Every hitter who comes up to bat hears the same advice: “Get ready for the fastball.” The repeated warnings don’t prepare them for Pat Delano’s 90 mile-per-hour heaters.
On the mound for the Braintree Post 86 Legion baseball team last Sunday evening, Delano hurled six shutout innings in a 12-0 victory over Holbrook.
Towering on the hill at an intimidating 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, Delano is a picture of calm and focus. He has come a long way.
In June 2010 as a sophomore at Braintree High, pitching against Xaverian Brothers in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament, he tore a ligament in his right elbow. In July, he underwent Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews , a noted sports orthopedist based in Birmingham, Ala.
The surgery prevented Delano from pitching as a junior, but did not stop him from stepping up to the plate as first baseman/designated hitter, where he hit .302 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in the wood-bat Bay State Conference.
Delano never lost hope in his pitching skills. Neither did national recruiters.
Last November, he signed a letter of intent to pitch at Vanderbilt, in the challenging Southeastern Conference, and received interest from a number of Division 1 programs (he previously had given a verbal commitment to Boston College).
As a senior this spring, he returned to the mound to compile a stellar 1.21 earned run average for the Wamps (12-7), striking out 50 in 57 innings. Braintree was eliminated by Taunton, 4-0, in the first round of the Division 1 South tournament on June 1.
But four days later, on his way to Legion practice, Delano received a call from the Red Sox, informing him that he had been selected in the 35th round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.
“It was just a great moment,’’ he said later. “Obviously being drafted by your hometown team is a really good honor to have.”
Delano has a decision to make.
Under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, he must sign with the Red Sox by 5 p.m. July 13 or follow through on his commitment to Vanderbilt. He has been in contact with the Sox, but there has not yet been a contract offer extended.
“Right now I’m just kind of in the middle waiting to see what happens,” he said.
Steve Connolly , the assistant athletic officer for Braintree Legion, sees a bright future ahead for Delano, but thinks Vanderbilt would be the right decision for the 18-year-old righthander.
“I hope he goes to Vanderbilt, so he can work on his mechanics. I think he could see the majors.”
Delano is not only dominating on the mound, but he is also hitting .423 with two home runs through the first 10 games, and Braintree’s 7-3 start.
With all of his success it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for a player to get a little cocky, but that is one characteristic Delano does not possess.
Despite his height and deep voice that would have you believe he’s older than a recent high school graduate, Delano is reserved and has even been described as shy.
“He’s timid,” said Connolly. “Most players would let this go to their head, but he doesn’t. It’s not about him, which is nice. He’s a team player and he does what he’s told. He comes early and warms up and his head’s in the game.
Braintree manager Jim Joyce calls Delano a “special talent.”
“He appreciates that and he’s humble about it,” Joyce said. “When he’s not pitching he’s still a great leader. When he’s pitching he’s a good leader and I think that’s what sets him apart.”
Hard work and determination have led Delano to where he is today. He’s been playing the game his entire life, and it is a top priority.
When he is not playing Legion, what is he doing for fun this summer? He paused for a moment before answering, “I work for the town [highway/outdoor maintenance] and play basketball.”
No matter what decision Delano makes, baseball will be a big part of his life.
“In 10 years I want to see myself playing in the major leagues, but I’m just going to have to see what happens. Anything can happen, but I’ll definitely do something with baseball in 10 years. I don’t know what, but that’s the plan.”
After a 12-3 win over Milton on Monday and an 11-5 loss to Cohasset on Tuesday, Braintree stood at 8-4, trailing Hyde Park (10-3) and Weymouth (9-3) in the District 6 East race.
Norwood (14-2, 28 points) is rolling in the District 6 West race, six points ahead of Walpole (11-4), 22 points) and seven in front of Medfield (10-3-1, 21).
Westwood (2-11) will play at Walpole Sunday on July 8 at Bird Middle School at 5 p.m.
There will be a single-elimination tournament to determine which team will represent Massachusetts at the Northeast Regional Tournament. Eight district champions will meet on July 16 in four games across the state. Four semifinalists will play at Worcester Academy on July 17 and 18.