ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Matt Devlin

ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Matt Devlin

At the ANNEX we are so proud when our athletes move onto the next level and reach their goals.Matt Devlin, class of 2017 Chatham High School, has committed to Franklin & Marshall College for next fall as pitcher with the possibility of playing field position too.

ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Sydney Zirlin

ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Sydney Zirlin

Sydney Zirlin (pictured at center) with her senior teammates Isabella Wuang and Stephanie Schrage. (photo credit:

Sydney Zirlin (pictured at center) with her senior teammates Isabella Wuang and Stephanie Schrage. (photo credit:

It’s not uncommon to have an athlete come back from an injury. But Milburn High School tennis standout Sydney Zirlin roared back from a torn ACL (in December 2015) to place her highest ever in the state singles tournament and make third team All-State.

She, along with fellow seniors Stephanie Schrage and Isabella Wuang, was instrumental in leading Millburn to 100 straight wins and the state championship. Sydney’s team has been undefeated since Oct. 24, 2012.

Sydney credited training at The ANNEX, working with coach Mickey Brueckner, for helping her regain her confidence after suffering what could have been a career-ending knee injury.

“My surgery took a large toll on my tennis career,” Sydney said. “I think I was able to recover relatively quickly because I devoted a lot of time to doing leg exercises, playing tennis sitting down, and training at the Annex. I had really great coaches who made special drills for me and kept me going when I got discouraged.”

Her surgeon, Dr. Michael Shindle, recommended the Annex to help her during her recovery. For six months, Sydney couldn’t do any physical activity after her surgery. Over time she was able to regain her strength and agility.

“The Annex provided a fun environment where I could ignore the pain in my leg and stay motivated,” she said.

The senior, who excels at math, was undecided about college at the time of the interview. She plans to major in engineering.

“I am unsure where my tennis will go in the future, but I will always continue playing,” said Sydney.

ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Henry Voorhees

ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Henry Voorhees

Coach Tim Laffey presents 6’7” Henry Voorhees, basketball player for Columbia High School (headed to DeSales University in Allentown, Pa.), as our Annex Athlete of the Month for his amazing progress since he started training with purpose.

Why you should add whey protein isolate to your training

Why you should add whey protein isolate to your training

We are often asked by parents and athletes on how to maximize training potential. Additionally, many athletes are looking to put on added weight, gain strength, add muscle and improve overall diet.  One such way is to add whey protein to your workout routines.

A great June for ANNEX Athletes

A great June for ANNEX Athletes

Two state championships and a MLB draft pick highlighted an outstanding week for the Annex Sports Performance Center athletes. It's a big deal to witness our Annex family grow and succeed in personal and team goals.

Ty Blankmeyer, who has been a fixture at The ANNEX since he was 13, was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 36th round of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft this past weekend. The Morristown native had an excellent career at Seton Hall Prep, won the Rawlings "Finest In the Field" award as the top defensive second baseman in the Northwoods League last summer and posted a career-high .408 on-base percentage this season for St. John's University.

Unlikely champs

Speaking of Seton Hall Prep, the varsity baseball team took home its first state title since 2007, defeating St. Augustine, 4-2, in the Non-Public A final at Toms River High School North this past Saturday. Annex athletes Nick Maldonado, Ryan Toohers, Jack Zyska, John Savino, Justin Miller and Francis Prior were all instrumental in the success of the team this season.

Head coach Mike Sheppard Jr. told "This one feels different because of how this team has come together. Over the years, we'll have 2-3 star players and usually a star pitcher to help us have success, but we didn't have that here this year. We had a bunch of good players who did their job.

"Had you told me back in March that we'd be here winning a state championship as the No. 1 team in the state, I might have told you that you were crazy. I'm proud of these guys and what they've been able to accomplish."

Defense wins championships

The Delbarton lacrosse program continues its successful run with 13-4 victory over Pingry in the final of the NJSIAA/Investors Bank Tournament of Champions this past Saturday at Kean University. This state championship was Delbarton's fifth T of C title in its ninth appearance, and it is its second title in three years.

