NORTON SHORES – Aaron Piasecki was having one of the best pitching performances of his young baseball career last spring against rival Reeths-Puffer when he suddenly felt a pop in his arm.
The Mona Shores baseball standout immediately knew something was wrong and later received an MRI that brought back devastating news for the up-and-coming prospect for the Sailors. Piasecki suffered an 80 percent tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and would need surgery to repair the damaged ligament in his throwing arm.
“I was in a brace for six weeks and that was the hardest part,” Piasecki said. “I could not do anything except sit around and watch baseball. I came out to a few of our fall ball games, so it was nice to see some of my friends playing, but that’s all I could really do. It was really frustrating to not be able to play baseball.
“The physical therapy really started going shortly after that. I was going to PTX (Physical Therapy) in Spring Lake twice a week and just basically worked on getting my range of motion back. Around month four, I stopped doing that and started getting into my throwing progression and that went well. ”
Piasecki endured mentally as his physical condition began to improve and ultimately made it back in time to start off his senior season with the Sailors. In order to safeguard Piasecki from potentially reinjuring his arm, Mona Shores coach Brandon Bard moved Piasecki to second base.
“My main concern as his coach is not to push him too hard or put him in a position where he might re-injure himself,” Bard said. “We were hoping to eventually put him at shortstop again but he’s doing really well at second base and that position won’t put him in a situation where he has to field a deep groundball and have to make a strong throw across his body every game . I’m sure he could do that, but I do not want to put him in that position right now. Mason (Brunworth) is playing phenomenal at shortstop for us, so there’s no need to change things. ”
It came as no surprise to anyone that Piasecki immediately took over the position and made it his own in a hurry.
“In the first game, I got the first out at second base and I think that was a good confidence booster for me,” Piasecki said. “It was a good milestone for me because I had played shortstop my whole life until last year, so it felt good to make the first defensive play and really trust my instincts again.
“It was an awesome feeling. After I made that first out on defense it just kind of felt like all that hard work really paid off because I could play baseball again. I definitely appreciated being able to play again after not being able to do a lot of things for five or six months. ”
A serious arm injury during the heat of most baseball players’ prime for college recruiting could have
been a death knell for Piasecki’s future aspirations with the game he loves but his rapid recovery from the UCL injury landed him a spot on the Kellogg Community College baseball team next season.
“I think it’s definitely a blessing in disguise. Kellogg (Community College) is a great place. Diego (Pena) is going there as well, and they are ranked No. 5 in the nation right now for junior colleges. They’ve got a great program and their coach (Eric Laskovy) has been there for 20 years and won a bunch of games and sent players to the SEC and Power Five schools. It’s definitely going to be exciting there and let’s hope we can win some games and eventually get sent to a good place. “
Piasecki already comes from a pretty good place as far as the history of baseball in the Muskegon area is concerned. Aaron’s grandfather, Len Piasecki, founded the Muskegon ChannelCats travel organization and is also one of the leaders of the Lakeshore Baseball Club, which took over Marsh Field in 2009 in an agreement with the city of Muskegon in an effort to restore the historic ballpark.
Aaron’s father, Jason Piasecki was also involved in the ChannelCats organization during his son’s youth baseball days and was a 1990 alum of Mona Shores High School, where he set single-season records for RBI (45) and doubles (15) during his senior year on the baseball team.
The youngest of the Piasecki baseball clan credits his inherited love of baseball as a big reason he’s been able to bounce back from such a devastating injury and resurface better than ever.
“I think it was really my love for baseball that pushed me through all of this,” he said. “I grew up loving baseball because my grandpa started the (Muskegon) ChannelCats program back in 1998. Then, once I was nine years old, my dad started that back up again. It stopped for a little bit, but my whole family loves baseball. I love baseball. It’s just fun to leave everything out in the field and you can kind of express your emotions in a different way. ”
Piasecki has emerged as one of the top hitters in the Muskegon area this spring, as he registers a batting average just shy of .500 and recently recorded his 100th career varsity hit.
“I did not really learn how to hit until my freshman year,” admitted Piasecki. “I was not hitting for much power before that, so then I started going to (Diamonds Baseball Sports Academy) in the winter and they have advanced hitting classes there. I told the trainer that I wanted to add some power to my swing, so I started lifting some weights and got bigger there and just learned more about my plate approach too.
“I learned about what I wanted to do with the ball and what pitch I want to hit. In my freshman year, I was just hitting to hit and I had no experience. I did not know what I wanted. But now, I really hunt a pitch that I want and I just try to hit the ball hard to an area that the defense can not get to. ”
The return of a healthy Piasecki to an already loaded Mona Shores lineup has resulted in a 23-4 record overall and a 14-1 mark in the OK Green Conference.
“He’s been one of those kids that I’ve known about since he was a young kid,” Bard said. “When Aaron started for us as a freshman, we decided to pull him up and I told him that this is not something he earned during three days of tryouts. This is something he’s earned his entire life. He works so hard at it. He’s one of the most dedicated, hard-working baseball players that I’ve ever had the pleasure of coaching. “
The No. 4-ranked team in Division 1 has the pitching rotation, lineup depth and team chemistry to make a serious run this postseason and Piasecki sees no reason to set limits on the Sailors’ potential this spring.
“I think we can win a state championship. I honestly think if our pitching stays good and we have some depth at the plate and keep picking up the ball in the field, the sky is the limit for sure. ”
Even if the Sailors do not manage to hoist any hardware this season, the fact that Piasecki finds himself in the starting lineup of a Top 5 baseball team in the state feels like a reward in itself after dealing with a potential career-shortening injury.
“This season has been the highlight of my baseball career so far. We’ve won a bunch of games, we’re all brothers, and I’ve played with these guys my whole life. I think four of these guys were on my 9U ChannelCats team back in the day, so we’ve all grown up together and now, we’re playing varsity baseball on the same team and it just feels good to see all of our hard work paying off. ”
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