For Tommy Delgado, the key to the strong start in his LMU baseball career is driven by a love of the game and a desire to improve every day.
“[Succeeding at baseball] is a great feeling and I just got addicted to it,” said Delgado, who is currently a freshman utility player on the LMU baseball team. “I started getting better [by] working on it more.”
For nearly his entire life, baseball has been Delgado’s sport of choice. He began playing at age four and has stuck with it ever since. It was a sharp contrast from the athletic background of his father, who was a boxer and a football player, but from early on, Delgado could tell he wanted to focus on baseball.
“Ever since I was five, I knew baseball was going to be my sport,” he said.
From that point on, Delgado’s life was always intertwined with baseball. Growing up in La Verne, CA, he followed professional baseball closely and became a die-hard Los Angeles Dodgers fan, which he is to this day. He grew up playing Little League and worked hard to develop his game, both in team practices and on his own time. Despite being slightly shorter than average for top-level baseball at 5 feet, 10 inches, he has the talent to become a high-caliber player.
“Growing up, there [were] a lot of people that thought I couldn’t get to LMU [or] the [Division I] level,” Delgado said. “I’m not some huge guy, and they thought that in order to get a decent scholarship at a good baseball school, you had to be some big dude. But me and my dad, we just worked hard.”
The mentality to work hard was one that Delgado carried into high school, a period that gave him some of his favorite memories as a player, including the at-bat he names as his all-time best.
During his sophomore year at Bonita High School in La Verne, Delgado stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, which is extra innings at the high school level.
With a runner on third base and two outs, Delgado got down in the count 1-2. The pitcher threw him a fastball and he knew exactly what to do with it, launching the ball over the fence for a walk-off home run.
“It was the first time I’d ever done that, so that was pretty awesome,” he said.
Though Delgado has great memories of his time at Bonita, the direction of the school’s baseball program was, to put it mildly, volatile.
The varsity team had a different head coach all three years that Delgado attended, so he wanted to go to a school that had a more stable program. This led him to transfer to South Hills High School in West Covina for his senior year.
Delgado chose South Hills because he liked the team’s head coach, Darren Murphy, and because he appreciated how the school emphasized a balance between the present and the future.
“A lot of the administration is willing to help their student-athletes succeed later on in college,” Delgado said. “So it worked out. It was perfect.”
Although transfer rules made him eligible for only 18 of the team’s 29 games that season, he put up excellent numbers when given the opportunity, recording 18 hits and an on-base percentage of .451 during those 18 games, according to MaxPreps.
At the same time he found success at South Hills, Delgado began trying to determine where he wanted to play in college. He not only wanted a school with a strong baseball team, but also wanted to go somewhere with a good business school. He preferred to remain in Southern California. He was looking at a variety of schools, including USC and UCLA, but once he took a visit to LMU, he knew it was the right school for him.
“I just fell in love with the campus,” Delgado said. “Obviously, it’s beautiful. The weather’s always amazing.”
Delgado was also impressed by the coaches and the ways in which they help their players succeed in all aspects of college.
“At some programs, they’re very much just about baseball,” he said. “But here, they’re more about their players. They ask you how your classes are going, not just about what’s happening on the field.”
Now that he’s transitioned from high school to college, Delgado is learning countless life skills, including time management and balancing the schedule of an NCAA student-athlete.
“There’s got to be a time slot for everything, or you get behind,” he said. “Some people take it as a bad thing, but I love it. With more work comes more fun.”
Delgado is also enjoying the start of his time on the LMU baseball team. He appreciates the constant opportunities to bond with his teammates. His roommate is one of the team’s other freshmen, catcher Matthew Elizalde, but Delgado is becoming part of a brotherhood with the entire team on and off the field.
“We’re not in [fraternities] or anything, because the baseball team is our [fraternity],” Delgado said. “We’re around each other every single day. We’re practicing, we’re doing weights ... it works out. It’s cool hanging out with the guys.”
Delgado has received a lot of playing time right out of the gate, easily the most of the team’s seven freshman position players. But he isn’t just playing — he’s excelling. He is currently first among freshmen in a wide variety of statistical categories, including batting average, on-base percentage, runs batted in, total bases and walks.
In addition to his work ethic, Delgado has cited the importance of finding his place within the program.
“Baseball is mostly a mental game, and if I tell myself I belong in this arena, things [will work] out,” he said.
It’s not just Delgado who has had a great start. The LMU team, picked to finish seventh in the West Coast Conference (WCC) preseason poll, currently stands in second place in the conference with a 18-10 overall record and a 7-2 conference record. However, Delgado knows that the season is nowhere near finished, and looks for himself and his teammates to remain locked in for the rest of the year.
“There might be some hurdles we have to overcome — good teams, maybe injuries and stuff like that,” he said. “But I feel like focus is the main thing. If we all focus on just getting our job done for the team and staying together as a unit, we can fight to stay in a lot of games.”