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Ex-Admiral Catapano seeks new role at UT

Rob Catapano’s decision to transfer from college baseball power North Carolina came down to sacrificing the “great experience” of UNC campus life because spot pitching duty with the Tar Heels left him unsatisfied.

As first reported Jan. 30 on Farragut First Edition at, this former All-state Farragut High School left-handed ace — now a University of Tennessee Volunteer baseball student/athlete after enrolling at UT “during Christmas break” — said his move “was probably the hardest decision of my life.

”Me and my coach at Carolina [head coach Mike Fox], we just had a different pitching philosophy,” said Catapano, a 5-foot-10, 174-pound junior who won’t be eligible to pitch until 2010 with two years of eligibility left. He pitched in short relief during two straight College World Series. “The coach there just liked to used left-handers as, like, a set-up guy; come in for one or two batters and you get them out and they hand the ball over to a right-handed pitcher.

”I tried so many times in that situation and I just could never get comfortable ... and I didn’t really see myself as that of type pitcher,” he added. “I had to go somewhere where I could maybe, possibly be what I want to be. I just want to get some quality innings, you know, and help the team out.”

In 52.2 innings pitched, 46 appearances, spanning two UNC seasons, Catapano compiled a 3.42 ERA with a 5-1 record and seven starts. He struck out 50, walked 23 and recorded one save.

Among his highlights, the ex-FHS standout pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in the 2007 CWS versus Rice.

“We project him to be a starter, that’s the role we want to use him in, ” UT head coach Todd Raleigh said. “We could lose all three of our weekend starters this year to the [Major League] draft.

Catapano said, “I’d like to be a starter ... I just want to throw a lot of innings ... get some quality innings under my belt and go from there, see how it works out.”

Raleigh said he’s impressed with Catapano’s “experiene” and “desire,” adding the 20-year-old has a “live fastball, hard slider” along with a curveball and change-up. “His out pitch is probably the slider,” the Vol skipper added.

As opposed to Catapano, no UT player has ever played in an NCAA Regional, Raleigh said.

Also a motivating factor in transferring to UT is being reunited with former FHS teammates such as pitcher Matt “Hammer” Ramsey plus other players he knew from high school. “It’s nice not having to come on to a team without knowing anybody,” he said. “It’s kinda cool to be on the same team now.”

The former FHS standout, who’s pitching is credited as a huge reason the Admirals won the 2006 Class AAA state crown, also said he “liked” UT’s coaching staff and “felt comfortable” working with them.

However, if it had come down to campus life and academics, Catapano said he likely would have stayed put.

“U-N-C is probably my favorite place to be regardless of baseball, it’s a great place to go to college,” said Catapano, a sociology major focusing on criminology. “I’ve had the time of my life there. If I didn’t play baseball I’d probably still be there. ... I was a great experience, I’m going to miss it.”

Catapano said he talked with UNC coaches about “what they saw me doing coming off elbow surgery” for what would have been his 2009 Tar Heels season. He didn’t hear the right answers. “U-T was right in my backyard, snd it’s nice to be home,” he said.

Saying he first contemplated transferring “last summer,” Catapano said he consulted with his parents, Richard and Vicki Catapano, and FHS head coach Tommy Pharr. “I lot of long nights sitting up talking to my parents, laying out the consequence,” Rob said, adding coach Pharr “is always there if I ever need anything.”


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