The Southeastern Conference's longest-tenured baseball coach is the University of Tennessee's Rod Delmonico, who recently completed his 18th season at the helm of the Volunteers in 2007. Just more than two seasons ago, he guided the Vols to Omaha for the third time during his tenure on Rocky Top.
The longtime leader of the Big Orange ranks fourth on the league's all-time victories list and sits just one win shy of his 700th career victory as UT's head coach.
The winningest coach in Tennessee baseball history, Delmonico led the Vols to their seventh 30-win season in the last eight years and 16th overall in 2007. This comes on the heels of a 2005 campaign that was highlighted by a berth in the NCAA College World Series -- the fourth all-time appearance in school history and the third under Delmonico. In addition, three players earned All-America honors in 2005, three more were named Freshman All-Americas and Luke Hochevar and J.P. Arencibia were named the SEC Pitcher and Freshman of the Year, respectively. Tennessee's final record stood at 46-21, and the Vols finished second in the SEC after being picked fifth in the Eastern Division entering the year.
Before Delmonico's arrival in 1990, none of those accomplishments would have been mentioned in the same sentence with Tennessee baseball. Using knowledge that he gleaned from two of college baseball's coaching legends -- Clemson's Bill Wilhelm and Florida State's Mike Martin -- Delmonico and his Vols have posted nine 40-win seasons, including two 50-win campaigns. His teams have won an average of nearly 40 games per year, while garnering two Southeastern Conference titles, making three trips to the College World Series, appearing in eight NCAA regionals, including five regional finals, while winning four SEC Eastern Division crowns and three SEC Eastern Division Tournament championships. In addition, he was named Baseball America's 1995 National Coach of the Year, SEC Coach of the Year in 1994 and 1995 and Tennessee Baseball Coach of the Year in 1994, 1995 and 2001.
Likewise, during his overall coaching career he has been part of teams that have participated in the College World Series six times, made 14 NCAA regional appearances, won 10 conference or division titles and posted nine conference tournament championships. With a background of winning at the top level of collegiate baseball dotting his resume, it's no wonder that his teams are perennial contenders for the conference title as well as a national championship. Delmonico has seen 97 Vols sign professional baseball contracts including seven first-round picks. In fact, over the last 25 years at the Division I level, he has coached or signed 28 players who went to play in the major leagues, including the likes of Todd Helton, Joe Randa, Jimmy Key, Luis Alicea, Deion Sanders, Paul Sorrento, and most recently, Chris Burke of the Houston Astros. He has coached 23 of Tennessee's 30 All-Americas, including three three-time selections and the 1995 National Player of the Year in Helton. In addition, 28 Vols have earned 43 All-Conference plaques, including three SEC Players of the Year in Helton, Jeff Pickler in 1998 and Burke in 2001, under Delmonico's watch. Hochevar earned SEC Pitcher of the Year acclaim and the Roger Clemens National Pitcher of the Year Award in 2005.
Not only is there solid leadership from the top on the diamond, but he is also a tremendous role model off the field who emphasizes the "student" in student-athlete to all his players. As a result, there have been four Academic All-America selections and 66 student-athletes named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
The 2001 season stands alongside the 2005 campaign as one of the greatest coaching jobs of his career, as Delmonico guided the 2001 Vols to their second College World Series in his regime. Picked to finish no better than fourth in the SEC Eastern Division, Tennessee tied for second overall in the league and rolled through the NCAA Regionals and Super Regional to finish third at the CWS. SEC Player of the Year, National Player of the Year finalist and consensus All-America Chris Burke led the unsung Vols that season. A total of seven players were drafted, including Burke and pitcher Wyatt Allen in the first round.
Each of his Tennessee teams has exhibited an explosive offense, finishing in the top four in batting average 10 times, including a league-leading .340 average in 1998. He has also built a pitching staff that has ranked in the top five in earned run average 10 times, including a league leading 2.98 ERA in 1994.
In 1995, he guided a gutty team, led by National Player of the Year Todd Helton, to a third-place finish at the College World Series. It was the first appearance by the Vols in Omaha in 44 years. The squad compiled a 54-16 mark, recording the most wins in school history, and garnered a consensus top-five final ranking. Helton was also a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
Led by National Freshman of the Year pitcher R.A. Dickey, whose 15 wins led the nation, the 1994 Volunteers reached the regional finals while compiling a 52-14 record and finishing the season ranked in the top 10, reaching a high of No. 2 by Baseball America. It was the first-ever 50-win season for a Tennessee team and, with a 24-5 Southeastern Conference record, it was the first league crown in 43 years. The Vols set an SEC record with 17 consecutive league wins.
In 1993, Delmonico's dream of upgrading facilities and moving the Tennessee baseball program to the forefront of the college landscape came true when the Vols stepped into their $2.2 million state-of-the-art facility in Lindsey Nelson Stadium. In a 1998 Baseball America survey, the stadium, which seats 3,712, was voted the 14th best in the nation. Today, with the addition of a 30x50 foot electronic scoreboard and message center, Tennessee baseball has become a big springtime event.
