The high school baseball season was set to begin, but Weehawken standout slugger/pitcher David Strandberg was not a part of it.
Strandberg was battling an aching back that ailed him since November and remained throughout the basketball season.
“I tweaked the back somehow and never could get it right,” Strandberg said. “I didn’t get it checked. I thought I could live with it. I was told that I needed to correct my posture.”
However, Strandberg’s condition didn’t improve as the start of the baseball season approached.
“It was frustrating,” Strandberg said. “I really wanted to play.”
“I could tell he was frustrated,” Weehawken head coach Anthony Stratton said. “I was very concerned, because without Dave, we’re just an average team. We go from a possible 20-win team to perhaps a 12-win team. He hid his frustration well.”
So while the Indians began their season, Strandberg was relegated to the sidelines.
“He was keeping score and keeping the pitch count,” Stratton said. “He was cheering on his teammates. He did his best to keep in the game.”
Strandberg was visiting a physical therapist regularly to work on his injured back.
“I began to feel a little bit better,” Strandberg said. “I didn’t need clearance. It was all up to how I felt. I was starting to get a little worried that I might not come back. I was worried if my bat speed would be the same, whether my timing and my hitting would come.”
Last week, before the Indians faced Becton Regional, Strandberg felt good enough to play.
“I had to make up for the lost time,” Strandberg said.
In his first game, Strandberg had two hits in three at-bats in a Weehawken victory. On Saturday, the Indians faced Saddle Brook and it was more of the same, only this time, Strandberg had a little more authority.
Strandberg delivered two more hits, including a home run, and had four RBI in a 10-0 Weehawken victory.
On Tuesday, Strandberg took the mound for the first time this season. Limited to just 50 pitches, Strandberg struck out seven and walked none and allowed just two hits in a 8-0 win over North Arlington. Strandberg had two more hits and an RBI in the win.
For the week, Strandberg had six hits in 10 at-bats (a .600 clip) with a homer and six RBI.
For his efforts, Strandberg has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Stratton said that he was grateful that Strandberg was able to make it back.
“After last year, when he pitched against St. Peter’s Prep, everyone knows who he is,” Stratton said. “College coaches call me about Sal [Mendez, the Weehawken left-handed pitching ace] and I tell them we have a righty who is the same from the right hand side.”
Stratton doesn’t have to worry about the college recruiters making his life miserable. Strandberg has already committed to playing for the University of Rochester next fall.
“He doesn’t have to settle for a college,” Stratton said. “He can now just have fun playing baseball.”
“Not having a decision about where I’m going to school is a big relief,” Strandberg said. “I’m more relaxed. I felt very focused coming in to this season, since I’ve already decided about where I’m going.”
Stratton is convinced that the Indians will be a force to be reckoned with, now that Strandberg is back.
“We have that 1-2 punch that everyone fears,” Stratton said. “The team is a lot more confident with Dave back. David’s just an old school type player.”
Strandberg knows that another shutout victory at home is very eminent.
“We’ve all come a long way.” Strandberg said. “I feel like I’m back. This was definitely just a start for me. At first, I was a little upset that I couldn’t play early in the season, but I just kept getting better every day. I think the team is getting better every day. I do feel like I have to be the leader of this team.”
Stratton can’t say enough about Strandberg’s talents.
“He’s right up there with the best in the school’s history, no question,” Stratton said. “It’s his work ethic that puts him in another class. He’s a hard worker and he’s the leader of the team. We lost our vocal leader to graduation, so we had to have David become the vocal leader of this team. He can handle that. The kids respect him.”
Strandberg was the first to point out a significant fact about recent Athlete of the Week honorees.
“Last week, it was A.J. [Gale] and this week, it’s me,” Strandberg said. “So that means it’s back-to-back weeks the Athlete of the Week comes from High Tech.”
Both Gale and Strandberg attend High Tech in North Bergen.
“The athletic programs might be gone, but we survived,” Strandberg said. “It’s perfect.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.