By Dave Dyer
---- — The pain is mild now and only occasional for Merrimack College sophomore Dionys Quezada.
This is good news for the Warriors’ baseball team, which got off to a solid 9-5 start on their southern spring trip.
Quezada, the team’s starting catcher from Lawrence, finished the trip hitting .323 with 14 RBIs and showing the kind of strong arm that head coach Jim Martin expected when he recruited him.
“We knew he was going to help us right away,” said Martin. “In a wooden bat conference like ours, we needed someone strong and he’s got plus-power at the plate and plus-arm power.”
Martin was expecting Quezada to do the bulk of the catching as a freshman. But he suffered a torn tendon in his wrist during fall ball that never quite healed and then, midway through the season, tore the MCL in his knee.
“It (wrist) was pretty painful,” said Quezada. “I remember for awhile I couldn’t move my fingers. I stayed away from hitting for two months but the first day (of spring practice) it still hurt so much.
“They put it in a cast and I missed the first 10 games. It started to feel a little better and I came back, but it still hurt. It gradually improved and then I tore the MCL in my knee on a collision at home.”
Quezada came back again before the season finished, but he was not at full strength. Still his numbers, for someone so banged up, were respectable, hitting .239 with a pair of home runs and 12 RBIs in 26 games.
Finally, by mid-summer playing for the Seacoast Mavericks in the SCBL, he started feeling like a complete player again.
“My wrist started feeling better and, halfway through the summer, I took my knee brace off and threw it away,” he said.
Now the wrist only hurts occasionally.
“Every once in awhile, if I overdo it, I feel it but it’s not a big deal,” said Quezada. “I’ll probably have a little pain the rest of my life but, in my mindset, I’m 100 percent healthy.”
Martin certainly likes what he has seen so far.
“The first couple of games, Dionys got off to a little bit of a slow start but since then, he’s really been great for us,” said the third-year coach.
In addition to a return to health, Quezada credits a different approach for his strong start at the plate.
“I’ve been working with coach (Martin) and he has me hitting from the middle (of the plate) out,” he said. “Now I’m hitting the outside pitch to the opposite field.”
Quezada’s revival has been a boon for the Warriors, but the sophomore thinks that the team in general is much better.
“The team looks good — we have guys who have a better approach, who have the experience, and it seems like everyone can have a big day,” said Quezada. “It makes you relaxed and confident.”
For his part, Martin is cautiously optimistic.
“We played well in Florida and our pitching looks pretty good, but it’s early and we don’t want to get too excited,” said Martin. “We use the analogy of a car with its headlights — we can only control what we can see.
“We got off to a pretty good start the last two years too. We have to stay after it.”
The difference this year, perhaps, could be a healthy Quezada throughout the season.
Merrimack baseball Coach: Jim Martin, 3rd year 2012 record: 17-32, 4-17 in NE-10 2013 record: 9-5 before NE-10 schedule Top hitters: Casey Cotter (.431), Matt Brown (.423), Joe Mantoni (.419) Local players: Dionys Quezada (Lawrence), Soph.; Junior Vasquez (Lawrence), Soph. pitcher; Brian Wolfendale (Central Catholic-Methuen), pitcher Next home games: St. Michaels, March 28-29