Who Is Dutch Manager Rod Delmonico?
If you're like us, you've become mildly addicted to the World Baseball Classic for two reasons: 1) It's competitive baseball (well, mostly competitive) and 2) The shocking success of the Netherlands, which not only eliminated the Dominican Republic, but also gave Puerto Rico a scare in their second game (of the opening round), before last night's anti-climactic Group D capitulation (Puerto Rico won round two of the teams' match up 5-0).
Of course, as nearly everything else has, losing to Puerto Rico may have actually helped the Netherlands in Round 2 of the WBC. Instead of facing the U.S. -- which finished as the runner-up in Group C after losing to Venezuela -- the Netherlands gets a game with Venezuela. Sure, both teams are loaded with pro players, but if you're picking between playing the U.S. and Venezuela, you'll take Venezuela just about every time, won't you?
Clearly, something special is going on with this Dutch team, which is comprised mostly of natives of the Netherlands' Caribbean territories of Aruba and Netherlands Antilles. But the man behind this surprising surge is a story himself.
Rod Delmonico is coaching on the biggest platform of his life. This is the first time he's led a team with major or minor league prospects, taking the Dutch reins after years and years coaching and managing in the college ranks. Delmonico took over at Tennessee in 1990 and, in a span of 17 years, resurrected the Volunteers, leading the program to three College World Series appearances and earning national coach of the year honors in 1995.
Evidently that wasn't good enough to get Delmonico any pro attention. Or maybe he was just seen as a college baseball lifer. Either way, it wasn't until he took a job with Major League Baseball International in 2007 that Delmonico first worked with pro connections.
The result, so far, has been impressive. Delmonico spent 2007 teaching clinics throughout Europe, traveling through Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany Croatia and, you guessed it, the Netherlands. When he took over as the Dutch coach, he already had a good idea of what to expect from many of the Netherlands players -- and those with Dutch connections -- that he had on the roster.
Making matters easier was Delmonico's experience with double-elimination tournaments, the format used in the WBC. Just like the annual NCAA tourney, Delmonico's team was given one "get-out-of-jail free" loss, in this case a narrow loss to Puerto Rico, but bounced back to beat the Dominican again and punch its ticket to the second round.
In fact, the WBC continues to conform to NCAA tournament standards here, too. Like a Super Regional, the second round is pitting teams against each other for a spot in a semifinal, a little like a scaled-down College World Series.
Clearly, pitching coach Burt Blyleven (yes, that Burt Blyleven) deserves a heaping mound of the credit for the Netherlands' success, too. But the man behind the wheel of this surprisingly sturdy vessel if Delmonico, and the buck really does stop with him.
Put all the disparate factors together, and it's clear that Delmonico is the right guy at the right place at the right time. That doesn't mean he should be held back from a bigger opportunity down the road. Quite the contrary. After all, we are in March, and we've seen plenty of college basketball coaches turn a special tournament into big time jobs with big time success. Bill Self, Bruce Pearl and Mike Anderson all come to mind.
Will Delmonico get a bigger shot as some kind of an assistant coach in the majors? Who knows. All we're saying is that maybe he should get a longer look. Nothing he's done to this point would seem to suggest otherwise.
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