When Jon Tucci suffered a shoulder injury last summer, he worried that it might jeopardize his senior season with the Riverhead High School baseball team. The second baseman even contemplated putting off surgery, but now he’s undoubtedly glad that he didn’t.
Tucci underwent surgery on Aug. 20 to repair the torn labrum in his right throwing shoulder. That was followed by six months of physical rehabilitation. Tucci has recently begun throwing baseballs again, although he is taking things easy during these cold-weather preseason practices.
Either way, he is expected to be in the lineup on March 29 when Riverhead will open its season with a non-league game at Kings Park. It’s just a question of whether he will be playing second base or serving as the designated hitter.
“I’m hoping he’ll be O.K.,” Riverhead Coach Rob Maccone said during Tuesday’s practice. “He is babying it a little bit, but I think hopefully by the time the season starts he’ll be able to throw. If not, he can still swing, so there’s no reason why we can’t have him DH.”
This isn’t the first time that Tucci has had to contend with an injury. As a sophomore he was limited to two junior varsity games and two varsity games because of a broken hand.
Last season, though, Tucci was an all-league selection. He hit around .320 with about 10 runs batted in and had a fielding percentage of about .980, said Maccone.
Maccone knew he had a player when Tucci started on the JV team as a freshman and played in all 18 games.
“He knows how to play the game,” the coach said. “He knows what he’s supposed to do with the ball. He knows sometimes when you’re in the hole you just need to just get the out at first. He knows when to turn two, when to hold the ball, and he knows when he needs to get a big hit. We’ll say, ‘You got to come through for us,’ and he’ll smile, and he’ll laugh, and he’ll come through. He does everything we need, and it’s a pleasure to have a kid like him on the team.”
Tucci is expected to form a double-play partnership with whoever wins the starting shortstop job, Gabe Rice or Mike Hinchy. If Tucci isn’t ready to take the field for the season-opener, second base will be manned by junior Nick Prete.
“I should be O.K,” Tucci said. He said his shoulder “feels pretty good. It’s a little sore from the cold, but once it gets hot it should be fine.”
Tucci has never played in a playoff game, but he would like to see that change this season.
“We’re looking pretty good,” he said. “We’re picked to finish sixth, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”