It stands to reason that David Stec has a part-time job as delivery man, as it serves as an extension to all the deliveries he has made as a pitcher for Hamilton Township baseball teams over the years.
Stec threw his final season of high school-level baseball this past summer as the ace of Hamilton Post 31 for the second straight year. The 6-foot-5 righthander pitched three years on Steinert’s varsity and threw for Mercer County Community College last spring. He threw four years for Post 31.
Entering this summer’s New Jersey American Legion State Final 8 Tournament July 21, Stec was 4-2 and getting better as the season went on.
He threw a complete game against Lawrence to pitch Hamilton into the district tournament, and followed with another complete game against Broad Street Park to hurl Post 31 into the Final 8. Stec was finishing strong after an uneven season, which followed a 2017 campaign in which he was the Mercer County American Legion Pitcher of the Year.
“This was the first game he pitched really well in a couple weeks,” manager Rick Freeman said after the Lawrence game. “But it doesn’t stop him from working hard. Nineteen-year-olds a lot of times come in and expect to dominate. He had two really good starts, then three or four, what could be considered average starts for someone with that experience. He never doubted himself, never made excuses, just went out and got the job done. He’s still our horse and he still kept us in games. That’s the advantage of having a veteran arm.”
Stec just shrugged his massive shoulders when asked how he dropped off after his award-winning 2017 season.
“That’s baseball, honestly.” he said prior to the states. “You see it in the pros all the time. You see guys have stud seasons and the next season they’re kind of down a little bit. But those guys show up when they need to and I feel like I’m doing that now.
“What really helps my mindset with that, is I understand that baseball is a very humbling game, it’s a tough game to play. You’re not gonna have your best stuff every time out but you’ve gotta go out there and you’ve gotta gut through as many teams as you can.”
Stec is a late bloomer when it comes to pitching. As a kid, he played football, basketball and baseball and, with his size, seemed like a good fit for the gridiron.
“I played it back when I was a little chubbier so I was a lineman; obviously as a little kid you don’t think about growing up to be a lineman,” he said with a laugh. “I thought about playing in high school but my parents and I decided to not risk injury and not be able to play my main sports.”
Stec focused on basketball—playing varsity for three years at Steinert—and baseball.
“Ever since I was little I always loved playing baseball, I’ve always loved hitting baseballs, I’ve always loved throwing baseballs, I’ve always loved watching baseball,” he said. “I’ve just been a baseball junkie my entire life. It’s really fun for me, being out there with people I enjoy playing the game with. I love competing, going out there and throwing, I just enjoy every aspect.”
After playing for Sunnybrae Little League and Hamilton Little Lads, Stec moved on to Nottingham Babe Ruth. He was admittedly not a standout until he got to the high school level and “started to hit my stride a little, started to show what I could do. I gained some confidence in my coaches and what not.”
At the start, Stec self-taught himself on the mound while also listening to his coaches. He soon went to work with former Steinert star Mike Rogers, an acclaimed pitching instructor “who helped me out a lot,” and has spent years working with Freeman. “Rick has helped me out so much, he’s just a great pitching coach. He’s had a history of success and he brings that wherever he goes.”
Stec was eased in as a pitcher in Babe Ruth but mostly played first base for All Stars. He played first and batted third for Steinert’s freshman team and got a few varsity at-bats as a sophomore, but by his junior year he was a pitcher only. He went 1-1 as a sophomore, 4-0 as a junior and 6-0 with a 1.75 ERA as a senior. Although he did not know his stats, Stec was nearly unhittable in legion last summer.
“I think it was my defining season as a pitcher, both with Steinert and legion,” he said. “I felt like I was able to go out there and command the zone instead of kind of throwing it and hope they could hit it. I felt like I had the confidence to go out there and get outs for sure, instead of hoping for outs. I really didn’t feel any break in my confidence at all. I felt like any time I was given the ball, I was able to go out there, dominate, throw strikes and get outs.”
Although used sparingly at Mercer as a freshman, Stec still felt the experience was invaluable in honing his craft.
“Pitching to college kids is always a great experience,” he said. “It helped me work through certain things, work through with a strong mindset. It definitely helped me get stronger.”
Stec needed that mindset when he did not automatically carry over last year’s legion success. Freeman noted that one of his better pitches in March and April abandoned him in June.
“I think he lost the bite on his slider, and without that he’s an average pitcher,” the manager said. “We worked with him on his tempo and his slider this summer. He’s also got a good change-up. He had the slider really good in college. He had it good the first couple games here, so who knows. Pitchers are funny animals.”
Stec knew exactly what the problem was.
“I think I was just wrapping around it a little bit, I don’t think I was staying on top of it,” he said. “I was kind of dropping my arm a little and wasn’t getting the bite I needed. But every start I’m feeling stronger and stronger, feeling better about myself, more confident.”
Which is exactly what Freeman counted on from Stec, who was four years older than his youngest legion teammates. The manager noted that, “he’s mentally tough. With the experience he has, he has to be. I think that carries over to the younger guys.”
This is not the only situation in which Freeman tutors Stec. He had him in English classes at Steinert, as Stec is a communications major eyeing a career in broadcasting.
“I’ve loved sports forever,” he said. “I love being around it. I love studying sports and researching sports.”
So, if all goes well, when he’s through delivering pitches and pizzas, he will start delivering the daily sportscast.