It’s been said that baseball is perhaps the most redeeming of all sports. Whenever a baseball player has a low moment, there is generally an opportunity for the player to right the wrong. It might not happen overnight. It might not occur the next day, the next week, maybe even the next year. But chances are that the shot at redemption will come.
Need proof? Look no further than Weehawken High School senior pitcher Eric Gerbehy.
A year ago, Gerbehy got a chance to start against BCSL National rival Lyndhurst and it didn’t go exactly too well. Gerbehy pitched all of two innings, but was touched for 12 runs and a boatload of hits.
“They’re pretty much our biggest rivals and I didn’t have a good day at all,” Gerbehy said.
Chalk one up for the memory bank, one that Gerbehy wasn’t about to soon forget.
“Right after that game was over, I was looking forward to getting another chance at Lyndhurst,” Gerbehy said.
The 2010 season began well for Gerbehy, as he fired a three-hitter, striking out 10 against Dickinson. However, adversity struck for Gerbehy again in his second start of the season against another league foe, St. Mary’s of Rutherford. Gerbehy surrendered 10 runs in a loss to the Gaels, a performance that really upset the senior pitcher.
“I was devastated,” Gerbehy said. “I thought I let the team down. I wondered if my teammates and coaches still had confidence in me. I was really mad at myself.”
Weehawken head coach Anthony Stratton felt bad for Gerbehy. “He had the mindset that he let the team down,” Stratton said. “I didn’t want him to think that way. He’s such a hard worker. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever coached. I knew he was going to take it bad.”
On the very next day after the tough outing against St. Mary’s, Gerbehy was back at work.
“I was down at the field [Weehawken Stadium-Ferullo Field] at 8 a.m., doing my wind sprints,” Gerbehy said. “I was running, working. I really didn’t know if I would get another shot to pitch. It was running through my mind the whole week.”
Gerbehy didn’t know, so he approached Stratton and asked the fateful question, to see whether he would make his next start.
“I said one thing,” Stratton said. “I said, ‘You bet your life you are.’ I didn’t want him to think we lost faith in him. He was disappointed, but he had to bounce back. I knew he would.”
And who happened to be the Indians’ next opponent for Gerbehy to face? None other than Lyndhurst – the same team that tormented Gerbehy a year ago and a squad that had defeated Weehawken 13 straight times over the last six seasons, including three times in 2008.
“I was definitely looking forward to this start for a long time,” Gerbehy said. “I wanted it. When Coach Stratton told me that I was getting the ball, I was ready to go.”
Gerbehy said that people asked him if he was nervous about facing the old nemesis.
“Maybe I had some butterflies, but when it came time to play, they were gone,” Gerbehy said. “This was a big day for me. I had to make sure I made the most of the chance.”
That’s exactly what Gerbehy did, pitching the game of his life.
Gerbehy scattered eight hits, striking out five and walking two, and didn’t allow an earned run, leading the Indians to a huge 7-4 victory. It marked the first time in Stratton’s coaching career that he enjoyed a win over Lyndhurst.
More importantly, Gerbehy gained that long awaited redemption on the team that tortured him a year ago.
For his efforts, Gerbehy has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Gerbehy knew that he was going to have a good day Tuesday.
“I noticed that I was hitting my spots with my fastball and my change-up and curveball were working,” Gerbehy said. “I definitely felt a groove going.”
“Eric is a control-type pitcher,” Stratton said. “He really kept them off balance all day. They didn’t know what was coming next. It was his best game ever. He’s a pitcher who knows his role and works so incredibly hard at it.”
Stratton said that he was so happy for his ace hurler.
“He’s such a great kid, a positive kid,” Stratton said. “Plus, he’s a workaholic. He’s also so unselfish, always putting the team first. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Gerbehy is being recruited to play baseball at Sussex County Community College. He wants to play baseball for as long as possible, but he will major in education in college in order to someday become a teacher and a coach. The first lesson he can teach could be about redemption.
“I knew this was a big game for us, because we had a three-game losing streak,” Gerbehy said. “For me, I had to prove to my teammates that they still could have confidence in me. I felt there was a lot of pressure on me, but I came through. It’s going to do a lot for my confidence. If I can take care of this, I can take care of any team.”
Gerbehy said that he received a complimentary phone call from Stratton Wednesday morning.
“He told me that it was his favorite win as a coach,” Gerbehy said. “That meant a lot to me, knowing I could help to give that to him. He’s shown a lot of faith in me.”
“I don’t have to worry about Eric,” Stratton said. “He’s going to get the ball every fifth day.”
Gerbehy said that he spent the better part of Wednesday receiving well wishes.
“People were coming up to me in school all day, offering congratulations,” Gerbehy said. “This has definitely been one of the better days of my life.”
That’s what happens when you savor the sweet taste of redemption. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.