By ADRIANA BECERRA
A 5-ounce baseball has played a major role in Patrick Delano’s life.
He doesn’t remember a time he didn’t love baseball, but he clearly remembers the day his dream changed.
Baseball is what led Delano to Northwestern Oklahoma State University, but it is far from where it began for him.
Loving baseball would pay off for him. Once he hit his sophomore year of high school, he would be ranked as one of the top 10 pitchers in the nation.
Braintree High School was the No. 2 seed in the first round of the tournament. The team was 16-4 on the season, and Delano was the ace pitcher. All hopes were on Braintree High and Delano to take it all.
In the first two innings, everything was going great and Delano was four strike outs strong. His baseball career was all about to change though.
During the third inning, Delano went to a throw a pitch. Immediately the crowd, coaches and players went silent. As soon as Delano threw the ball, he grabbed his arm and made an eerie sound of pain. Everyone on the field and in the stands knew what had just happened.
Delano would throw one last pitch and that would be the last pitch for a while.
At Northwestern, students and teachers can’t miss seeing him on campus. Whether walking from classes or at the baseball field, at 6-foot-7 Delano is a definite standout.
Originally from Braintree, Massachusetts, Delano has always loved baseball. He always wanted to be the best athlete he could be. “I just loved baseball growing up and that’s all I ever did,” Delano said.
After the last pitch he had thrown in that high school tournament, Delano needed Tommy John surgery, which is a procedure where doctors take a tendon from the forearm and replace a ligament in the elbow. They also move the ulnar nerve, which is needed to pitch because it aids the arm to slow down.
Delano handled it better than most, even knowing the long road of rehab ahead. He went to one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the nation who works on many high profile athletes. Dr. James Andrews also serves as the team doctor for the University of Alabama and Auburn University and is based out of Birmingham, Alabama.
Knowing the work that needed to be done, Delano had no doubt he would be back on the baseball field. “I had it a lot easier than others since I went to Dr. Andrews so I wasn’t too worried,” Delano said. “It was still a very hard thing to rehab, and it was hard mentally. I knew I was going to come back and play the game I love.”
Despite his injury, Delano was still ranked as a top-pitching prospect for colleges. Major League Baseball teams were also looking at him. Being a standout pitcher in high school opened up many doors for him. With endless options came some hard decisions though.
During his junior and senior years, the scholarship offers from colleges around the nation seemed to continually be rolling in. Practically every Division 1 school had an eye on Delano. He said it was a fun and rewarding experience.
He learned what it was like in the real world and especially in the world of baseball. Schools from Boston College, to Vanderbilt, to Stanford, all wanted him to join their programs. Some of his favorites were Vanderbilt, Florida, Georgia Tech and Virginia.
In the last few months of high school though, Vanderbilt University was the front-runner and seemed to be the perfect fit, Delano said. It was an up-and-coming program and felt like the place he wanted to be.
But as Delano was settling on Vanderbilt for the fall of 2012, the Boston Red Sox wanted him to join their ball club as he was picked in the 35th round of the draft by his favorite, hometown team. “I couldn’t believe it,” Delano said. “It was just a great moment. Obviously being drafted by your home team is a really good honor to have.”
It was a dream come true, but a dream that Delano would skip out on for the time being. He said he felt too young and wanted to develop more mentally and physically as a player.
Vanderbilt is where Delano decided to go and couldn’t be more excited. It was a place he would fit in well and be able to greatly improve on his talent.
Many big major league players were produced at Vanderbilt, and they loved coming back to help, which was a huge reason that played into his decision. “The coaches and the players were my favorite part,” Delano said. “They were all great people to be around and great people to learn from.”
Over the course of the next year, life would become different. Being great wasn’t a new thing but being around so many people who were at such high talent was a new experience. Delano made the decision to red shirt his freshman year. This would give him an opportunity to develop his arm and hopefully get it back to where it was before Tommy John surgery. He would also have the chance to transform his body into the shape he wanted.
Coach Tim Corbin, head baseball coach at Vanderbilt, saw the improvements Delano made that first year. “Patrick may be the most improved pitcher on the staff,” Corbin said on Vanderbilt’s athlete profiles. “I’m very proud of what he has accomplished up to this point and can’t wait to see what impact he makes this year.”
After hearing how well he had done his red-shirt year and the improvements he had made, Delano seemed as if the fall of his second year would be the best one yet. College wasn’t such a new concept anymore, the nerves had settled and it was time to get work for the upcoming season.
Things weren’t going to go as planned though. “I made the decision to leave Vanderbilt,” Delano said. “It wasn’t easy and not something I completely wanted to do, but I wanted to throw more innings. There were plenty of talented, older guys on the team that I knew would be throwing over me.”
Spring semester rolled around and Cisco Junior College in Texas would be Delano’s new home, but not for long. Cisco was a great program but it was hard for Delano to adjust to a town with a population of 3,820. It was an extreme culture shock for him.
Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana is where Delano found himself next. He would spend a year there and finish his last junior college season. He said it was more of a fit for him compared to Cisco and enjoyed his time there.
Leaving Vanderbilt, transferring to a junior college where he was miserable, to transferring yet again, Delano had experienced more than most college athletes.
Delano’s father, Mark, knows just how hard it was for his son but is still proud of how he has handled it all. “I’m proud of him for overcoming adversity more than anything else,” he said. “Just the way he has handled everything. He has had a lot of big, big highs and big, big lows.”
During this past summer, Pat Delano had received a call from Sam Carol, head baseball coach at NWOSU, who wanted to see how Delano felt about still playing baseball and coming out to Oklahoma to continue his journey.
Transitioning to Northwestern was a little bit better since Delano had a high school teammate who was already on the team here.
Matthew Bickford, a sophomore business administration major, who had also gone to Braintree High School, knew that Delano would succeed at Northwestern. “He was incredible to watch and play with in high school,” Bickford said. “I knew what he could do and how well he could help contribute to the team and couldn’t wait to play baseball with him again.”
Delano was glad to have an old teammate and someone who grew up in the same environment around him. He was also excited to come out and play and be given the opportunity to be a part of the program. He said this past year has been better but hasn’t been completely easy for him either.
“For our program to achieve the levels that we want to achieve we have to bring in guys, like Pat, who have seen, smelled, tasted and experienced exactly what truly is a winning culture,” Carol said. “Pat’s past experience in the draft and in the Southeastern Conference has brought a winning competitive edge that has permeated throughout our program all year long.”
This season, Delano’s shoulder has been bothering him and benched him several times when he was scheduled to pitch. He said he has had intermittent problems with his shoulder the last three years.
Delano said remaining healthy has to be a priority this season.
Despite the minor injury, Delano has had a successful season at Northwestern. He has been a part of the starting rotation since week one.
Delano has learned several important things since leaving Vanderbilt: life exists after baseball, and being happy and healthy is what life is all about.
Eventually Delano would love to become a firefighter, preferably back in Braintree. In 2012 he was asked where he would want to be in 10 years and he responded, “I want see myself playing in the major leagues, but I’m just going to have to wait and 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.”
Although Delano now thinks the major league dreams are out of the question, he is still content with where he is in his baseball career. He knows when he decides to walk away that he gave everything that he could. Now he must decide if he will come back for his senior season at Northwestern or go home and get a job.
“Getting drafted will always be my favorite memory with baseball,” Delano said on his final thoughts. “Knowing that I was being looked at the play the sport I love at such high caliber is something that doesn’t compare. I am excited to see how life works out and don’t regret my journey.”