We are here with Tenafly’s LHP Aljo Sujak, who will be entering his freshman year at William and Mary this coming September. Aljo was selected as Baseball Player of the Year this past spring by NorthJersey.com (The Record), which is obviously a significant honor. He started training with us about a year ago and spent the better part of last fall training 3-5 times per week. He continued throughout the winter with the Pitching Lab and also trained all in-season throughout the spring. Needless to say, as POY in Bergen county, he had a phenomenal spring season. As a primary pitcher, he blasted 11 home runs and during 56 innings of work he struck out 72 players. He finished 5-2 with a 2.25 earned-run average.
Nunzio: Aljo thanks for being here today. I can only say, WOW! What a season you had at Tenafly this past spring. We always knew you were a great pitcher but Player of the Year and 11 homeruns is pretty awesome. For starters, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
Aljo: Thanks Nunz. It’s a pleasure. I have been a multi-sport athlete all through high school, playing three sports through my junior year, soccer, basketball and baseball. This past year, my senior year, I was only a two sport athlete and I only played soccer and baseball and took the winter off to focus on my off-season training for baseball. I have always been a two-player [on the field] which I have to give credit to as it relates to all the homeruns this year.
Nunzio: I know you are committed to playing baseball for William and Mary College a top D1 program. Can you talk a little bit about the process you went through and how you made your final decision and what went into it?
Aljo: I have been playing with Tri-State Arsenal for some time, playing the field and pitching in front of a lot of college coaches. The thing with William and Mary is that they offered me excellent academics and excellent baseball and they showed a lot of loyalty and interest during the whole process. That’s something that I didn’t really see from many other schools. When it came down to it, I think it was about where I would fit best and the coaches were going to be the best mentors and teachers for me.
Nunzio: You have spent a lot of time training here over the past year, as many as 3 / 5 times per week. I also know that you come here all the way from Tenafly, 35 minute drive I think each way, kudos to you, man. Can you talk a little about this past spring and your performance on the mound and at the plate?
Aljo: I definitely credit a lot my success on the field this spring on coming here and training at RPP. It just kept me strong and loose all season long. Especially since I could come in at any time and get stretched out by you or Travis or any of the other coaches before I would pitch and / or play. I always felt comfortable and healthy going into each game.
Nunzio: A lot of you guys, I know would come in to get arm work / arm care done. I know many of you call it “arm candy”. That was an excellent way to make sure you guys were ready for the games.
Aljo: Yes, definitely, it helps a ton.
Nunzio: You chose to take the summer off this year and continue to work on your physicality here at RPP. I think this is very commendable. I think most players feel like they have to play all the time or they are missing something. Can you talk a little about your decision to skip playing this summer and strictly train in preparation for this fall?
Aljo: It was definitely a tough decision. I love playing the game and taking the summer off was not easy. But also based on the number of innings I threw this past spring, 56 innings I think, I thought it was the best way for me to get my body right going into the fall at William and Mary. I think I have already put on another 10 lbs. of muscle this summer and I feel strong and definitely in the best shape I have ever been. I credit that to my work here with you and the guys. I think that’s a decision a lot of people should be making ]right before they go off to school].
Nunzio: I couldn’t agree more… Looking back on your career, what advice do you have for younger athletes like yourself looking to play baseball at a high level?
Aljo: I would say don’t get discouraged. Stay within yourself. I wasn’t getting any offers until going into my senior year in high school and I ended up committing to an excellent Division I program at William and Mary. I also turned out to be the Player of the Year in Bergen county this year. So, believe in yourself, believe in your process. Not everyone develops at the same rate. You might hit your stride later than others and take off any year. Don’t look at others. Focus on you and what you are doing.
Nunzio: Awesome. Thanks a lot Aljo for your time and congratulations again. Looking forward to seeing you this winter over the break.
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, NASM, CPT, PES, FMS)