Criscuolo hurdles obstacles, battles injuries in final season
Hunter O. Lyle—Sports Editor
After a brutal and terrifying injury put his baseball career on the line, senior first baseman Tyler Criscuolo was able to rejoin his team to finish his last year as an Owl.
Earlier in the season, during a game in Florida against Concordia College, Criscuolo faced a dramatic injury after colliding with a teammate. After the immediate diagnosis of a broken nose, Criscuolo found himself with a much more serious injury.
A New Haven Register article written about the injury details the full brunt of the injury as, “14 facial fractures, [Criscuolo’s] jaw and nose would need to be rebuilt, plates would be put into his face and head and a damaged eye socket as well as a blocked tear duct.”
“It’s just been a long, long month and a half. It’s something I never expected to happen and I never expected to go through something like this,” said Criscuolo, “but, overall I’m just happy to be back.”
Despite the grim thought of never playing baseball again looking like it was becoming a reality, not even a month after the injury Criscuolo was cleared for practice, making his return to the field for a game against Southern New Hampshire University on April 5.
“It was pretty scary. It was scary for everybody,” said head coach Tim Shea. “Obviously, you don’t even think about baseball, you just hope [Criscuolo]’s going to be okay. He spent the week down in Florida while we were continuing to play. He was stuck in a hospital, so now your focus is trying to help the guys get through it, but really help Tyler [Criscuolo] as well while he’s waiting for surgery.”
Shea said Criscuolo’s speedy recovery was something he and his team could use as not only motivation for the remainder of the season, but a life lesson.
“It’s inspirational. To have somebody go through what he went through and to get him back on the field, I mean, we were just hoping that things would work out for him from a health standpoint,” said Shea. “You don’t think about baseball at that point, but now that he’s able to return, and return to his team, return to the lineup, do the thing that he loves to do. I’m just so happy for him that he gets to finish off his career, and the way that he’s been going he’s really finishing off on the right note.”
Before his longawaited return to the SCSU Ballpark, even before coming to Southern, baseball ran throughout Criscuolo’s bloodline.
“All my friends played, my cousins, my uncle. Everybody,” said Criscuolo. “My father was a big baseball guy so I kind of just followed the lead.”
Born and raised in Branford, Criscuolo said he chose to come to Southern based of the notorious baseball program.
“First of all, it’s a historic program. There’s a lot of winning history here,” said Criscuolo. “Also, I’m a local guy, so I’ve known about the program for a while, I’ve known coach Shea for a little bit, and it just seemed like a good fit.”
After four long seasons of coaching Criscuolo, Shea said he has seen Criscuolo make major developments in both his game and mindset.
“[The most distinct change throughout his career was] maturity. Maturity as a player, both offensively as a hitter, positionally as a defensive first baseman,” said Shea. “He’s always had the talent. He’s always been a very hardworker…great leader [and] captain. I can’t be prouder of who he is, what he’s gone through, and where he is right now.”
As far as the stats go, Criscuolo has been improving with each year. For instance, his batting average freshman year was .276. The next year, he batted .306, and then .319 in his junior season.
Throught his career, Criscuolo said he became a stronger person and player.
“I think I definitely learned how to work hard and stay focused, just because it’s a long season. It’s a grind,” Criscuolo said. “From the fall to the winter to the season, traveling every weekend, flights [to Florida], Myrtle Beach, long bus rides. It just really helped me develop and just develop the mentality needed to be successful here.