Danielle was but 18 years old when she died in an automobile accident while a student at Florida State University in February of 2002. She had been an outstanding three-sport athlete [soccer, basketball, and softball] at Hull High. She wore the number 7 in both soccer and softball. She would¹ve worn it in basketball, too, but single digits above 5 aren’t allowed, so she wore 11. For whatever reason, “7” was, and remains, Danielle’s. It has been embroidered on the front of the HHS softball uniform every season since her death.
Her coaches, her friends, her opponents, and even her family would be quick to tell you that she wasn’t the best player ever at HHS in any of her three sports. Nor was she the best student ever, although ranking in the top 10 of her class does speak to strong classroom performance. That large numbers of townspeople saw to it that her name would forever grace the field she played on so well and so often was because Struzz [pronounced Strooz], as she was called, was one of those among us who was special and different and who impacted many in a positive way over the span of a life shorter than it should¹ve been. At the dedication on May 25, 2002, just days shy of four years ago, state Sen. Bob Hedlund hit on something when he said she typified what a Hullonian is about. Good point! It was longtime family friend and former Hull Fire Chief Nick Russo who recalled that, when the 5′-1″, 110-pound Struzziery went up against an opposing six-footer on the basketball court, ³It was usually the six-footer who came out battered and bruised.² Russo¹s characterization was that she’d be scratching, clawing, and in your face at all times. Very Hull-like.
That bench behind the backstop at Struzziery Field? It was put in place on that same day in May, ’02. The Latin phrase reads:Nihil Sine Labore – Nothing Without Effort. It was her yearbook quote. The day that softball season ended each spring was that day that Danielle, who was coach Joe Sullivan¹s mound ace, started working on her game for the next season. Her father, Bill, remembers how in the winter she’d put a mattress against the wall in the basement and throw for an hour. And how she’d take me down to the field after she’d just played a game and I’d have to hit her a hundred balls and pitch her a hundred. Nihil Sine Labore – Nothing Without Effort.
There’s this story about Danielle as captain of the HHS girls soccer team. The new girls just joining the team arrived at the first practice of the season the captain’s practice with understandable trepidation. This was varsity level, the proverbial next level for a teenager. Sensing the mood, Danielle took them to the beach to ease the tension, telling them You’re part of the team now. Soccer sisters for life. Sullivan, who was Danielle’s softball coach, compares her to Red Sox pitchers Curt Schilling and Josh Becket for their intensity: Every single pitch is so important. When she crossed that line from third base going out to the mound, it was intensity that was so contagious that the rest of the team thrived on it, a contagious sense that she brought to the field. Leaders do things in ways that cause others to want to follow. It’s what leadership is about.
It was former Chief Russo who recalled the Wizard’s words to the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. A heart isn’t judged by how much you love, but how much you are loved by others. That thought goes to another facet of Danielle that moved young people and adults town wide, in her mother’s and father’s words: to honor her forever, to give this lifelong legacy. She was one of those few whose presence in a room was immediately known upon her arrival. At awards ceremonies when her name was called, the cheers were simply louder for Danielle that for other recipients. The intent was not to diminish the others; rather it was an expression of the appreciation and caring her peers had for Danielle. Could be that it was there because as intense and fierce a competitor as she was, there are innumerable pictures, videos and remembrances of Struzz’s warmth, dancing with kids at family functions, bringing entire teams of girls to her home on Warren Street to watch movies for a night. Everybody a sister. Everybody a teammate. And yeah, there was that time on a softball road trip when, a la Pedro Martinez, she wrapped herself mummy-like in tape and stood facing the passing cars from inside the team bus. Life of the party, says coach Sullivan, she was always fun to be around, I’ll never forget it. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. She was the oldest of the four Struzziery sisters. Twenty-year-old Nikki has just finished her junior year at Rutgers. Marissa is 19 and attending Blaine Hair Academy. Janine, 17, is a HHS senior who will attend Curry College in the fall. She, like Danielle, this year is captain of both the soccer and the softball teams. She will be the last of the Struzziery sisters to play softball for Hull High. There is a touch to the 7 on her uniform each time she steps into the batter’s box.
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