Tony Vitello, Arkansas Razorbacks

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Tony Vitello is considered to be one of the top recruiters in the country. He is in his fourth year as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks baseball team. As Arkansas’ recruiting coordinator, Vitello has done an excellent job signing some of the nation’s top talent. His most recent class, the class of 2016, was ranked No. 6 nationally by Perfect Game and he previously signed the nation’s top class for the Razorbacks in 2014.

In 2016, Vitello helped Arkansas’ offense continue to be one of the best in the SEC and the nation. As a team, the Razorbacks had a combined batting average of .275, which was the second-highest average in the last six seasons. Redshirt sophomores Carson Shaddy and Luke Bonfield each batted over .300 and combined for 16 home runs and 74 RBIs, to lead a team that finished fourth in the SEC in team home runs (49). He was instrumental in Arkansas’ run to the College World Series in 2015 as the Razorback rebounded from a 15-15 record on April 4 to win 18 of their final 25 regular season games. Primarily working with hitters and serving as the team’s third base coach, the Razorbacks slugged their way into the postseason, finishing fifth in the SEC in hitting (.288) and fourth in home runs (53).

A three-year letterwinner at Missouri, Vitello earned Academic All-Big 12 Conference honors as a senior and was named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll twice. Following his playing career and the completion of his management degree at MU, Vitello joined the Missouri coaching staff as a volunteer assistant in 2003. He also completed his course work for his master’s degree in business. The following season he was elevated to full-time assistant coach. During his time as a Tiger assistant coach, Vitello recruited and developed 19 players who were drafted by major league teams, including major leaguers Ian Kinsler, Max Scherzer, Aaron Crow, Kyle Gibson, Nick Tepesch, Doug Mathis and Justin James.

As recruiting coordinator, Vitello was instrumental in bringing some of the nation’s top prospects to Missouri. In his eight seasons at Missouri, the Tigers made the postseason seven times. Vitello served as the pitching coach at Missouri, while also working with the team’s hitters and serving as the first base coach. Vitello’s 2008 recruiting class at Missouri was ranked No. 11 nationally by Baseball America and he had top 25 recruiting classes in three of his final four years at Missouri.

In his three years at TCU, Vitello brought in some of the top players in the country and helped the Horned Frogs to two NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Super Regional berth in 2012. The Horned Frogs started seven freshmen recruited by Vitello in the super regional at UCLA. His final recruiting class at TCU was ranked 17th in the country and three student-athletes he signed also played for Team USA.

In 2013, 11 newcomers from an 11th-ranked recruiting class saw time on the field for TCU. A pair of Horned Frog freshmen earned freshman All-America honors as Boomer White hit .314 with 27 RBI, while Alex Young was 7-4 with five saves in 22 appearances, 20 in relief. Despite featuring four new faces, TCU’s pitching staff ranked in the top 20 in most pitching categories during the 2013 season.

Vitello’s 2012 recruiting class was ranked in the top 10 nationally by Baseball America, and the group paid immediate dividends for the Horned Frogs as 16 players made their debut during the 2012 season. Freshman Preston Morrison was named the Mountain West Conference Pitcher and Freshman of the Year and was also tabbed a third-team All-American and a freshman All-American.

Despite the team’s youth, the 2012 squad had success on the field, winning the Mountain West Conference regular season and advancing to the super regionals before falling to UCLA. Four Horned Frog hitters earned all-conference accolades and six TCU players were selected in the MLB Draft.

In his first season at TCU in 2011, Vitello worked with a TCU offense that finished the season with a .306 batting average and averaged 6.7 runs per game. The team hit 141 doubles on the season, which ranked fourth all-time in school history. The Horned Frogs finished the season with 43 victories and advanced to the NCAA Regional. Five offensive players earned all-conference honors and four offensive players were selected in the 2011 MLB Draft.

During his career, Vitello has accomplished a rare feat, mentoring both a National Hitter of the Year and National Pitcher of the Year. Arkansas’ Andrew Benintendi was the nation’s best hitter in 2015 and won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation’s top amateur baseball player after batting .376 with 20 home runs, 57 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.

In 2008, Vitello tutored Missouri’s Aaron Crow who won the Roger Clemens Award that season, given to the nation’s top college pitcher. Crow pitched 43 scoreless innings at one point during the season and had four shutouts. He struck out 127 hitters and won 13 games and became the highest draft pick in Missouri baseball history when he was selected No. 9 overall by the Washington Nationals.

Throughout his 13-year Division I coaching career, Vitello has signed seven top 15 recruiting classes, developed six first round draft picks and 12 Major League Baseball players, including standouts Benintendi, Max Scherzer, Ian Kinsler, Kyle Gibson, Crow and Brandon Finnegan.

 

About the author, Bill

Bill Ballew has been involved with collegiate and professional baseball since 1983. He has been the Atlanta correspondent for Baseball America since 1991 and has served as the editorial content manager for Baseball The Magazine for more than five years. He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).