Cavaliers’ starting right fielder Anthony Amicangelo knows more about injuries than he could ever wish.
It was two summers ago, and school was out for good. With his senior season at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash. behind him, the spry graduate fired a missile from right field to the infield during a summer baseball game.
Everything about the throw – from the release point to the follow through – was the same as it’s always been for the Washington native. Except this time, there was a slight pain in his right throwing shoulder.
Thinking it was simply a minor tweak, Amicangelo did nothing. Months passed, and early in his freshman season at Shoreline Community College in Shoreline, Wash., Amicangelo felt the same nagging pain again during warm-ups. Again, he did nothing about it.
Eventually, the pain in his shoulder became unbearable. The pain affected his throwing motion, his arm angle. It wasn’t until six games into the season that Amicangelo told his Shoreline coaches that his shoulder was ‘off’.
“My injury happened over time; all the overhead throwing, lifting, swinging put too much stress on my shoulder,” Amicangelo said. “I don’t remember one throw that put my shoulder in severe pain. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it. I kept the pain to myself and to my family.”
After several tests and talks to Shoreline’s training staff, Amicangelo was told that he had suffered a torn labrum. According to Jon Lovercamp, the college’s Associate Athletic Trainer, a labrum is a ring of cartilage that sits in a ball and socket joint in a person’s shoulder and hip.
“A way that a lot of people tear them is through chronic repetitive motion,” Lovercamp said. “Throwing a baseball with a lot of power and torque can stress a player’s shoulders.”
The injury subsequently shelved him for the rest of his freshman and sophomore season at Shoreline. This forced him no choice but to undergo surgery and rehab. Amicangelo’s rehab lasted from October 2017 to April 2018, inside a biomechanics training center in Kent, Wash., called Driveline Baseball.
For the next six months, five days a week, Amicangelo trained, sweated and persevered through pain. He pushed his body, molding it into a better state than how it was the day before. Every session, Amicangelo completed different drills, whether it be hitting, fielding or strength training. He worked on internal and external shoulder rotations, repairing the muscle fibers in his labrum that were lost or damaged.
Amicangelo credits Driveline’s physical therapist, Terry Phillips, who assisted him throughout his rehab process.
“We talked every day about how my shoulder felt,” Amicangelo said. “He was always giving me different exercises to work on. He assessed the areas of my body that needed to be released. He guided me every step of the way.”
Following his stint at Driveline, Amicangelo was recruited heavily by a surplus of colleges across the country. One of them was Johnson County Community College, who discovered him through an online recruiting site.
In a span of several months, Cavalier baseball coach, Kent Shelley and his assistants formed a relationship with Amicangelo, gathering insight about his playing career at Shoreline as well as his rehab process. In the end, they had no choice but to offer him a scholarship.
“Our coaching staff reached out to him and developed a dialogue with him,” Shelley said. “The further we got along into the dialogue, the further both parties became interested. Ultimately, we really wanted to find out more about [Anthony’s] character, how he could fit our roster.”
Despite playing just one season at the college, Amicangelo has flourished. On a team that carries championship aspirations (43-10 and No. 15 in the NJCAA Division Baseball Polls), Amicangelo is entrenched as the team’s every day starter and No. 2 hitter.
Few players can carry their own gravitational pull in baseball. With 38 players on the roster, it’s hard for an individual to stand out amongst the pack. But for Amicangelo, it seems like he has done so effortlessly.
Through 192 plate appearances, he leads the team in batting average (.479), on-base percentage (.552), and on-base plus slugging, OPS (1.352). In addition, he also finds himself in the top 20 of the NJCAA in run batted in (RBIs) with 59 and doubles with 20.
When he’s on the top of his game, Shelley says, he adds an extra dimension to the team. This can be found on both sides of the baseball.
“[Amicangelo] brings a sense of calmness,” Shelley said. “He’s one of those guys where your players know when he’s up-to-bat or in the field that we know what we’ll get from him, and that’s outstanding play.”
Shelley says that Amicangelo is one of the best players he has ever coached.
“In terms of bringing the total package to the table, he’s one of our best players on our team,” Shelley said. “In my 34 years at the college, I’ve been privileged to coach some great hitters and witness great performances throughout my tenure. Anthony, without question, is one of the top 3 hitters I’ve ever coached. I wish I had him for two years; I think he would have rewritten most of our offensive records.”
One of the offensive records Shelley alludes to is the fabled .500 batting average. Only one player in program history has batted .500 in their Cavalier career, and that was Scott Hennessey in 1990.
“With a little luck, he has the chance to break it,” Shelley said.
With his Cavs’ career winding down, Amicangelo reflects on his long, tumultuous journey: from overcoming an aching shoulder to now starring at the college.
“I think the entire process [rehab, practices and playing] has paid off entirely,” Amicangelo said. “I just wanted the opportunity to play [baseball] again; after being removed from the game for two years. I finally got that opportunity.”
Once his time at the college commences, Amicangelo will be keeping an open mind on his options. Currently slotted to play baseball at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.; he’s also eligible to be drafted in this summer’s MLB draft.
If Amicangelo’s name is called, he’ll have a tough decision to make: either play professional baseball or stay at Washington State for another two years, where he’ll be eligible for the draft again in the summer of 2021.
While he has several options weighing on him, Amicangelo is ready to take the whole process in, step-by-step.
Amicangelo said, “It comes down to a lot of things: what round I get picked in, money, time. Right now, I’m in a good spot, I’m just excited to have that option; to be able to go home and play at Washington State.”