Rich Racobaldo felt some pain in his right elbow this spring, and the first two words the Washington Township senior righthander said were "not again."
For Racobaldo, deja vu wasn't a good experience, but one he has been able to endure.
As a junior, he was sidelined for much of the season with a combination of tendinitis and a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
If there was any positive, it was that he didn't need surgery.
Oh yes, did we mention he also tore the meniscus in his knee as a junior? So there was plenty of rehab.
Flash forward to earlier this week, and Racobaldo looked like his pre-injury self. He allowed just one earned run and two overall in 5 2/3 innings during an 11-5 victory Sunday over St. Joseph in the Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic.
"I haven't dropped off the map," Racobaldo said.
No, and Major League Baseball scouts are still using that map to attend some of his games.
"My dream has always been to get drafted out of high school," he said.
Racobaldo had originally committed to attend St. John's. He said things didn't work out as he expected and now plans to attend Hartford Community College in Bel Air, Md., a perennial Division I power. Yet he holds out hope for the draft.
He said that the Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers have seen him pitch recently and that the Seattle Mariners have shown some interest.
"I appreciate people not giving up on me," he said about the professional teams. "And my motto is that whoever doesn't want me can move on, but whoever stays I will stay loyal to them, too."
Washington Township coach Bill Alvaro is being cautious by giving Racobaldo the appropriate rest. Sunday's game was his longest outing. He threw 83 pitches.
This season, Racobaldo is 2-0 with a 1.24 ERA in 11 1/3 innings. He has a 1.06 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) and 11 strikeouts.
The one benefit to his relative inactivity this season is that Racobaldo feels strong, and now he will be pitching only in important games. Washington Township will host St. Augustine in at 1 p.m. Saturday in a Diamond quarterfinal, and Alvaro suggested that Racobaldo would either pitch in that game or the state tournament. Washington Township will host Cherokee on Monday in the opening round of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament game.
Alvaro said that Racobaldo showed character when the frustration was at its highest, when he was injured in the early part of his senior season.
"We talk about senior leadership. Even though he couldn't go out there, he was very supportive of what we were doing, and we were winning a lot of games," Alvaro said. "Which I think kind of made it easier because there wasn't a rush to get him back on the mound."
Just because he has returned to form doesn't mean that this has been easy for Racobaldo, who said he has received plenty of encouragement in his comeback.
"I have had a lot of support with coaches and teammates telling me I would come back strong and do well," he said.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Racobaldo appreciates the chance to pitch, something in the days before the injury may have been taken for granted. Now, he savors every trip to the mound.
"I am stronger than ever," he said. "I look at it as a blessing in disguise and that everything happens for a reason."
Then, pausing, he added, "I have come back just in time."