'Old-school' Cima contributes in big way for Seton Hill
When Seton Hill baseball coach Marc Marizzaldi calls catcher Mike Cima “old-school,” he's talking about more than just the Penn-Trafford graduate's playing style.
Instead, Marizzaldi is talking about Cima's willingness to wait for his opportunity to contribute.
For three seasons, Cima served as a role player for the Griffins as older, more experienced players held down the starting jobs at catcher and third base.
When the time did come for Cima to step up into a bigger role, he did so in fine fashion. The catcher batted .364 for the Griffins during his senior season, finishing with 11 home runs and 54 runs batted in — both good for the second-best marks on the team. The Griffins (42-17) ended the season one win shy of the NCAA Division II World Series in Cary, N.C.
“It was kind of like the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,” Cima said. “We walked away from (the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) Tournament with a bit of confidence about us, had a good week and a half of practice and went to the regional tournament, came out hot there and felt supremely confident.
“(We) ran into some misfortunes, and (it was) kind of a heartbreaking way to go out, especially to end a career. But I wouldn't trade it. I had a great time with my teammates.”
Cima was named to the All-WVIAC second team after the season, an honor that came about only after three years as a role player.
In his first three seasons at Seton Hill, Cima appeared in 44 games, with 15 starts. In 71 combined at-bats, he hit .254 with three home runs and 18 RBI.
Despite the lack of playing time, Cima said he didn't get discouraged — instead opting to learn from the more experienced players in front of him.
“(Disappointment) comes through your mind sometimes,” he said. “But when you play for a good team, a quality baseball team, you've got to just sit back and enjoy the good baseball in front of you sometimes and just know that your number will be called and you'll have an opportunity to prove yourself. I feel when those opportunities presented themselves to me, I was able to stay committed to what I wanted to do.”
Marizzaldi said that type of attitude is becoming rare among younger baseball players in recent years.
“It's getting tougher and tougher each year to find kids that say: ‘Hey, I'm going to come there. I know I'm not going to play, but I know I'm going to win and get better,'” Marizzaldi said. “That doesn't draw kids in like it used to.
“And that's where Mike's kind of an old-school type of player. He'll come in and work and work and work. He doesn't make it all about him and his chances, but more about being part of the team's success.”
With a starting job up for grabs for his senior season, Cima said he worked hard in the offseason to get his body ready for the grind of playing a full season.
And it was a grind: Cima started 50 games as the Griffins' No. 1 catcher in 2013.
“I wasn't exactly used to that amount of wear and tear, but I tried to muscle through it,” Cima said. “I got through it with a little bit of help. It was definitely a different monster there, catching 40-plus games this year.”
At the plate, Cima batted in the cleanup spot, behind All-American Nick Sell, who led the team in batting average, home runs and RBI this season.
Marizzaldi said it was a risk putting an untested player behind Sell, but it worked out for his team.
“That put a lot of pressure on Cima, knowing he was hitting behind a guy like that,” Marizzaldi said. “But the numbers tell the story of how successful he was. I wish I could tell you we expected that from him, but we really didn't know. We thrust him into a pretty important spot in the lineup, and he did a great job.”
Cima graduated this spring and plans to attend graduate school for epidemiology. Despite the way this season ended, he said he “wouldn't have traded my four years here for anywhere in the world.”
“(We have a) great group of guys, great coach in Maz and great community as well,” he said. “(It was a) great place to go to school. I just enjoyed every second of my four years there.”