We're proud to point out that Annex athletes Michael Rutter, Liam Villano and Matt Bicknese were all involved in this squad's winning ways.

Attention to detail

We'd like to give credit to both our coaches and these student athletes. It's a two-way street and when both sides give it their all in training, we get to witness accomplishments like the ones we saw this week. 

So proud of the #ASPfamily!

ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Luke Jackson, Columbia High School varsity baseball

ANNEX Athlete of the Month: Luke Jackson, Columbia High School varsity baseball

Columbia High School sophomore third baseman Luke Jackson is our Annex Athlete of the Month for April. We’ve decided to highlight the stories of some of our athletes on a regular basis and Luke’s story is a remarkable one of recovery from Tommy John surgery, a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.

As you may know, Annex CEO Mickey Brueckner underwent Tommy John surgery himself so he feels passionate about helping rebound after going through the procedure. Luke has worked extensively with Mickey at our facility. We are happy to report that Luke is back on the field and thriving.

We had a chance to ask him about his experience.

Q: How did you feel when you were told you needed to have Tommy John surgery?

A: I was absolutely crushed. My heart sank and I felt demolished. This was going to be my third major surgery before I even reached high school. I felt remorseful of what I had done to myself. I knew there was something wrong with my elbow way before I ever told someone.

I really needed a confidence boost and a pick-me-up before I was going to be back to the level of baseball I was accustomed to. This is where Mickey really played a key role in the recovery. It was not about just my body, but my feelings and confidence. 

Q: We heard that you are back and having fun playing baseball again. How does that feel just to be playing again? 

A: To be back and playing after 18 months of being sidelined is one of the best feelings that I could have. I have been out for long periods of time prior to this incident, but this one hurt the most. Mickey really made it possible for me to come back to baseball at the level of performance I am playing at, but he also put my confidence through the roof. He allowed me to understand that I was capable of coming back and being even better than before, which was something that I was feeling sort of in the gray about and lost about how I would do in my return to baseball. 

Q: How did you discover the Annex?

A: Through a therapist at JAG Physical Therapy in West Orange, Dan Kane. Dan was also very helpful in my recovery process, but there got to be a point where I needed to be doing higher intensity workouts and rehab than what was possible at JAG. He recommended the Annex and Mickey to be my trainer because he dealt with the injury that I had. 

I really needed a confidence boost and a pick-me-up before I was going to be back to the level of baseball I was accustomed to. This is where Mickey really played a key role in the recovery. It was not about just my body, but my feelings and confidence.

Q: How has working with Mickey helped you the most?

A: He not only helped me to drop some of the weight I gained through my injury, but he also helped me gain a good amount of muscle to my body. That is just the training aspect though. During the rehab process for my elbow, he threw with me everyday and never allowed me to push myself to a point where I could re-injure myself.

He would go out of his way of his busy schedule to throw with me and to tend to my specific individual needs. He also kept me positive, and confident in my abilities. He saw potential and skill in me that I thought I had lost to my injury and made sure I knew that he thought I was going to be fine and that those abilities were not lost to my injury.

Q: What aspects of training do you enjoy?

A: The aspects of training that I enjoy are coming in to the Annex and seeing all these people who are there for similar reasons to me. They all want to get stronger, faster, more athletic like me. Being in a setting like the Annex allowed me to be social and meet new people. I was able to make new friends and bond with other athletes and coaches fairly easily.

The training part also was better due to the staff and the dedication that they put towards their athletes. There was never a moment where I felt I was left to have to figure something out by myself.

Mickey of course helped me get through my issues, as well as the whole staff, but another trainer at the Annex named Matt [Petrillo] was a huge part in my recovery too. He was incredibly kind to me, a funny guy to be around. But he was also serious and could help you get done what you needed to get done. 

