees and the wind blew them on top of my roof and patio.”

Everything in Puerto Rico was shut down, from schools to markets. After many difficult months of trying to rebuild, Martinez realized it was time for a move.

“My stepfather was living in Tampa and I wanted to finish my senior year so my mother and I flew to Tampa but she had to return to Puerto Rico a week later,” said Martinez. “It was difficult to leave my family in Gurabo, but they understood I wanted to finish high school and this was the only way.”

As he made the move to Freedom High School, Martinez still came across some difficulties.

“I only knew a little English when I first moved here so it was hard to try and learn what I was taught while also trying to understand what the teacher was saying,” said Martinez. “But as time passed classmates would help me and I adjusted.”

After a few weeks at Freedom, Martinez learned that Freedom had a baseball team and he saw an opportunity for him to fit in.

“Baseball is something that I’ve enjoyed since I was five years old,” said Martinez. “I believed I was talented enough to make the team and being new to the school, I thought it was a good way to meet some new people.”

At tryouts, Martinez impressed the coaching staff with his stellar defensive play in center field as well as his batting. He made the team and soon found himself emerging as the Patriots’ starting center fielder.

“Playing for the baseball team has been amazing,” said Martinez. “Our chemistry on and off the field is great. We care and support each other like brothers but as soon as we step on the field, we get down to business.  It’s something I’ve wanted since I was little.”

“Eliel’s the type of guy you want on your side,” said teammate Jeremy Carrick, 11. “He’s always going to have your back and give 100%. I think that’s a big reason why he’s been able to transition to Freedom so easily, he never gives up.”

While baseball is a career path he’d love to pursue, Martinez plans on going to college in Florida next year to major in business.