Comeback Complete for MCCC Alum Dave Angebranndt


West Windsor, N.J. - When baseball player Dave Angebranndt hit a double to left center that knocked in a run for the University of Delaware against Towson University on Apr. 18, you might just think he was doing his job. But for this catcher, it was the completion of a hard-fought comeback.

In fall 2008, Angebranndt, of Ewing, the former standout catcher for Ewing High School, was entering his second year at Mercer County Community College, where he expected to continue in his leadership role as catcher for the Vikings baseball team. Having signed a pre-season agreement to play at the University of Delaware the following year, his future looked set.

Then, on January 12, 2009, as he headed for pre-season practice at Mercer, he was in a serious car accident. His left arm took the brunt of his injuries.

In the first of three surgeries at Capital Health's Fuld Campus in Trenton, Angebranndt underwent an emergency arterial bypass to save his arm. Two surgeries followed and he was released after 12 days in the hospital. His surgeon said it was unlikely that he would play baseball again.

Angebranndt set out to prove him wrong.

"I worked hard before the injury," Angebranndt said. "After the injury I had the motivation to work even harder."

Acknowledging that he spent some difficult early moments questioning "Why me?," he quickly turned to the task at hand. MCCC Athletic Trainer Lisa Camillone, who worked with him throughout his rehab, said that Angebranndt's work ethic is one of his special gifts.

"With a long-term injury, an athlete will get really out of shape. But Dave always had a bat and ball in his hand," Camillone said. Under the supervision of Angebranndt's orthopedist and his physical therapist, Charles Miller, Camillone devised a variety of therapeutic exercises - everything from taking small balls and having Angebranndt put them into a tall tube to regain small motor skills, to playing catch in the training room, to exercising with a 20-lb. bolt cutter.

"With a different kid, you wouldn't have seen this kind of progress. But he never stopped. He'd just drop and do ten." Camillone notes that coming back from a serious injury entails physical, mental and emotional rehabilitation. "Dave handled it all," she said, progressing well ahead of schedule in regaining his strength and range of motion.

For Angebranndt, sitting out the season was painful, but he found ways to contribute. He went to every game, both home and away, and even traveled with the team to Myrtle Beach early in the season when his injury was still fresh. He called pitches and assisted the coaching staff. He also worked with his replacement, catcher Russell Stupienski. "Russ had to jump in. I passed on what I knew," Angebranndt said.

After graduating from Mercer with an A.S. in Exercise Science, Angebranndt made the move to Delaware. He faithfully continued his rehabilitation and practiced regularly with the Blue Hens, serving as catcher for the bull pen.

Angebranndt notes that from the beginning he was bolstered by the people around him. "I have been supported 100 percent," he said, not only by his parents, but also by staff and students at MCCC and now by Coach Jim Sherman and others on the Delaware coaching staff, as well as his current teammates.

Dave Angebranndt at bat for the University of
Delaware April 18. Photo by Mark Campbell
Angebranndt used a 20-lb. bolt cutter as part of
his workout during rehab at MCCC.
Angebranndt worked on small motor skills
with MCCC athletic trainer Lisa Camillone.
Angebranndt signing with UD in fall 2008. He is pictured with MCCC baseball coach Matt Wolski.

Recalling his experience at bat in the game against Towson, Angebranndt said, "When I got the hit, they [my UD teammates] all cheered and when I landed on second base, they gave me a standing ovation." They handed him the game ball at the end, he adds.

How has this experience changed him? "It sounds like a cliché, but I would say, 'Don't give up.' In my shoes, quitting would have been the easy thing to do, just relax and focus on my studies." But Angebranndt was always about coming back. "My parents know me, so they knew I could do it."

Lisa Camillone also knew it, according to Angebranndt. "She was always pushing me to do more. And I listened because I knew it would make me better in the future."

He also learned another important lesson. "Take nothing for granted," he counsels. "You never know when it could be taken away from you. In this case, it was just my arm. It could have been my life. Appreciate simple things."

Angebranndt is studying Health and Physical Education at UD and plans to be a physical education teacher and coach. He has two more years of baseball eligibility and is already thinking about next season.

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