Double trouble

Talk­ing shop: Seni­ors Mike O’Han­lon (left) and Josh Teson have been dif­fer­ence makers for the Fath­er Judge base­ball team. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

When Mike O’Han­lon shred­ded the an­teri­or cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment in his knee play­ing rough-touch foot­ball with his bud­dies in Oc­to­ber 2011, the worst crept through his mind.

“I thought I was done,” the Fath­er Judge seni­or said. “I figured I’d nev­er play again, or at least nev­er be the same.”

The most fas­cin­at­ing part of O’Han­lon’s story, however, is that he’s not a foot­ball play­er at all. Rather, he’s the leadoff hit­ter and start­ing left field­er for the Cru­saders base­ball team, and with his knee as close to 100 per­cent as it’s been in a year and a half, the seni­or bat­ting over .600 on the sea­son has his team think­ing ser­i­ous play­off run.

It’s been a long, strange odys­sey for O’Han­lon, who bat­ted over .500 as a sopho­more dur­ing the 2011 cam­paign. He blew out the knee the fol­low­ing off­season, and then some­how fren­et­ic­ally re­habbed it to the point where he was in Judge’s open­ing day lineup five months later. 

But he wasn’t the same, and his av­er­age dipped to a still-re­spect­able .330 while es­sen­tially play­ing on one leg. For a kid who re­lies on be­ing a gap-to-gap hit­ter and makes teams pay with his speed on the base paths, the sea­son was a cul­ture shock for O’Han­lon, who did all he could while Judge limped to a 4-8 Cath­ol­ic League Red Di­vi­sion fin­ish.

“Mike and I, we’ve been buddy-buddy since eighth grade and we came in here to­geth­er,” said Cru­saders pitch­er/third base­man, fel­low seni­or and close friend Josh Teson. “I think I al­ways knew how good he was, but after sopho­more year, it was like, ‘Wow, he’s really good.’ We were all wor­ried about him when he messed up his leg.”

Be­ing con­cerned about the wel­fare of his team­mates also came in­to play for O’Han­lon, es­pe­cially dur­ing the gruel­ing re­hab pro­cess.

“Hon­estly, I spent the en­tire time (after the in­jury) think­ing about my team­mates,” he said. “My mind was fully fo­cused on get­ting back to 100 per­cent for them.”

Play­ing base­ball for the Cru­saders be­comes a fam­ily af­fair, and nobody has bought in­to that more than the seni­or duo of O’Han­lon and Teson. They’ve come up through the ranks to­geth­er and took their lumps be­fore trans­ition­ing in­to game-chan­ging play­ers.

For O’Han­lon, it was the an­guish and un­cer­tainty (both phys­ic­ally and men­tally) of his knee dur­ing the 2012 sea­son; for Teson, it was build­ing enough con­fid­ence in his pitch­ing ar­sen­al last year to be­lieve he could con­sist­ently re­tire Cath­ol­ic League hit­ters, which is no easy feat.

It didn’t hap­pen overnight, but both play­ers are cur­rently locked in. In ad­di­tion to hit­ting over .600, O’Han­lon is get­ting on base more than 70 per­cent of the time. Teson has gone 2-2 on the hill with two saves, prov­ing he can start or fin­ish games for the Cru­saders. When the Times went to press, Judge sat tied for fourth in the di­vi­sion with Arch­bish­op Ry­an at 4-5, trail­ing Car­din­al O’Hara by a game. Judge has sev­en games to play, in­clud­ing six in the di­vi­sion: two each against Ry­an, St. Joseph’s Prep and La Salle, with the lat­ter two at the top of the di­vi­sion. After a 1-5 start, Judge has won five out of six.

Both play­ers would like to re­verse the Cru­saders’ re­cent post­season mis­for­tunes, in­clud­ing last sea­son’s elim­in­a­tion by their neigh­bor­hood rival.

“It’s in our heads, and I think Ry­an is very beat­able,” Teson said. “We know we can beat them, and that pushes us harder. We’re tired of them stand­ing on top of us.”

O’Han­lon, a quieter type who prefers to let his play on the field do his talk­ing, echoed his team­mate’s con­fid­ence.

“Our pitch­ers and de­fense have really done well lately, and what’s sur­prised me is how we’ve killed the ball with our bats,” Judge’s table set­ter said. “We have a sol­id squad. Everything is com­ing around for us.”

As Teson ad­ded, “I’d say we’re where we had hoped to be, but not ne­ces­sar­ily where we thought we would be.”

As the Cru­saders march to­ward a hope­ful post­season berth, it won’t be the end-all, be-all for O’Han­lon and Teson. After they gradu­ate, both will at­tend East Strouds­burg Uni­versity, where they hope to try out for the school’s base­ball team.

Both spoke of hop­ing for a happy end to the sea­son, but either way O’Han­lon and Teson will nev­er for­get play­ing base­ball for the Cru­saders, as do­ing so has served as a cata­lyst for how far both have come as Judge stu­dent-ath­letes.

“I know people say it all the time, but we’re broth­ers,” O’Han­lon said. “Go­ing to this school and play­ing base­ball here has been an out-of-this-world-ex­per­i­ence.”

Teson con­curred.

“It’s nice go­ing to school some­where and lov­ing it, rather than hat­ing it or just put­ting up with it,” he said. “Once we get to the play­offs, we know any­thing can hap­pen. That’s our goal.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­

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