By Zach Zaborny
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Kansas State baseball is looking to improve on the success of last year, while trying to replace six position starters and three starting pitchers that were lost from 2009. One person that will be able to help fill that void is senior catcher Daniel Dellasega.
In terms of baseball history at Kansas State, 2009 could easily be considered the best year ever. With a school record 43 wins, a trip to their first ever NCAA baseball regional and six players selected in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, the Wildcats did pretty well for themselves.
After redshirting as a freshman during the 2006 season, Dellasega replaces three-year starter Rob Vaughn, who was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 30th round of the 2009 MLB draft.
One of two fifth-year seniors on the team, Dellasega will be looked upon for his experience and his leadership, which is something Kansas State head coach Brad Hill definitely sees in his starting catcher.
“It’s his game this year,” Hill said. “It’s his year and we want him in there as much as we can get him in there. I’m not sure he can play all 56, but at the same time, we are looking for great leadership from him and so far he’s proven that.”
Dellasega is no stranger to experience and leadership. The Pittsburgh, Kansas native was a four-year letter winner on his high school team and was also named team captain during that stretch. Once he arrived at K-State, the experience continued, with Dellasega starting 41 career games in his first three years on the team, including a career-high 16 starts during the 2009 season.
Aside from being a leader on the field, Dellasega is also a leader in the classroom. As an accounting and finance major, he has been named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll every semester for the past four years. The success that he has in the classroom is transferred back to the baseball field every time he steps on it.
“I really try to focus on everyday and not just coming in and punching the time clock, but really coming in and getting better,” Dellasega said. “Just focusing on the small gains each day and letting everything else take care of itself.”
That desire to always want to get better has helped Dellasega get to the position that he is in today. His coach agrees that work ethic is one of the biggest factors that Dellasega brings to the team on a daily basis.
“He’s not scared to put in the time to improve his game,” Hill said. “He’s hungry. He’ll go in and talk to the pitching coach. He’ll know a lot about how to handle the pitchers and how to call a game. He’s just a kid that’s put in a tremendous amount of time to improve his game and obviously, like I said, it’s his turn and we’re excited for that and happy for him too.”
Spending three seasons behind Vaughn before getting his turn provided opportunities for Dellasega to learn from his predecessor.
“Rob was a great player,” Dellasega said. “I really learned a lot just from watching him and kind of the way that he carried himself. Just some of the small things you know. We were competing the last three years so it was hard when you weren’t out there, but you just kind of had to take it. He was just good and also I just learned a lot of small things from him.”
After graduation Dellasega hopes to continue pursuing a career in baseball, but would also go the business route if baseball doesn’t become part of his future.
“If the opportunity presents itself I want to go into baseball,” Dellasega said. “That’s always been my dream. That’s my first goal and if something like that doesn’t work out, maybe work in some type of business setting in the Kansas City or Wichita area or something like that.”
With the first few weeks of the 2010 season in the books, Kansas State begins its schedule of home games starting the second week of March. As the Wildcats take the field in Manhattan, Dellasega knows that even though last year was special, it’s time to focus in on this year and continue to do what he does best - work hard.
“It was a great experience and a good stepping stone,” Dellasega said. “We looked back on that but this year is a new year. So we are really looking forward to going out and showing everybody and continue building on last year’s success.”