It isn’t just a place to go and workout, it is a place to meet new people and socialize with others who enjoy the same thing as you. I was a part of the Annex community for about a year, and it was one of the most complete and interesting years of my life, and I did it all without being on the field. 

Q: What are your personal goals for this season?

A: Continue to be a middle of the order hitter for my schools lineup and to continue being the starting third basemen and to have as little strikeouts as attainable. With baseball, you fail a majority of the time, but my goal is to make those failures to be the most productive failures they can be. Failure in baseball and everything is imminent, but I hope to keep mine to a minimum and to help the team win.  

Q: Who do you see as your role models and why?

A: Of course it will always be my parents because of all they have done for me, but also I would have to include Mickey in this list because of how humble and generous he has been towards me. He was always kind and supportive and he is one of the main reasons I’m able to do what I am doing today. My parents have also kept me positive and made sure I was happy at all times with where I was in my rehab stage, and to make sure I knew they were there for me if I had any issues. 

Q: Why do you love baseball?

A: Because it is a game like no other, and being on the field allows you to just relax and have a good time. There is no clock in a baseball game. There is no hurry or rush to finish. It’s a competitive game that requires a certain skill set to really become successful at. The feeling of hitting a homer or coming up in a clutch moment for the team is a feeling that only baseball can give me. 

Q: Any advice or words of encouragement for other athletes who are coming back from a major injury?

A: It really isn’t as bad as it seems. In the moment it seems like the worst thing ever, but as tedious and aggravating as it was, looking back on it now I realize I got a whole new perspective on the sport and life that I didn’t have before my injuries. You can get through it, if you have the right people like Mickey and the Annex staff by your side, you can come back the times better than ever before. 

Something that we think defines an Annex Athlete

Something that we think defines an Annex Athlete

During his impressive outing to improve to 5-0, Red Sox pitcher Rick Porcello made a play backing up third base that show his athleticism and effort... and instinct. Not every big league pitcher makes this play, nor do they make it look this easy. Red Sox reporter Christopher Smith wrote:

"With two outs, Porcello walked Didi Gregorius, then Chase Headley singled to left-center field and Gregorius headed to third base. 

Porcello, backing up third baseman Travis Shaw, made an excellent diving stop on a wild throw from left fielder Brock Holt.

Gregorius would have scored if the ball had gotten past Porcello.

The Red Sox lead 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning."

Check out the play below: 

Bosox pitcher Rick Porcello off to good 2016 start

Bosox pitcher Rick Porcello off to good 2016 start

Annex athlete Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox pitcher, is off to a 3-0 start, earning a 3.52 ERA in 11 starts since being activated from the disabled list last August. He has 81 strikeouts and h only 14 walks in the 76 2/3 innings he’s pitched over that time period.

He recently told that much of his rebound from last year's off year has been in his training regimen:

"But it does start here (the Annex) with the injury prevention and arm care stuff that I’ve learned throughout the years. It started with Mickey (Brueckner, owner of Annex) and then the training staffs that I worked with in Detroit and now in Boston. I take all that knowledge collected together, pay attention to the detail that’s provided and take care of your shoulder religiously."

Check out the full story here.

A big No-No

A big No-No

Will Schafer on the mound during his incredible no-hitter.

What’s cooking with Trevena Bennett?

What’s cooking with Trevena Bennett?

Annex athlete Trevena Bennett is the type of basketball player every coach wants on a team, one who can score but has a strong desire to grab rebounds. The 5’9” sophomore guard from Union has successfully transitioned to Bentley University after a solid career at Gill St. Bernard’s School in Gladstone. We spoke with her about her training and off-court hobbies.

T.J. Gibbs becomes Seton Hall Prep's third leading scorer

T.J. Gibbs becomes Seton Hall Prep's third leading scorer

T.J. Gibbs became Seton Hall Prep's third leading scorer in school history on Tuesday in a win over University. He has a chance to become the school's leading scorer, surpassing his brothers Ashton and Sterling, who also train at The ANNEX.