By now you’ve probably noticed that the Netherlands upset the Dominican Republic in baseball. In fact, as Tuffy mentioned in the Speed Read directly below this post, they did it a second time with even more gumption and dramatics then they had in beating the D.R.’s All-Stars the first time around. This time, a 20-year-old minor league prospect from the Twins system named Tom Stuifbergen matched Ubaldo Jimenez and Pedro Martinez out for out. After finally giving up a run in extra innings — hard to fault them for allowing Jose Reyes to score from second on a clear base hit into the outfield — they responded with two. That, friends, is clutch.
(Tennessee, the Netherlands … maybe he just needs to keep wearing orange?)
So who, pray tell, is the man behind these wins? Well, his name is Rod Delmonico, and you’ve almost certainly never heard of him unless you’re really, really into college baseball. After a career that started in 1981, Delmonico was an assistant and head coach at Clemson, Florida State and Tennessee. But then, after a long collegiate career, Delmonico left the Volunteers in 2007 for an amorphous position with MLB that may have made him the perfect manager for the Netherlands, and just the type of man who could help a team put on a magical run in the World Baseball Classic.
Across 17 years as head coach for the Volunteers, Delmonico made it to three College World Series, was the Baseball America Coach of the Year in 1995 and, by and large, toiled away in anonymity. Finally, Delmonico decided to step aside at Rocky Top, accepting a position with Major League Baseball International, for which he taught at clinics in Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia and, you guessed it, the Netherlands.
Factor in Delmonico’s European tour, and it’s clear why he’s perfect to lead one of two European teams in the World Baseball Classic. Not only does he have personal knowledge of the relatively limited stock of prospects that are shipping over from the Netherlands directly (most of the players that were in Puerto Rico are from the Dutch controlled islands of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles), he knows how to teach them. Heck, he’s already done it.
Add to that his experience in double-elimination tournaments — the format used for the NCAA baseball tournament — and you get a perfect storm: A man whose been working day-in, day-out trying to get the most out of limited talent, and who knows exactly what to say and what to do to get the most out of his team when backs are constantly against the wall.
Now, none of this means that the Netherlands will win another game in this entire tournament. But it does mean that maybe, just maybe, people should be taking this Delmonico guy a little more seriously. He slaved away as a college assistant for nine years before he got a shot at Tennessee, and that worked out pretty well; he’s the school’s all-time leader in wins.
What’s to say he couldn’t do that in the bigs, too? We don’t see why it couldn’t, and maybe he deserves the chance. After all, if March tournaments have taught us anything, it should be that some pretty solid coaches at major programs (Kansas’ Bill Self, Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl and Missouri’s Mike Anderson) started out by leading underdogs on deep runs through the NCAA tourney, so maybe it’s time for baseball to give one a shot.