'A dream come true' for Nicky Delmonico

Farragut grad records hit in spring training

Former Farragut High star Nicky Delmonico, center, watches batting practice during spring training.

Photo by Special to the News Sentinel

Former Farragut High star Nicky Delmonico, center, watches batting practice during spring training.

If Nicky Delmonico tells you nowadays he's "living the dream," he means it.

The 19-year-old former Farragut High School baseball star is in Sarasota, Fla., dressing out and playing some with the Baltimore Orioles during their spring training.

Delmonico, the youngest of former University of Tennessee baseball coach Rod Delmonico's three sons, was a sixth-round draft pick last June and signed with the Orioles in August.

He's splitting time between the major league camp in Sarasota and the Orioles' minor league camp 10 minutes away.

He got the call to suit up with the big league team on March 16, and he recorded a hit in his first at-bat the next day.

The 6-foot-3 Delmonico, a lefty at the plate, wasn't supposed to get that plate appearance. He finished 1-for-2.

"I was surprised I was getting to bat," he said Friday on the News Sentinel Sports Page radio show. "They told me I would be pinch-running for (Nick) Markakis if he gets on. He was on-deck with two outs. The guy in front of him made the final out.

"The hitting coach comes up to me and says, 'Hey, you're leading off next inning.' My stomach just dropped.

"I walked up (to the plate) and it was like a dream. I couldn't hear anybody in the stands. I couldn't hear my name called. I was in the moment.

"I got to a good count. He threw me a 3-2 sinker, and I connected to left field. It was amazing, rounding first base and hearing the fans cheer — knowing you can't get any higher than that level."

The hit left one of his coaches dumbfounded. The coach, impressed by Delmonico's approach at the plate, asked if he played in Class AA or Class AAA last season.

"I told him I was a high schooler," Delmonico said, laughing, "and he just looked at me with his eyes wide open. He was just laughing."

On March 18, Delmonico faced the New York Yankees. Though he went 0-for-1, Delmonico cherished the experience of going up against the team he grew up watching.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi watched him take batting practice. Delmonico graced the same box score as Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and first baseman Mark Teixeira.

He even saw his childhood idol, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who did not play because of injury.

"I've been watching (Jeter) since I was a kid," said Delmonico, "I've tried to take after him as much as I could, just watching him. To be able to see him on the same field, it was a dream come true."

Delmonico likely will start his minor league career at the Orioles' Class A affiliate, the Delmarva Shorebirds in Salisbury, Md.

The Shorebirds open their season April 5 in Asheville, N.C.

Delmonico said he's looking forward to climbing the ladder in the minor league system and putting to use what he's learned.

"When you get up there (with the big league team), you really just want to shut your mouth and open your eyes and ears and take in as much as you can," he said. "That's the biggest: learning as much as you can.

"It's a blessing I've been able to get a call-up there my first year and just to see how those guys and how they do it, and really learn from them and make myself better."

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