NEW BEDFORD — It's taken two years, but New Bedford baseball fans are finally getting to see the Chandler Debrosse they were accustomed to watching.
Following two straight seasons as the Standard-Times Baseball Player-of-the-Year, Debrosse has suffered through two injury-plagued seasons at Central Connecticut State University.
Hamstring issues have hamstrung his development, cost him his sophomore season and slowed his progress in summer baseball with the New Bedford Bay Sox.
In the roller-coaster, statistical world of summer ball, Debrosse has seen his batting average rise and fall depending on the most recent game. Holding a .167 average, Debrosse went 5-for-7 in three games and shot up to a .368 average. Two games and a 1-for-8 at the plate and he's slipped back to .289.
But the numbers aren't the main thing for the infielder-turned-outfielder, jack-of-all-trades player. It's the fact that he's on the field and playing.
“Last year (as a freshman), I got a late start and was supposed to red-shirt that season,” Debrosse said. He played sporadically and appeared in 13 games and got 18 at bats, hampered by a hamstring injury.
This season, he was limited to six games and 13 at bats and was an injury red-shirt, meaning he kept the year's eligibility by not playing more games this season. He still has three years of college ball available to him.
“After I got to college, the hamstring got injured for the first time and then it happened again,” Debrosse recalled.
It wasn't until midway through the Bay Sox season last summer that it really felt better.
“Early last summer, I was inexperienced when I came to the Bay Sox,” he explained. “I hadn't played much my freshman year in college, but, toward the end of last summer, I was playing about every day.
“I began the fall season feeling good, but as it got colder, I got injured again. It was early October when I pulled the hamstring again.”
Cold weather and late-fall and early-spring baseball in the Northeast go hand-in-hand, so Debrosse had to become proactive in the care of his body.
“I rehabbed over the winter break and started the first game in Florida when I hurt it again,” Debrosse said. “It's definitely frustrating. It's been two years since I've been healthy. Baseball is a year-round thing and your body gets fatigued.”
When fatigued, the areas of weakness are stressed and can give out.
“I'm doing physical therapy to strengthen my hamstring. I do a lot of maintenance like icing and stretching. I'm drinking plenty of water and using a foam roller on the area,” Debrosse explained. “When I was a little kid, I'd just run out and play. Now that I'm 20, I have to take care of my body.”
Primarily a middle infielder, Debrosse has seen most of his time in the outfield at Paul Walsh Field and the rest of the New England Collegiate Baseball League's venues. He has played all three outfield positions as well as shortstop, second base and designated hitter for the Bay Sox.
“In the infield, you're more in-tuned to the game because everything happens so fast,” he said. “In the outfield, you have a little extra time. The infield is more reactive.”
Debrosse had his best game against one of the best teams in the league when he went 3-for-3 with two doubles and a walk against the Upper Valley Nighthawks, leaders of the Northern Division.
“I can't remember the last time I was 3-for-3,” he said. “I've made some adjustments with our hitting coach in my approach. I've widened my stance a little so I can get to the inside pitch better.”
If there's one person in his corner, it's Bay Sox manager Kyle Fernandes.
“Chandler gives me everything he's got,” Fernandes said. “He's the kind of player that I grew up around. He's a rat and he does 110 percent of what you ask him to do. He's your prime example of a city kid who's had to earn it.
“He made the adjustment in his hitting and I've never seen him hit the ball so hard. He didn't use his lower half and would cut himself off with his swing. Teddy (coach Teddy Regan) helped him make an adjustment that clears his hips so he's more behind his swing.”
Regan also worked with Debrosse in the field.
“Coach Regan helped me a lot with my fielding in the infield and my footwork,” Debrosse explained. “I have my confidence back when I play in the infield.”
The red-shirt season can open the door for a fifth year of baseball for Debrosse, who is majoring in civil engineering. His program, since he switched from mechanical engineering, will probably be a five-year journey to graduation. If he chooses to, he could play for three more college seasons.
“In high school, I was a raw baseball player,” Debrosse said. “I'm better and a more fundamentally-sound baseball player from last year. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. I know the kind of player I am. I have to shoot the ball in the gaps and steal some bases. I like to be aggressive.”
And that also means being proactive with his body and keeping those hamstrings as healthy as he can.