Two years ago, Pat Delano felt like he was on top of the world. The pitcher had made a successful comeback from Tommy John elbow surgery and posted a 4-0 record with a 1.21 ERA in his senior year at Braintree High.
The Wamps were eliminated in the first round of the Division 1 South tourney, but the sting dissipated several days later when the Boston Red Sox drafted Delano in the 35th round of the 2012 MLB draft.
With a scholarship offer from Division 1 Vanderbilt already in his hands, the 6-foot-7, 255- pound righthander weighed his options and decided to take his fastball to Nashville, home of the Commodores.
That was the start of what has turned into a two-year revolving door of baseball diamonds for Delano, who was red-shirted for his freshman season at Vanderbilt.
Sensing that he was far down the depth chart of a strong pitching staff, Delano left Vanderbilt after the fall semester last year. Also playing a factor was pitching coach Derek Johnson’s decision to leave Vanderbilt for the Chicago Cubs. Johnson developed current MLB stars David Price (Tigers) and Sonny Gray (Athletics) at Vanderbilt.
Delano enrolled at Cisco Junior College in Texas for the spring semester, but decided not to return after he experienced wildness and saw limited time in the rotation. This month, Delano arrived at Bossier Parish Community College in northwest Louisiana, his third school in a little over a year.
Delano’s goal is to toe the rubber as often as possible this year and recapture the interest of pro scouts who wonder whether the devastating fastball and effective curve that Delano displayed at Braintree will resurface.
“I think he can get back to where he needs to be,” said Aaron Vorachek, coach at Bossier Parish. “That’s our goal for him. We’re hoping for big things. I told Pat that if he comes in and does what he’s capable of doing, that he’ll get drafted out of here. That’s the plan.”
Looking back, Delano doesn’t regret his decision not to sign with his hometown Red Sox in 2012.
“The best option for me at that point was going off to Vanderbilt,” said Delano, who was one of the most feared pitchers in the country during his sophomore season at Braintree, where he was 4-1 with 65 strikeouts in 45 innings. That season ended when he injured his pitching elbow in the South sectional. “There are no regrets there. I learned so much about the game of baseball and just about life in general. It was a good experience.”
A candid discussion with Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, who indicated that Delano probably wouldn’t see the innings he wanted as a sophomore, led to Delano’s decision to leave .
“He had some tough decisions to make and some adversity to overcome,” said Bill O’Connell, Delano’s coach at Braintree, who remains close with his former star pitcher.
“He’s trying to find the best situation to get back on the bump and be a guy who is going to get showcased and be able to show his ability. He’ll get the opportunity to do that down there. Whether he gets drafted or moves on to another D1 program remains to be seen.”
Delano knows he has an uphill battle to regain the form he displayed at Braintree.
But the pieces seem to be coming together. Vorachek is convinced that Cavaliers pitching coach T.J. Forrest, who also rebounded from Tommy John surgery, can help Delano solve the mechanical difficulties he faced at Cisco.
Delano spent the summer on a construction job and working out six days a week at Cressey Sports Performance in Hudson. On the advice of trainer Eric Cressey, Delano didn’t pick up a baseball all summer.
“We worked heavily on the mobility side and making him a better athlete and doing things to make a big guy like him more flexible,” said Cressey, who adds the work will help on Delano’s windup and add zip to his fastball.
“Sometimes you need to take a step back and focus on becoming more athletic. It’s obviously been an up-and-down roller coaster for Pat, but he’s worked hard to put himself in a good position to succeed.”
Mark Delano, Pat’s father, is optimistic about the future.
“He knows he’ll be drafted,” he said. “He’s that confident. He’s been told that by all kinds of people.”
Pat Delano, however, is taking nothing for granted.John R. Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.