Tony Vitello: Changing the Narrative

Did you ever imagine Vols baseball talking over the Tennessee airwaves? 
Sure, football is the cash cow of Rocky Top, but for this 2021 spring, Tony Vitello and this baseball team have definitely made their mark.

Tony Vitell has turned this program around and has gotten better every year:

YEARRecordSEC RecordStandingPostseason
201829–2712–18T–6th (East)
201940–2114–163rd (East)NCAA Regional
202015–20–0(East)Season canceled due to COVID-19
202142–1420–101st (East)
Overall125–64 (.661)46–44 (.511)

He’s done this by building a culture and instilling an attitude amongst his players. These Diamond Vols never feel they are out of a game, much less a series. They truly believe they can beat anyone. 

One of the best stats to prove that, for 2021, is they have only lost back-to-back games ONCE. That was against Indiana State, in February. 

This Vols team has continued to battle back amongst some of the best teams in the SEC, and even the country. If you don’t know, the SEC is running the show in college baseball rankings. Even losing against powerhouse Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt on night 1 of their series. Tennessee rallies back against another future 1st round draft pick Jack Leiter, to upset Vandy for a Saturday night win. This Vols team is resilient and makes adjustments. 

With all of Tony Vitello’s success, it has brought on: The Phenom Effect.

Due to this season being such a success and the Vols baseball program getting all this attention, newer or unknowing fans are just seeing it almost as a quick one year turn around. Even though in reality, it is a 4 year process.

Unfortunately, that’s just not how it is perceived to most in today’s media world.

The 2021 season social Media buzz surrounding the team, getting crowds back to games, and fans hearing Tony V for the first time it’s ultimately created an overnight success feel.

Speaking of crowds back. As with any UT sporting success, comes the flocking of the fanatics. When the Vols are good, the fans are better. I know this Tennessee fan base can have its crazies, cut throats, and cry babies, but the dedication is unlike any other.

Hoover was basically Big Orange Country Sunday. Vol Twitter is into it. I understand if you aren’t on “The Twitters” that may seem juvenile or lame, but guess what. It does matter. The conversations and updates from all the usuals were coming in hot. All the feelings of a Saturday in the fall were there, and it was wonderful. 

I’ve not seen this much investment in a non-football team since the Grant/Amiral basketball team.

Yes, with success comes a following. I’ll tell you though, Tony Vitello, game changer. Not only is his incredible as a general baseball coach, but it is the way he carries himself in an interview on TV or walking up to Dave Van Horn (Arkansas HC) and giving him the business after a disagreement. That is Vitello’s former boss and pretty much his mentor.  Takes some sack to do that to the head coach of the number 1 team in the country.

Tony V’s strong, controlled, yet fun demeanor is an aspect that if you were building coaching attributes for your model coach, his would probably be it. It doesn’t hurt  he’s a good looking guy and has the “baseball guy” look/swagger combo. Again, adds to the future phenom effect. 

Someone to compare it to would be the Brad Stevens early years with the Boston Celtics. Brad could’ve been mayor of Boston after his first couple of years. Fans loved him. Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to be with him. The people of Boston loved him. Tony V has that to a lesser extent in Knoxville, but it’s there. 

Let’s hope Tony has more eventual success than Brad does.

Not only does Danny White have to worry about the contract negotiations. He will also have to make upgrades to the stadium. 

Now in 2019, Tennessee did pay for a $1.25 million artificial field. But, Lindsey Nelson has so much work that needs to be done when it comes to competing with most SEC baseball stadiums. 

Vitello knows the importance of the ballpark when it comes to recruiting. He wants the fan outfield experience to be a place to grill and chill. Think “Porches on steroids” Tony VItello once quoted. He wants the press box to be closer and multiple other upgrades. 

So in essence, Tony Vitello feels that if they are competing at a high level on the field, they should be competing at a high level for Tennessee Vols financials. And fundraising and getting that money, is what Danny White was brought here to do. 

Athletic Director Danny White was known for being a fantastic fundraiser at UCF. He shattered fundraising records.


In an excerpt from the Orlando Sentinel:


“UCF announced White and his staff earned more than $35.5 million in commitments and $17.4 million in cash gifts during 2020.

In 2016, UCF received $8 million in fundraising commitments, compared to $6.5 million it received in 2012, according to UCF Athletics.

The 2020 tally was roughly six times what the Knights had raised eight years earlier.

White said the funds were essential to not only upgrade the Knights’ performance spaces, but also to help support athletes’ academic efforts. UCF continued its consistently strong academic performance across all sports during his tenure.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the athletic program continued its fundraising efforts and secured commitments of more than $1.6 million for the Keep Charging On Fund. White launched the fund to help offset some of the department’s deep financial losses during the pandemic. UCF was able to avoid layoffs that hit other programs.

His work in all areas helped Tennessee quickly focus on hiring White, who was ranked the No. 4 athletics director in the nation by Stadium in 2020.”

Danny White knows how to talk to donors and get them to open their checkbooks with his success and the success of the coaches. 

As we all know, the Tennessee athletic fund has been opening up the checkbooks, but for all the wrong reasons. Buyouts on Buyouts. 

  • $9.36 Million for Derek Dooley & Staff in 2012
  • $1.4 Million to buyout and hire Butch Jones from Cincinnati. 
  • $11.1 Million for Butch Jones & Staff in 2017
  • $2.5 Million to part ways with former AD John Currie in 2017
  • $4.1 Million to part ways with staff NOT fired for cause under Pruitt
  • $6 Million to cover for Danny White, Josh Heupel, and staff buyouts from UCF

White has only had to make one hire at Tennessee so far, and that was Josh Heupel.

Was it safe for him? Yes.

Was it smart for him? Also yes.

Heupel is a good restart coach. He’s cool, his offense will be fun, and Tennessee just needed anyone else but Pruitt. 

YES, I know it’s football compared to baseball. Football is the monstrous cash cow. But damn, that’s a lot of money spent for guys who felt like they only caused turmoil amongst this Tennessee fan base. Tony Vitello has done everything but that.

People are caring about college baseball… And I mean really caring about college baseball. 

What that means for Danny White and Tony Vitello is, this will set the standard and change the narrative of the Tennessee athletic program.

If this deal gets done over the offseason, then that is showing Danny White is willing to pay for winning. Tony Vitello is doing just that, winning. 

Think about it:

  • First >.500 season in SEC play since 2005
  • First SEC divisional title since 1997
  • Finished last in the SEC the year prior to his hiring.
  • Missed the SEC Tournament more than they made it from 2006 to 2017.
  • Now a top 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and hosting on Rocky Top. The stadium sold out for the weekend in an hour..

Tony Vitello and Danny White both know that.

So, the “PAY THE MAN” comments aren’t going unheard.

Under previous command, I personally don’t know if a good deal gets worked out for Tony Vitello, especially with a job like LSU opening up after Paul Mainieri retiring. Under Danny White, there seems to be a high faith. 

Vols baseball is on a special run, and they have a great regional coming their way this weekend. Rocky Top will be ready come Friday night at 6:00 pm EST vs. Wright State. 

The Vols are good, folks. Good hitters, one hell of an infield, and some exciting pitchers. 

Who’s ready to see these Vols go to Omaha?!

Appreciate you for reading this article. If you like it, share it. If you don’t like it, still share it!  😉

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