By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Staff Writer
Rudy Kreutzer could sit for hours after school in the Absegami High School music room, getting in arguments with his friends about who the best drummer on the planet is — Neil Peart of Rush or Ginger Baker, one of the founding members of the band Cream. Or maybe John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, or Keith Moon of The Who, who also was the inspiration for the Muppets’ “Animal.” Or perhaps discussing the brilliance of composers such as Gustav Mahler, one of the leaders in the late 1800s, and Aaron Copland, whose Americana-inspired melodies are still used in commercials to this day.
You wouldn’t expect a kid like that to skip out on such conversations during the spring and instead don a baseball uniform and perplex opposing hitters with a cutter that teammate Ray Lewis describes as “nasty.”
Kreutzer wasn’t your typical high school baseball pitcher during his career with the Braves. A 4.0 student, he often would think his way out of tough situations. Mostly because he had to. He didn’t possess the kind of fastball that could blow hitters away, or a knee buckling curve. Instead, the sounds of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” would float through his head as he methodically got hitters out and bailed his teammates out of big jams as coach Mike DeCicco’s most reliable big-game reliever.
“Rudy is an amazing kid. He just got the Governer’s Award for New Jersey for being first-seat All-State as a drummer — he’s going to college to drum in the band. He’s an incredible musician, and also a really good pitcher, and a 4.0 GPA kid,” said DeCicco, who took over for longtime coach Brian Wastell this season. “What a nice kid. Just a fantastic kid. I’m so proud that he stuck with baseball all four years, and not only stuck with it, but had some great success, so that’s been awesome.”

Senior lefty Rudy Kreutzer was a key bullpen piece for Absegami this season, posting a sub-3.00 ERA and helping the Braves to a 16-6 record. (Glory Days Magazine photo/Dave O’Sullivan)


“Every day you have to be ready. There were some times when I would be in there three games in a row if my pitch count was low enough, so every day I was focusing on keeping my arm in shape, and during the early innings of a game I would make sure I was staying energetic, had my sweatshirt on ready to warm up at any time. I had to be ready for any situation. It was the same mentality, just pounding the strike zone,” said Kreutzer, who plans to study classical percussion music performance in college. “My coaches gave me a lot of confidence this year. The last three years, I wasn’t really trusted because my consistency wasn’t there and I wasn’t pounding the zone the way I did this year. This offseason, I really just focused on being a P.O. (pitcher only) and not playing the field. My role this year was to just be a reliever, so I had a lot more time to just focus on my consistency and my arm slot. (DeCicco) let me pitch a lot, and I feel like getting a lot more time on the mound really helped me a lot.
“There’s so much to say about him. I’ve known him since preschool, and ever since then we’ve remained like brothers. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him grow up, not only as a baseball player but also as a friend, and kind of like a family member. To see him at senior awards and getting all those scholarships, and everything from having his own band to working on his nasty cutter in baseball, I really couldn’t be happier for him,” said Lewis, who along with Kreutzer was one of a dozen seniors this year who helped lead Absegami to a 16-6 record. “You really don’t see that much, especially in high school, where somebody is that gifted in band and also a sport like baseball. It’s pretty cool to see. He also took honors classes all throughout high school, and he’s one of the smartest guys I know. He’s gifted in every aspect.”
One of Kreutzer’s best gifts was his ability to stay calm on the mound and work his way out of tough situations. Lewis recalls a game when it seemed as though everything was about to go wrong, with the Braves facing a bases-loaded situation.
“For the first couple of outings, he would come in with the bases loaded, or he would come in with nobody on and then walk the bases loaded, but he would pitch himself out of it every time. I remember going out to the mound when it was bases loaded and saying, ‘listen, you have your cutter (if you need it)’ and he’d be like, ‘yeah, I know, I got my pitches back and I got this.’ He would go out there with all this confidence and he would get the job done,” Lewis said.
“That’s just who he is, and that’s a testament to his mental standpoint. Being able to come in with the bases loaded and nobody out and just be like, ‘hey, I’ll figure it out.’ That’s what I look for with these kids. He had a fantastic year for us. He’s been our first guy out of the bullpen,” DeCicco said. “Rudy was on my freshman team and he always had a great arm and a sharp curveball. It was more just consistently throwing the ball in the strike zone. I still have all my freshman evaluations that I gave all those guys at the end of the year, and one of the things I said to Rudy was that he had to find a consistent balance point. But it’s a testament to him that he worked on it and believed in us, and what we were telling him. His cutter, which I didn’t even know he had, is something he developed on his own and that turned out to be a nasty pitch.”

Kreutzer also is one of the best musicians in New Jersey, and plans to continue his music education with a concentration on percussion at Rutgers University this fall. (Submitted photo)


Added Kreutzer, “I lost my cutter and gave up a couple of walks, so I had to pound the zone with my fastball, which I’m not as consistent with. The bases were loaded and Ray came up to me and said, ‘you good, man? You look a little freaked out.’ I was just like, ‘I got it. I’m good.’ And I struck out the next couple of batters on all cutters.”
It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kreutzer is so tough on the mound, considering his namesake. He’s named after his paternal grandfather, who was a Golden Gloves boxing champion and a survivor of the D-Day invasion at Omaha Beach during World War II.
Kreutzer has kept himself very busy the past four years, and that likely won’t change in college with such a demanding major. But, he likes it that way, he said.
“I was in marching band, too, so I’ve basically been busy and staying after school for extra-curricular activities nonstop throughout my high school career. High school was the hardest challenge of my life, but I just tried to keep myself as busy as I could and put myself through all the work so I could figure out management skills and discipline — all the things you need to become a good man,” he said. “I tried to do everything I could in music and to become a better musician, because I knew that’s what I wanted to do my whole life. I feel like baseball, if anything, was a nice relaxer for me coming off focusing on music and academics the first six or seven months of the school year. It was a nice stress reliever and it helped me out with my music more than if I hadn’t played baseball.”
Finishing up his high school career with such a memorable season, one that included a share of the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference championship, certainly left an impression on Kreutzer.
“It’s a different energy when you’re out there winning games with a bunch of other guys who you’ve been playing with since you were 7 or 8 years old. There was a lot of chemistry and a lot of those players played together through freshman and JV, and I think that bond and that chemistry really helped us this year. (The end of the season) was bittersweet. We all knew we were going to see each other throughout the summer, but that’s the last time we’ll ever all be playing baseball together. But it was a nice three months of playing together and I feel like we went out the right way,” Kreutzer said. “These last few months of playing baseball have been the most memorable of my career. Going into senior year, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to play, but coming in with all the confidence my team gave me, and the winning and good times — all the baseball we played together, these past few months have been a great wrap to my high school career.”
Most high school baseball players dream of making it to the big leagues, but not Kreutzer. He has visions of one day sitting as a member of the New York Philharmonic, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra. And, if you want to debate who the best drummer of all time is, or the best composer, pull up a chair, he’ll gladly indulge.
“Ginger baker from Cream is my favorite, he’s a great drummer. And I respect Neil Peart so much, he’s an amazing drummer and I get so much influence from him,” he said. “My favorite composer? I’d have to say Gustav Mahler. His music is just brilliant in every way possible and he expresses everything that was going on in Germany during the time that he lived. I think everything he expresses is just absolutely gorgeous. It’s something I love to play. Aaron Copland is amazing, too. I love playing “Rodeo” and “Appalachian Spring.” His music is definitely a sign of American culture in the 1900s.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays