Tony Vitello’s success with Tennessee Baseball does not surprise Jim Schlossnagle
Tony Vitello’s success with Tennessee Baseball does not surprise Jim Schlossnagle

Tony Vitello has turned the Tennessee Volunteers baseball team into a top national team. But this is no surprise to Texas A&M coach Jim Schlossnagle.

Schlossnagle recognized what made Vitello so special back in 2011 when he hired him as recruiting coordinator at TCU. Vitello stayed with his staff until 2013 before transferring to Arkansas.

When Schlossnagle was looking to hire a human resources coordinator in 2011, Vitello was “known as the hardest-working, highly focused recruiter in the country.”

“Tony, you could see his energy and passion — obviously a super intense guy,” Schlossnagle said Friday. “And he comes from a great family. I know he thinks a lot of coach (Tim) Jamieson at Missouri, and then he started working for Dave Van Horn, so he was fully prepared to run his own program. And he’s obviously done a great job.”

Vitello and his No. 1-seeded Vols (58-12) will face Schlossnagle and No. 3-seeded Texas A&M (52-13) in the College World Series final this weekend. The best-of-three series begins Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Charles Schwab Field in Omaha, Nebraska. It will be the first time Tennessee has played in the CWS championship series since 1951.

Schlossnagle said Vitello’s success isn’t just about “the baseball stuff.” It’s also about everything else, like the playing environment and promoting the program, which is “what the best coaches do.”

Vitello took over the Vols’ dormant baseball program and transformed it into a team that consistently contends for the title. Tennessee has earned berths in the College World Series in three of the last four seasons.

By meeting Vitello’s father, Greg Vitello, Schlossnagle gained insight into Vitello’s role as a coach.

“His dad is just the greatest guy ever. A great high school coach,” Schlossnagle said. “I remember always welcoming Coach Vitello, the dad, on our bus when we traveled during the year. So it was great to have him on the bus and to have him around. I love great high school coaches.”

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Schlossnagle continued to give Vitello some of the credit for TCU’s success after he left. The Horned Frogs won four consecutive College World Series games, and the core of their freshman team in 2014 was made up of players Vitello recruited.

Vitello’s final recruiting class for the Horned Frogs was ranked No. 17 nationally, and three players he signed played for Team USA. In Vitello’s second season with the team, TCU started seven freshmen recruited by Vitello in the NCAA Super Regional at UCLA.

“I’m not surprised by what Tony has accomplished,” Schlossnagle said. “And not just with this team, but with the entire program.”

Cora Hall covers women’s athletics at the University of Tennessee. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @corahalllIf you like Cora’s reporting, consider a digital subscription that gives you access to all of her coverage.

By Liam