The 1993 season was a special one on the diamond as well. The Vols posted a 45-20 record, the team's most victories to that point, and began a string of hosting three straight NCAA Mideast Regionals. It was also UT's first trip to NCAA postseason play since the 1951 College World Series, and the Vols claimed their first postseason title by winning the first of three consecutive SEC Eastern Division Tournaments. They achieved their first national ranking in April and were ranked for 91 straight weeks over the next five seasons.
Delmonico's first team in 1990 posted 28 wins, the most since 1982, and blew the critics away in 1991 with the school's first-ever 40-win season by posting a 41-19 record. The 1992 squad got off to the best start in school history by reeling off eight straight wins and finishing with a 35-20 record. Following a trip to the CWS in 1995, his 1996 charges also reached the regional finals with a 43-20 record. The 1997 team began the season 18-1 and capped a string of five straight regional appearances and 40-win seasons with a 42-19 record.
Testament to his focus on defense is the fact that the Vols led the nation in fielding in 1993 and 1994 with .975 and .977 fielding percentages respectively. The 1994 team also turned an NCAA-leading 93 double plays. His teams have led the SEC in fielding percentage on four occasions, while ranking in the top three eight times.
As the top assistant at Florida State from 1984-89, the Seminoles compiled a record of 334-119-1, finishing in the top 15 nationally each year. They played in three College World Series and had 21 players drafted by major league teams while producing nine All-Americas.
Delmonico, specifically designated head recruiter by Seminoles head coach Mike Martin, rounded up freshman classes that were ranked in the top 10 nationally each year. His 1984 group was rated the best, and both the 1986 and 1987 recruits were ranked second. In 1988, he was tabbed as the nation's third-best recruiter by Collegiate Baseball.
Before moving to Florida State, Delmonico gained experience as a graduate assistant coach at Clemson from 1982-83 under legendary coach Bill Wilhelm and as an assistant at Division III Gloucester County College in Sewell, N.J., where he served as the hitting and outfield coach in 1981.
Delmonico graduated from Liberty University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree in physical education, and lettered in baseball and soccer. He holds a master's degree from Clemson University in education administration.
He has penned four books, "Hit and Run Baseball," "Offensive Drills," "Defensive Baseball" and "Defensive Drills," and produced two videotapes entitled, "Aggressive Baserunning" and "Hitting Fundamentals with Drills." In addition, he has been a contributing writer to numerous national coaching periodicals including Scholastic Coach and Collegiate Baseball.
In fall 2001, Delmonico and Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt were featured in a new book titled, "6 Psychological Factors for Success: America's Most Successful Athletic Coaches Reveal the Path to Competitive Excellence."
"The Tennessee women's basketball and baseball programs are nationally prominent, and we are thrilled that Pat and Rod shared their secrets with us in the book," author Steve Brennan, Ph.D. stated.
Delmonico is also a sought-after lecturer and speaker at various national baseball clinics and national companies. He has made trips with Major League Baseball International to the Czech Republic, Italy, Germany, Croatia, Holland and Austria to teach the game of baseball.
A native of Wilmington, N.C., Delmonico graduated from New Hanover High School in 1976. He has three sons, Tony, Joey and Nicky. Tony joined the Vols in 2006 and earned Freshman All-America honors.
Rod Delmonico's Coaching History SEC SEC NCAA Year Team Overall SEC Finish Tour Tour CWS 1990 Tennessee 28-31 .474 9-18 .333 9th 1991 Tennessee 41-19 .683 13-13 .500 7th 1992 Tennessee 35-20 .636 10-14 .417 5th (East) 1993 Tennessee 45-20 .692 20-10 .667 1st (East) 5-1 1-2 1994 Tennessee 52-14 .788 24-5 .828 1st (East) 4-1 3-2 1995 Tennessee 54-16 .771 22-8 .733 1st (East) 5-1 4-0 2-2 1996 Tennessee 43-20 .683 18-12 .600 2nd (East) 0-2 3-2 1997 Tennessee 41-19 .689 17-13 .567 T1st (East) 0-2 1-2 1998 Tennessee 36-20 .643 11-17 .393 4th (East) 1999 Tennessee 28-28 .500 10-20 .333 4th (East) 2000 Tennessee 40-23 .635 10-18 .357 5th (East) 2001 Tennessee 48-20 .706 18-12 .600 2nd (East) 0-2 5-1 2-2 2002 Tennessee 27-28 .491 12-18 .400 4th (East) 2003 Tennessee 31-24 .564 13-17 .433 4th (East) 2004 Tennessee 38-24 .613 14-16 .467 5th (East) 1-2 1-2 2005 Tennessee 46-21 .687 18-11 .621 2nd (East) 2-2 5-2 0-2 2006 Tennessee 31-24 .564 11-18 .379 5th (East) 2007 Tennessee 34-25 .576 13-15 .464 4th (East) 1-2 Totals 699-396 .638 263-255 .508 18-15 23-13 4-6