When Bellarmine College Prep grad Nick Sanzeri blew out his elbow his freshman season at USF, it seemed like a disaster.
He later played at Skyline College in San Bruno, but his elbow lasted only a season.
But Sanzeri's passion for the game never waned, prompting him to eventually start his own company, CoreSavvyBaseball. Then he wound up on the coaching staff of head coach Dino Nomicos and hitting coach John Quintell at Skyline -- and that's a treasure trove of knowledge for any young coach to tap into.
Sanzeri will put that know-how to the test in the spring as the new baseball coach at San Mateo High. Sanzeri, who grew up in San Mateo near Aragon High, was appointed as the Bearcats coach last month.
"The old coach stepped down in the middle of last season, so I knew there was an opening," Sanzeri said. "I want to see if I can rebuild the program."
In doing so, Sanzeri will lean heavily on those lessons learned from Nomicos and Quintell, whom he calls "two of the best (coaches) in the nation."
Said Sanzeri: "Quintell is an expert at hitting and a master of pitching. Dino taught me what a head coach needs to do."
Sanzeri has had other influences, too, like his old high school coach, Mike Rodriguez at Bellarmine.
"His mentality and the mentality of all the athletes at Bellarmine is to just do your job and not worry about what the other team is doing," Sanzeri said. "Just do your job and take care of what you can control. At San Mateo we'll be trying to change the mentality, to a winning mentality."
The Bearcats went 6-17 overall last season and 5-9 in the PAL-Ocean Division -- relegating them to sixth place in an eight-team league.
Athletic director Jeff Scheller took over for former coach Jesse Velez last spring after Velez stepped aside before the season had even reached its mid-point.
At 21 years old, Sanzeri will be one of the younger coaches around, but he thinks that will be to his advantage.
"It's a good thing because I'll be able to relate to the players," Sanzeri said. "I don't want to be their friend, but I just stopped playing a year-and-a-half ago so I know what they need out of a coach."
Scheller checked out Sanzeri thoroughly before making the hire and knows he has the right man for the job.
"I'm not worried about Nick being so young (and) taking over the program," Scheller said. "Nick comes in high regard from many coaches around the Peninsula including Dino Nomicos and Carlos Roman (Roman is the longtime former El Camino coach). Nick is a very mature and his passion is being a coach; it's not a hobby."
Offensively, Sanzeri is not a fan of small ball -- getting a guy on, bunting him over and hoping for a timely hit to bring the runner in.
"In that way I'm sort of old school," Sanzeri said. "I believe in more of an American League style with not much bunting, but lot of hitting to the gaps and running. We're going to work on hitting a lot."
San Mateo doesn't have an indoor batting facility like St. Francis or his alma mater Bellarmine or cross-town Serra. The Bearcats just have a couple of outdoor cages that Sanzeri says he needs to spruce up.
"They may take a little elbow grease," he said. "But we have two cages and four bullpen mounds, so it's not a bad facility to work with."
Once a promising Bell right-hander who threw 88 to 92 mph and went 5-0 as a junior, Sanzeri had his dream of playing pro ball until arm problems de-railed him.
But now, with an assist from that crack Skyline College coaching staff, Sanzeri thinks he has a better grasp of the game and hopes his players will be able to avoid the type of injury that ended his playing career.
"We're going to do specific drills to help a pitcher's mechanics," Sanzeri said. "Most high school coaches don't do them because they don't know the mechanics. We're going to eliminate injury completely and our pitchers are going to be able to throw without hurting their elbows by using the big muscles of their body. That's what I learned at Skyline."
John Murphy can be reached at jmurphy@Prep2Prep.com and you can follow him on Twitter @PrepCat