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Delmonico father-son duo tops FHS-UT baseball connection

With seventh grader Nicky Delmonico shagging ground balls from his father, University of Tennessee Baseball head coach Rod Delmonico, prior to the Vols winter pre-season practice at Lindsey Nelson Stadium last Friday, the smallest chip on the family block was grooming his skills.

Meanwhile, the oldest "chip," 18-year-old freshman standout Tony Delmonico, has come full circle since his days as a batboy during the Todd Helton "golden era" of UT baseball in the early and mid-1990s.

An All-state shortstop at Farragut High School ranked 28th nationally by one major publication among top freshmen to watch, Tony has already been penciled in as the Vols' starting shortshop.

Plus, a trio of former Admiral teammates junior pitcher Craig Cobb, sophomore catcher Scott Dean and outfielder/infielder Cody Brown join Tony on the 2006 Vol roster.

About playing for his father, What can I say, its not set in yet, the 18-year-old said. Its been one of my goals ever since I was a kid.

I know theres going to be a lot of pressure this year, thats a given, just because of the name on the back of my jersey, he added. But Ive got to ignore that and just go out and play my game, and let that speak for itself. Ive gotta go two-hundred percent just because of the name on the back of the jersey, and because I want to be great.

Speaking about his father/coach, Hes always been hard on me its an advantage and disadvantage sometimes, but Im hard on myself just as much as hes hard on me, Tony said. Over the years hes been my individual coach, so this is actually new territory, Ive never actually seen him coach a team like this. In a way its a comfortable situation, in a way its all new. Putting those two things together, Im enjoying every minute of it.

In anticipation of his first game, Feb. 3 versus Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla., I think its going to be an emotional day for me, but in a way its going to be, alright, this is it. Im here, its time to move on and get started, Tony said.

Based on already having gone through fall practice with the Vols, Ive learned its so much quicker from high school, Tony said. Mentally, youve got to be one step quicker. I had a good fall, but sometimes I tried to do too much, and you cant do that at this level. I was trying to jerk the ball, hit the ball out of the ballpark, something that I cant do. I have to accept my role on the team.

In addition during the fall, I though it was going to be tougher, my dad and I, but it worked out great, Tony said, although he added, He is harder on me, I dont get no breaks. Thats a given, I knew that coming in, but Ive just got to accept that.

About having his son on the team, Its nice, its something weve talked about for a while, said coach Delmonico, who enters his 17th season as UT skipper, having led the Vols to three College World Series trips and two Southeastern Conference titles.

Hes one of the players on my team, Im not going to coach him any different than I coach another player. If anything, Ill be a little harder. Ive always coached him hard, Ive always been critical growing up. I think Im going to continue to be the same way.

That also includes Nicky and Joey, a sophomore at FHS.


In developing the talents of Tony Delmonico, Cobb, Brown and Dean, FHS head coach Tommy Pharr received high praise from coach Delmonico. Tommy Pharr is the best high school coach in the state, by far, he said.

Brown, a former FHS standout third baseman who is out at least until March following wrist surgery Jan. 25, said his adjustment to college baseball didn't come easy during fall practice.

"I was all tensed up, trying to do more than I can. ... At the plate being nervous, trying to prove you can hit and play in the S-E-C," he said. "You get all hyped up, swinging out in front of balls, try to do more than you really need to.

"You just have to trust yourself that you can actually do it," the 19-year-old added. "I've kinda finally found a little confidence coming into spring.

Coach Delmonico said Brown was playing really well in practice, making progress before the injury.

As for his teammates, "Me and Tony have played together since we were twelve years old, Brown said. I feel comfortable when I'm out there at third and I look over there and he's right there next to me playing short.

Projected as the Sunday starter in the season-opening weekend series versus Florida Atlantic, Cobb said his role is still wide open between starter and middle relief. "I'll be playing much different roles this year," said Cobb, an All-state FHS pitcher who relies heavily on location to make his fastball and change-up work.

Cobb, one of three veteran Vol pitchers, finished 2005 with a 4.53 earned run average, compiling a 7-4 record in 15 starts, with three complete game victories. He struck out 54, walking only 22, in 99.1 innings. Those innings included work as the UT closer.

Dean, a former standout FHS catcher, transferred from Lincoln Memorial University as an invited walk-on. He will not be eligible until 2007 because of what coach Delmonico said was "an academic issue" concerning credit transfers.

Saying that being closer to home and having familiar teammates were incentives, "They've got a great program over here, I just want to be a part of it and try and help out the team whenever I can," Dean said, adding that LMU "wasn't a very good fit for me."

Describing himself as a lifelong UT sports fan, "This is my first love, it's awesome, really," Dean said.


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