A ground ball finds its way to a seemingly safe destination in the middle of the infield. But just as it settles in the grass, the right hand of shortstop Adam Moossmann picks it up and fires it across the diamond to first base. The disappointed runner is barely beaten by the strong throw for the out.
It is the kind of play that an athletic shortstop turns from spectacular to routine. This is Moossmann, one of Long Island's dynamic shortstops, with great range, a strong arm and the determination to make himself a blue-chip prospect.
"He'll outwork the competition," said Northport coach John DeMartini, in his 25th year at the school. "His work ethic and desire to be at the top of the game is unmatched. We recognized that when he was only a freshman and brought him up to the varsity team. We felt he was ready physically."
Moossmann earned All-League honors as the starting shortstop for the Tigers in 2008 and dazzled opposing coaches with his range. He finished that freshman season with a .944 fielding percentage, fared well at the plate and was recognized as a rising star in Suffolk's competitive League II.
"There's an adjustment for any 14-year-old on a varsity team," DeMartini said. "But he's a very mature kid at a young age, and the experienced upperclassmen welcomed him. He knows the game and has very good leadership skills."
Moossmann's rise continued during a summer of highly competitive travel ball with the Long Island Titans and a demanding schedule. But then the unexpected happened and derailed Moossmann's plan. While legging out a base hit in the fall of 2008, Moossmann stepped awkwardly on first base and blew out his left knee.
"I needed major surgery to repair a completely torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament," said Moossmann, a 5-10, 165-pound junior. "It was scary, but I didn't have a choice. It was a very bad injury."
Moossmann missed most of his sophomore season as he rehabbed his knee throughout the winter and spring. He returned to the field for the final series of the year against Connetquot.
"There were some confidence issues with my leg, and I wore a brace," Moossmann said. "But I thought the rehab program put me in a good enough position to return. Baseball is my life, and there was nothing that was going to stand in my way and prevent me from playing again."
The injury may have slowed Moossmann, but he was undaunted by the cumbersome brace and the potential for re-injury. He moved forward eager to get back to the top of his game.
"He's a fantastic talent," Connetquot coach Bob Ambrosini said. "His personality and his work habits will help him make it all the way back. He's got the makeup to overcome the injury. The hardest thing for him, the biggest hurdle, is the mental toughness that comes with rehabilitation. He's a worker. You obviously want to see a talent like him back on the field."
Moossmann's spring debut didn't surprise DeMartini. He lined a few hits and made all the plays on defense.
Moossmann knows it doesn't take more than a misstep to keep him out of the game he so dearly loves.
"I couldn't stand being on the sideline," he said. "I love the game. And I'm back."