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UT skipper talks of father-versus-coach role with Tony

Former Farragut High School star and UT Freshmen All-American shortstop Tony Delmonico, now a sophomore, is not even first among equals when coached by his father, Vol veteran skipper Rod Delmonico.

Then again, as a father, memories of Tony’s “firsts” as a Volunteer have almost no equal in coach Delmonico’s cherished family experiences.

“I guess the best part about coaching Tony was I got to see all of his ‘firsts,’” coach Delmonico said, adding that because of his UT coaching responsibilities, “I’ve missed that in life. I saw his first hit here, I saw his first error. I saw his first run scored. I saw his first play. I’ve never been able to do that because I’ve always been coaching. That’s what you miss when you’re coaching.”

However, “If anything, if I was going to fall one way, I was going to fall on being too hard than being too easy,” Rod Delmonico said about first coaching his son at UT. “But I’ve always been hard on Tony, I’ve always pushed him, I’ve always been demanding. This year’s kinda easier because everybody saw last year that I’m going to get after him if he does something wrong. There’s no extra for him.”

Reflecting on mistakes, “I was probably more apt to tell him what he didn’t do well, and forgot to tell him what he did well because I was coaching him all the time,” Rod said. “Then I had to realize, ‘you know I’ve got to be dad a little bit’ and tell him, ‘hey, that was a good play’ or ‘that was a good move.’”

In 54 games last season Tony hit .335 with three homers, 35 RBIs.

As for on-the-field performance, coach Delmonico said Tony and ex-FHS standout and UT sophomore starting third baseman Cody Brown are much better at “slowing the game down.”

“One thing they’ve been able to do as sophomores they couldn’t do as freshmen is they’ve been able to slow the game down,” coach Delmonico said. “Last year the game was going really quick for ’em. They were trying to grow up as starters in the S-E-C. … They’re able to catch the ball and throw and not speed the game up. … A lot of times young hitters try and go get the ball. Well, the ball’s coming ninety miles an hour, let it come to you. ... Part of that is they’re so aggressive, they’re out of control.”

Tony said, “I was pressing a whole lot. … Trying to make the great play all the time instead of focusing on just being consistent.”

One season later, “All the hard work’s paid off, all the adversity I went through last year was definitely a plus, now that I look back,” he said. “I’m much more mentally prepared as well as physically prepared. I’ve worked hard in the weight room. Adversity brings success in my eyes.”

Remembering a key error last year that “probably lost a game,” Tony said, “I’ve worked on my defense even harder last summer and last fall.”

As for one huge reason Tony works so hard, “It’s no fun seeing a player struggle, but it’s even harder seeing a player and your son struggle at the same time,” he said.


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