published Sunday, June 5th, 2011

UT signees in limbo

TENNESSEE BASEBALL SIGNING CLASS


Jared Allen OF 6-2 220 R/R Delano, Tenn.

Mookie Betts INF 5-9 160 R/R Nashville

Samuel Davis RHP 6-0 190 R/R Manchester, Tenn.

David Horne RHP/3B 6-4 220 R/R Columbia, Tenn.

Will Maddox INF 5-11 180 L/R Gainesville, Ga.

Eric Martin RHP 6-2 190 R/R Cincinnati, Ohio

Drew Masingale RHP/OF 6-2 215 R/R Athens, Tenn.

Logan Moore C/3B 6-3 200 L/R Loveland, Colo.

Sal Romano RHP 6-4 220 L/R Southington, Conn.

Jake Rowland OF 6-1 180 L/R Decatur, Tenn.

Blake Thomas RHP 5-11 200 R/R Milledgeville, Ga.

Joseph Vanderplas LHP 6-2 215 L/L Fairfax, Va.

Parker Wormsley INF 6-0 170 R/R Knoxville

Brandon Zajac LHP 6-4 220 L/L Cleveland, Tenn.

Like 10 other University of Tennessee baseball signees, four Chattanooga-area athletes are stuck in limbo waiting on Volunteers athletic director Mike Hamilton.

“I haven’t heard anything,” Polk County slugger Jared Allen said this past week. “I’m a little concerned. I think anybody in this situation would be. I have talked with some of the other [signees], and they say they’re still going, so that made me feel a little better.”

Allen, Walker Valley pitcher Brandon Zajac, McMinn County pitcher/outfielder Drew Masingale and Meigs County shortstop Jake Rowland signed baseball scholarships with UT last fall. They were recruited by coach Todd Raleigh, who was fired on May 23, and none of the four has been contacted by anyone in UT’s athletic department.

“I haven’t heard from anybody since Raleigh was fired,” Rowland said.

“I talked with one of the coaches a week or two before they were let go,” Zajac said.

Masingale said he hadn’t heard anything in a couple of months.

“Nobody has contacted me from the athletic department,” he said. “I’d like to know what’s going on, but I don’t have a clue what’s going on up there.”

They know what they read on the Internet. They’ve heard names bandied about — Cal State-Fullerton’s Dave Serrano, the Vols’ pitching coach in 1995 and ’96 under Rod Delmonico; Rick Honeycutt, the former Vols star who’s now the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitching coach; Chris Burke, another former Vol who played with the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks; Chad Holbrook, associate head coach at South Carolina; Bobby Pierce, head coach at Troy University and a former All-SEC outfielder for Alabama; and Ron Polk, who became a legend in college baseball during his time at Mississippi State.

Hamilton, speaking late last week at the SEC meetings in Sandestin, Fla., said he had several candidates in mind and that each had been notified of UT’s interest. He’d say no more — no names, no hiring timeline, not even the number of candidates on his list. He did say that at least some of those likely would be involved in the NCAA tournament.

Hamilton is not using a search firm as has been his practice in the past.

“I have heard Serrano’s name. I heard Honeycutt, Chris Burke and possible an assistant at South Carolina. It’s all rumors. You never know,” said Zajac, a prized lanky left-hander who will have an eye on the major leagues’ Tuesday and Wednesday draft sessions.

“I knew [Raleigh’s dismissal] was a possibility when I signed, and I took that into account,” Rowland said. “I was willing to take that chance in order to play for UT. I still think it’s a great honor to play up there, and I’ll play for whomever because Tennessee’s where I wanted to go. I’m sure they’ll make a good decision and get the program turned around.”

All four area signees have planned to enroll in the second session of summer school, which begins on July 8.

“I think I’m going to summer school — that is, if I ever hear anything back from anybody up there,” Masingale said.

Allen also is going to be paying attention to the draft. It has been rumored that he could be selected in rounds 20-25.

“I had a feeling [the coaching change] was coming,” Allen said about the Vols’ situation. “I knew they had to do a whole lot of picking up this year, and as the season went on you could tell things weren’t going very well.”

Zajac, an honor student at Walker Valley, said he hadn’t been concerned in the least.

“Not at all,” he said. “I’m going to play for Tennessee. That’s not going to change.”

That is unless he is favorably impressed by the draft.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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