WHEATON — An arm injury reduced Tom Colletti to merely a bystander in Wheaton North baseball’s run to another DuPage Valley Conference title last year.
This time around, the senior pitcher and third baseman could be a major reason why the Falcons stay on top.
After tearing his labrum in his right shoulder during the 2011 football season, Colletti had surgery in January of 2012 which sidelined him for nearly six months.
“That was really tough,” Colletti said. “Those were the first games in any sport that I’ve really missed. I realized how much I really love baseball. When you are on the sidelines and are not able to play, it makes you appreciate it even more.”
Colletti came back as a designated hitter and first baseman in the summer and slowly built up his arm strength during the offseason. The senior, who was called up to varsity as a sophomore to pitch, made his return to the mound during the Falcons’ trip to Nashville in late March.
“Going back out there in the first inning,” he said, “I just had a huge adrenaline rush, just pitching again. My favorite thing to do is pitch. After the game, I was so excited, just knowing I could pitch again.”
Adding to the excitement is how good Colletti has been in his return. He was 3-0 with a save heading into this week’s series against West Chicago (he was scheduled to pitch Tuesday), including an eight-inning performance in the team’s 2-1 win over Naperville North April 9.
Most importantly, the pain is gone.
“My shoulder feels good,” he said. “I used to have some elbow pain and I don’t have that anymore. I think I’ve cleaned up my mechanics and I feel like I’m a lot stronger now.
“I was more worried during football season and when I got through that, I knew I was getting back to 100 percent.”
His presence adds to an already strong Wheaton North team. The Falcons were 9-2 heading into this week.
“We’ve got a good team this year and I’m excited to see what we can do,” Colletti said. “We have four or five guys on our pitching staff who can go in and beat any team. Hitting-wise, Ryan Kent and John Peltz are carrying us and the juniors are also stepping up. And we are playing as a team, all of our wins are team wins.”
As for his individual future, Colletti is hoping to extend his baseball career. If a Division I offer doesn’t materialize, a junior college might be his preferred route.
“Baseball has always been my favorite sport,” he said, “and I want to keep playing baseball in college. With football, what I really loved was the team bond but I can put down my pads. I don’t think I could ever put down my baseball glove.”