Multi-sport athlete Will Ratelle of St. Thomas Academy.
It’s early, but the St. Thomas Academy baseball season already has been sprinkled with surprises — and the first stunner of the season was that a fall dodgeball injury (yes, dodgeball) had taken their No. 2 pitcher, A.J. Reid, off the mound for the entire season.
But in many ways, that revelation led to another surprise — the three sophomore pitchers called up in tryouts.
“This season has not been what I expected,” coach Paul Weinberg said. “It’s really tough to come back when one of your main guns goes down. But each [sophomore] has pitched and done very well.”
The threesome, righthanders Houston Droel and Dan Baer and lefty Alex Noel, all played junior varsity last season, and Weinberg hadn’t seen them at all before tryouts. What he saw then — and more importantly since — has impressed him.
“I didn’t think they’d have the velocity they have now for their age,” said Weinberg, who said he hasn’t put them to a speed gun, yet. “They’ve very composed. ... Some kids are just born with fastballs, but they can’t pitch. These kids know how to hit their spots.”
It’s a good thing for St. Thomas (2-3), which has been struggling in other areas. Without Reid, the team has only one pitcher with much experience — ace Will Ratelle. Offensively, they had been completely flat until a 14-1 victory over Henry Sibley on Thursday.
“I thought we would struggle pitching-wise, but the bats have just been nonexistent,” Weinberg said before the outburst.
But the Cadets’ troubles really started back in October, when Reid pounded an opponent in a school dodgeball tournament with half the power the righthander uses from the mound. Yes, he got the guy out — but in doing so, he tore a ligament in his throwing shoulder. He didn’t realize anything was wrong until the next day, while tailgating before a football game, he tossed a football and watched the pigskin flop only 10 feet ahead.
“It felt like someone was jamming a knife into my shoulder,” Reid said, “but first I didn’t think anything of it. I thought I was just tired.”
But a month later, when the pain didn’t subside, Reid had a magnetic resonance imaging exam. He could have elected for surgery, but the three-month recovery period would have forced him to miss his hockey season — Reid was a standout for STA’s Class 1A title team — so he decided to postpone it.
Instead, Reid has taken a spot in left field (he played some center field last season), which can still be painful, but it’s bearable.
“Honestly, he wants to play out there, and he doesn’t mind a little pain,” Weinberg said.