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New Jersey Baseball Feature Story

Heart and Hustle

First Baseman Will Brzozowski of Immaculata High School loves to talk about playing baseball. To hear him talk, at seventeen years of age, about playing as a twelve year-old “back in the day,” you might otherwise imagine reminiscing with some crusty, old veteran of the game about barnstorming with the Gas House Gang from town to town in the shine ball era.


The 1934 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals

While he does not have barnstorming stories to tell, he certainly recalls his fondest baseball memory from Little League, when he hit a game tying home run in the bottom of the 9th inning for his All-Star team. Getting that dramatic hit happened in the semi-final round of a tournament, in a game which his team eventually lost. Yet he treasures the memory, as well he should.


Will Brzozowski

These days Will speaks knowledgeably and passionately about his powerhouse Immaculata baseball team. “You can see that other teams always bring their ‘A’ game when they know they’re playing us.” And with good reason, because, as Brzozowski tells it, Immaculata always features “strong pitching and good hitting,” with most of the team having gained valuable experience as players in the Diamond Jacks divisions at Jack Cust Baseball Academy (JCBA).

Will includes among the mentors whom he gratefully acknowledges his father, Will Sr.; his high school coach, Tom Gambino; and his JCBA coaches, ex-Somerset Patriot, Tony Gsell, Ben Fonseca, and Kevin Cust. The collective tutoring that he received from all have helped Will become a “better hitter, by keeping my shoulders level into the swing, taking a big step straight to the ball, and studying the pitcher.” He has also learned what to expect from the pitcher, depending on the ball-strike count.


Ex-Somerset Patriot
Tony Gsell

JCBA Coach Ben Fonseca

Immaculata Head Baseball Coach Tom Gambino

Above all, his experience since “back in the day” until the modern era has taught him the importance of “having a strong work ethic (and) putting in the time” to hone his skills. If following the example of Paul O’Neill, his big league idol, has anything to do with it, he is certain to accomplish his personal goals. In Will’s mind, O’Neill’s “intensity for the game” gave special meaning to the “heart and hustle” that both he and his Immaculata teammates display at the scholastic level.


Heart and Hustle

Paul O’Neill Records the Final Out of the 2006 World Series

As a junior, Will has set his near-term goal to continue his playing career at the college level. While he remains off-limits to college recruiters, he has nonetheless thought about where he might like to obtain his bachelor’s degree. With his mind set on Sports Management as a college major, his early choices include Siena College, the University of Louisville, the University of Connecticut, and Boston College. So much the better if baseball looms in his future, but establishing himself on his intended career track comes first.

As Will Brzozowski exemplifies Paul O’Neill’s intensity for the game, his friend and teammate Chris Nee most assuredly provides the spark. Never the shy one when it comes to stating his case, Chris speaks highly of his teammates, most notably first baseman, Will Brzozowski. If the Immaculata team did not have him on the mound, they would most assuredly have him in its publicity office. According to Will, Chris “keeps the game interesting, because he always has something to say.”

That comes as no surprise, actually, considering that as NJB began the interview for this story, Mr. Nee announced that he was attending “as Mr. Brzozowski’s agent.” As such, he explained the value a player like Brzozowski brings to a team; and, Mr. Nee knows this because…?

“Well, for one thing, everyone knows that Will is always ready to take one for the team. During his career, he’s been hit in the eye, he’s had a head injury, and he’s always getting hit with a throw.” Nee’s apparent glee in telling all this information sidetracked us from wanting to learn more; suffice it to say that Will’s teammates – starting, of course, with Chris Nee, his biggest fan – appreciate his selflessness and comradeship.

Chris, a senior left-hander, also represents the entire Immaculata team. “We like to win; we’re gamers; they call us the Evil Empire.” Darth Vader notwithstanding, Chris and his teammates certainly have the intimidating reputation of a perpetual, winning ball club. Once again, Chris spares no excess in promoting his high school team, “We have more championships than the (Somerset) Patriots!”

Like any high school ball player, Chris has his mentors and idols; again, the villain of Star Wars notwithstanding. Most notably, he cites “Jose Arredondo of the Anaheim Angels, K-Rod’s set-up man.” Among other attributes, Chris admires “the electricity” that Arredondo brings to the game. “He has gas and movement on the ball,” Nee continues, “along with a nasty slider. Mostly, though, he’s never flustered when he takes the mound.”


More Championships than the Patriots

The Angels’ Jose Arredondo

He attributes his own progress as a pitcher to several people, chief among them Justin Jensen, “an all-time lefthander” for those same Patriots. He thanks Jensen for helping him learn how to stay “well balanced” when he’s pitching, an important mechanic for “someone like me who pitches low-to-three-quarter-arm.” He especially appreciates Jensen’s guidance, because it has helped him develop his two-seam and four-seam fastballs, which now supplement the slider and changeup that he includes in his arsenal. As teammate Will says, “When he’s on top of his game, you can’t hit him.”


Immaculata’s Chris Nee

Chris’s interest in having a business major in college has him looking presently at NCAA Division 2 schools Dominican in Orangeburg, New York and Bridgeport College in Connecticut, as well as Division 3 schools Catholic University in Washington, DC and Montclair State University right here in the Garden State.

Wherever his entrepreneurial spirit takes him, Chris will take his fondest baseball memory from the 16 year-old World Wood Bat Association Tournament semi-final game held in Georgia. In that game he came from the bullpen to beat the Richmond Braves, and he struck out a friend of his to get the final out and the win for his team. Knowing Chris gregarious nature, they no doubt remain friends today.

NJB Magazine see nothing but successful futures, both in life as well as in baseball, for both Will Brzozowski and Chris Nee, who between the two of them, bring a good share of the “Heart and Hustle” that make up the Immaculata High School team.

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New Jersey Baseball & New Jersey Baseball Online are your original source for stories about the human interest side of baseball. Coverage ranges from travel team baseball and showcase tournaments to girls’ softball and women’s fast pitch to recruits and prospects; performance enhancing drugs and substances, such as steroids and human growth hormone (HGH); health & nutrition; sportsmanship; the best batting cages & baseball training academies, such as Frozen Ropes, The Hit Doctor, Zoned, Extra Innings, Batters Box, & Dave Gallagher Baseball Academy, women in baseball, youth baseball baseball history,, sports officiating and umpiring, field maintenance, men’s amateur baseball, and many others. NJB is also your first and best source for baseball rules and interpretations through its unique Ask The Ump feature.

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