By Will LeBlond
Just five years ago, Ithaca High School freshman Holden Lazarus was learning the game of baseball from his grandfather, but his acclimation to the sport has been rapid.
It did not take him long to excel at the plate and on the mound in the sport, as the man that showed him the way helped instill a passion for the game.
“He taught me it, so it’s the sport I learned to love,” said Lazarus.
Not long after Lazarus had learned the ropes, he started to play on big stages with a great young group of talent in the Ithaca area. The highlight for his middle school playing career came in the summer of 2015 when he starred on the Ithaca Inlet Monsters 13-under team.
That squad had a magical summer that included a Western New York State Championship and a berth in the Babe Ruth World Series. While the team was unable to advance past pool play in the tournament, they were still the first team from Ithaca to advance to the Babe Ruth World Series and Lazarus was named to the all-tournament team.
“That was crazy,” said Lazarus. “That was a very fun year, it was one of the best experiences.”
Lazarus tucked that memory away and now, a few years later, he has joined a pair of his old Inlet Monsters teammates, Noel Foster and Gil Merod, on the Ithaca High varsity team. Even though the three are similarly aged, Lazarus is the youngest of the three and he is the only freshman on the entire Little Red roster, but that has not slowed him down.
“It’s a lot of fun actually,” said Lazarus on being the young buck of the Little Red. “The team and I have known each other for a long time, so it’s not too far out of the ordinary.”
The familiarity with his teammates has helped him quite a bit so far during his freshman campaign. Entering play on May 8, Lazarus led the team in home runs (2), runs batted in (13), hits (19) and batting average (.442) and was also the team’s leader in wins with four, as his rookie season has been seamless at the plate and on the mound.
From playing against kids his size and age to competing against far bigger and older high school competition, Lazarus has spent countless hours honing his craft to make sure he can hang with the big boys
“It takes a lot of practice,” said Lazarus. “You have to stay focused and you have to treat it like it’s something you have to do.”
He has been able to watch a veteran group of players at practice, with six seniors and a roster that is hungry for a deep trip in the sectional tournament. After a few years of knocking on the door being competitive come postseason time, this Little Red team has seen quite the transition.
The team got off to an 8-4 start to the season and already has plenty of memorable moments, including a 24-hour span where they enjoyed a pair of walk-off victories. It started on the afternoon of April 28 when Lazarus smashed a three-run home run to right field against Union-Endicott, then the team came back on the following morning when Jack Salmon’s RBI single capped off the craziness at IHS’s Tatascore Field.
“That was fantastic,” said Lazarus. “It was one of the best moments of my baseball career.”
Lazarus and the rest of the Little Red are now prepping for the Class AA Section IV tournament, as their postseason run will begin this week.