MERIDEN — Maloney baseball coach Ricky Marrero will have two college-bound catchers at his disposal this spring when the Spartans take the diamond.
Kam Hartenstein, Maloney’s starting catcher since his freshman year, has signed on with Division II Pace University in New York. Ted Haniewski, who played two years at Wilcox Tech before transferring to Maloney in his junior year, is lined up to played Division III ball at Saint Joseph’s College in Maine.
“It’s nice knowing we have two catchers that signed to play college baseball,” said Marrero.
Hartenstein is following in the footsteps of his older brother Kyle, who graduated Maloney in 2014 and went on to play at Mitchell College. In heading to Pace University, the younger Hartenstein follows in the footsteps of another Maloney catcher, Michael Gulino, also a 2014 grad.
“Kam is a special kid,” Marrero said. “He’s been starting at Maloney since he was a freshman and, as a 13-year old going on 14, he was calling varsity pitches. It’s tough to control a team as a freshman, but he’s been the backbone of our team during his duration here.
“Kam makes is really easy for a coach,” Marrero added. “He’s a good defensive catcher and has a good feel for the game. He has a strong arm and a big personality.”
Although Haniewski has yet to log an inning for the Spartans — the 2020 CIAC spring season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic — Marrero is familiar with the former Wilcox player. Marrero coached him at Lincoln Middle School.
“I (also) coached against him when he was a sophomore at Wilcox Tech and you to game plan around Ted,” Marrero noted. “We stole 56 bases that year and we only had two guys thrown out, and both were by Ted. It’s going to be good to have two quality catchers on the same team.”
Hartenstein and Haniewski both started playing at the age of 5 in tee ball — Hartenstein in Ed Walsh Little League, Haniewski in South Meriden Youth Baseball. The two have been teammates in Doug Wedge’s American Legion Post 45 program.
Haniewski was primarily a pitcher before high school. He’s become a catcher over the last five years. A right-handed slugger, he hits in the middle of the order.
The son of Edward and Kacy Haniewski, he will study Sports Management in college.
“I love playing baseball,” Haniewski said. “It’s a good feeling knowing that I have the ability to play at the next level.”
The climb to the collegiate ranks wasn’t always a steady one for Haniewski. After the death of his grandfather, he took a year off from baseball.
“It took a lot to get me back,” Haniewski said. “A few years ago, I was struggling and wasn’t having the best season and my parents pushed me through. They said if I quit I would regret it. I’m very happy I stuck it out.”
Haniewski transferred from Wilcox Tech to Maloney because he wanted to focus on going to college, rather than taking up a trade.
Haniewski did count Wilcox head coach Dave Cronin among his top baseball influences. He also cited Marrero, Gulino, his parents, Maloney Athletic Director Bob McKee, Wilcox Tech Athletic Director Steve Wodarski, the Post 45 coaching staff as well as the Maloney football staff.
Haniewski said his time in football helped with his work ethic.
“I’m team-first and I don’t care what my stats end up being, and I will put my body on the line for the win,” he said.
Marrero said Hartenstein and Haniewski will both catch. But both are also versatile players. Hartenstein is expected to be the Maloney closer this spring.
“It’s going to be fantastic having both,” Marrero said. “Both can call a game and set up a defense. I don’t have to worry if the pitcher is OK because they will tell me. It’s like having two coaches on the field.”
Both caught for Meriden Legion this summer and fall. Haniewski also played third base.
“Kam is a fantastic hitter,” Marrero said. “He’s a good left-handed bat. He’s big and strong and works extretmly hard. He’s a gym rat. You have to throw him out of the cage. He will take 200 to 300 swings a day.
“He’s got good power. He’s a gap-to-gap hitter and has the ability to go the other way. He’s hard to pitch to and is going to have a great senior season.”
Hartenstein, the son of Keith and Melissa Hartenstein, said playing college baseball means everything to him.
“Baseball has been my passion since I was 5,” Hartenstein said. “My brother played college baseball and I wanted to keep that tradition going. We have a brotherly rivarly. I was always trying to be better than my big brother.”
Along with suiting up for Post 45, Hartenstein played travel ball with the Connecticut Rivals. On that team, he played against squads from all over the Northeast.
Hartenstein caught the eye of Pace while playing for the Rivals in a tournament at Manhanttanville College. The Pace coaching staff then saw a video of Hartenstein this fall and followed up with Gulino, who was a three-time All-Northeast 10 Conference player in his time at Pace.
“Mike talked to the coach for me and gave me a good word and that was pretty much it,” Hartenstein said.
Hartenstein, who will study Criminal Justice, has always been a catcher.
“Initially, I liked the look of the gear and not many other kids wanted to catch,” Hartenstein said. “I love it. It’s physically demanding and I’m the quarterback of the baseball diamond. I control the pitcher. In most cases, I controll the game and what goes on. My main goal is being a leader. I’m very vocal.”
Hartenstein has improved on his ability to throw out baserunners. He also hits No. 2 or No. 3 in the order.
“It’s going to be a fun spring,” Hartenstein said.