By Chris Gionta
In the winter of his sophomore year, Jack DeGirolamo was informed that he was no longer going to be a catcher for the Springfield College baseball team. Instead, he was going to have to take on the challenge of an unfamiliar position — on the mound.
“I had thrown maybe only three competitive innings of pitching in my career at that point,” DeGirolamo said.
However, his high levels of adaptability and willingness to help the team that were developed in high school have guided him into a consistent role at Springfield. Excelling like no other Pride pitcher and now in his junior year, through 13.2 innings in the 2022 season, DeGirolamo has still yet to allow a run and has struck out 20 batters with only three walks.
DeGirolamo came onto the baseball team as a catcher and is now dominating from the rubber, which demonstrates his versatility on the diamond. Yet, baseball was not his best sport in high school, and it was not the sport he was recruited to play at Springfield.
At Newington High School in Connecticut, he was captain of the soccer team for two years, and earned All-Conference honors as the team’s goalie. But as a member of the high school’s baseball team, his time with Newington was not what he wanted it to be.
“As far as baseball went, I had a lot of ups and downs, but I really didn’t play a whole lot of varsity baseball,” DeGirolamo said.
A player who went on to play Division I baseball was in his way at the catcher position in high school, so DeGirolamo had to fill in where he could.
“I usually ended up riding the bench and doing utility roles where if somebody was pitching who was playing a different position before, I’d go there,” he said. “I pride myself on being a guy who can play anywhere on the diamond and get his job done.”
With his commitment to the soccer team in the fall, DeGirolamo could not go through the regular baseball tryout process that takes place during that time. He had the unique task of trying out with the team indoors, during the winter.
“During that fall, I had maybe two meetings with [Springfield head coach Mark Simeone] in his office just expressing interest — just saying that I did want to try out and I was wondering when or how that would happen,” DeGirolamo said. “I jumped into a couple of team lifts during the winter after my soccer season… he had me there for a while, and when the active roster got announced, I found my name on it.”
He found excitement in his new athletic opportunity, especially since it was not something he was necessarily expecting.
“I was pretty pumped,” DeGirolamo said. “It was something kind of on the back burner that I was hoping would work out and I would get to keep playing the sport I love.”
In the winter, he not only made good impressions with the coaching staff but also with his new teammates.
“He was super flexible so he actually got to the low pitch really well, and he was very good defensively — he had a good arm,” said junior catcher Cadin Maynard. “So, in terms of my first impressions of him, he was decent behind the dish and a good kid.”
DeGirolamo’s first year on the team — like all athletes’ 2020 spring season — ended abruptly in March, and the team was not back together until September for their fall season. At that time, he made observations and considered his possibilities with the team.
“That fall, I kind of took inventory of what was going on, I took inventory of what I was capable of, and I took a look at the team and where we were headed as a program,” DeGirolamo said. “I looked at our catching pipeline, which is pretty deep.”
With the Pride’s solid depth chart at the catching position, he feared he may have been running into an unfortunate situation he was familiar with.
“I went into that season being very open with Simeone because I didn’t want to repeat what my high school baseball career was,” DeGirolamo said. “I wanted to be on the field. I wanted to contribute.”
No place on the diamond was going to be unwelcomed for him, and any answer that resulted in him playing was a good answer.
“I basically said, ‘I’m willing to do anything. I will play any position. I will be a utility guy. I’ll be a fill-in dude. If you want me to pitch, we can try that,’” DeGirolamo said.
During fall-ball his sophomore year, he remained a catcher and got at-bats in intrasquad scrimmages. In addition to that, he was put on the mound for a couple of innings in those scrimmages, but needed time to adjust.
“When he first started pitching — just like anyone starting a new position — there’s going to be ups and downs,” Maynard said. “He had trouble finding the zone.”
His growing pains carried over into the intrasquad scrimmages of the spring.
“I was pitching so bad at the beginning of that sophomore year spring,” DeGirolamo said. “I couldn’t locate. I didn’t have feel for any of my pitches. I was leading the team by far in hit batters — it was almost a running gag at that point that any time I went on the field I’d hit somebody.”
However, he had a trick up his sleeve that made him stand out, and was something that he was evidently more comfortable with. Instead of going with the usual over-the-top delivery that most pitchers rely upon, DeGirolamo eventually made a permanent change to throwing sidearm.
It was a new development for him, but something he grew confident in rather quickly.
“I threw over the summer a bit sidearm,” DeGirolamo said. “Because I would catch bullpens for my friends in Newington who were getting ready for stuff, and if they were hanging around after or there was another catcher there, I would throw a few pitches… It kind of became comfortable for me down there.”
When he finally decided to throw all of his pitches with that delivery, he began to see much better results.
“Once I dropped down, it just got comfortable, felt natural, and I was hitting the zone more,” said DeGirolamo.
His sophomore season in competition consisted of two scoreless appearances, which was just the start for him. All seven of his appearances this season have been scoreless and he has allowed only 11 base runners in 13.2 innings.
“He brings a whole different dynamic to our pitching staff,” Maynard said. “He throws from fairly sidearm, so his ball moves differently than other guys, and he understands he’s tough to hit. The way he’s been locking in every pitch is impressive because he’s been around the zone every pitch. Every pitch is competitive with him.”
No matter where or how, DeGirolamo knew he wanted to contribute. After virtually no pitching experience, and no competitive experience throwing sidearm, he has adapted into being one of Springfield’s most effective players. From goalkeeping for the soccer team to catching for the baseball team, to being a sidearm reliever, DeGirolamo has found his place.
Photo: Gillian Dube