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Nicky Delmonico

Nicky Delmonico

For the readers of my column, you’ll notice that this one is a bit of a departure. It is more news-related than history, but it gives us a chance to celebrate an up and coming Italian American major league baseball player.

In a game in earlier this month, the Boston Red Sox were visiting the South Side of Chicago to play a series against the White Sox. In one of those games, the clubs went into the bottom half of the ninth inning with Boston ahead 4-3. Chicago put men at first and third base with only one out. The hitter was a 27-year-old outfielder-first baseman from Knoxville, Tennessee, named Nicky Delmonico. Baseball is in his blood and he was bat boy at the University of Tennessee for his dad, Rod, who coached the college squad.

After attending Farragut High School in Knoxville, Nick played on the United States National Baseball team in the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championship. He was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the sixth round of the 2011 Major League baseball draft and broke a commitment to the University of Georgia to sign with Baltimore for a $1.5 signing bonus.

Delmonico began his pro career with the Delmarva Shorebirds in the Class A South Atlantic League in 2012, where he was an All-Star and named the league’s Most Valuable Player hitting 11 home runs and driving in 54 runs in 95 games. The next season he was assigned to Frederick Keys of the Class A Advanced Carolina League until July 7, when he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent the 2014 season in the Class-A Advanced Florida State League. It was in July that Delmonico tested positive for Adderall and was suspended for 50 games. The medication, however, had been prescribed for attention deficit disorder and when he failed to renew his exemption for Adderall from the drug testing policy, he was suspended.

But for a time it was rock bottom for Delmonico. When he arrived home during his suspension, his comments to family were defeatist. “I’m done playing,” he announced. “I am no longer in the right frame of mind.” But he fought back.

Released by the Brewers, Nicky signed with the White Sox and spent 2015 with the Kannapolis Intimidators in the South Atlantic League and the Birmingham Barons of the AA Southern League. In May of the following year, he was promoted to the Charlotte Knights of the Class AAA International League in May. In 110 games, he hit 17 homers and drove in 61 runs.  After beginning the 2017 season in Charlotte, Delmonico made it to the big club on August 1. His big league debut came the same day he reported and he got his first big league hit against Ryan Tepera of the Toronto Blue Jays. His first round tripper came off of Rick Porcello of the Red Sox on August 3. Reaching base in each of his first 13 games, Nick hit six home runs in his first 19 games.

On September 27, his first walk-off game winning home run was a 2-run homer against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, allowing the Minnesota Twins to clinch a play-off spot.

Delmonico began the 2019 season in Charlotte playing 17 games and hitting .286 with three home runs and 10 RBIs before being called up again to the American League in late April. He appeared in six previous games with the White Sox before being called upon to pinch-hit for Ryan Cordell in the seventh inning of the May 2 game against Boston. With the Red Sox needing just three outs for a victory, Boston reliever Ryan Brasier struck out Yoan Moncada to lead off the inning. But third baseman Rafeal Devers errored on Jose Rondon’s grounder putting the tying run on first base. Yonder Alonso singled through the left side of the infield putting runners at the corners and setting the stage for Delmonico.

The left handed hitter stood in against Brasier and hit a pop foul on the first pitch making the count 0-1. In his seventh game since the call-up from Charlotte the week before, Delmonico swung at a low slider and deposited it over the fence in right center field for a three-run walk- off game winning home run. To the newly arrived Major Leaguer the experience was “Amazing, felt awesome!”

As with most young ballplayers, Nick has seen his share of ups and downs and made his share of mistakes. Persevering with diligence and dedication, Delmonico has made it to the top. The job is to stay there and an explosive walk-off home run is one way to begin that struggle. In his first 87 major league at-bats, Nicky hit .315. He showed the ability to hit both for average and with power. Watch for Nicky Delmonico to make his way to a thrilling big time career.