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Big-league dream realized

June 10, 2006|By Jeff Tully

Vessella had an 8-2 record with a 1.85 earned-run average. He surrendered just 17 earned runs and had 91 strikeouts in 14 appearances. In Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play, he was 5-0 with a 1.31 ERA ? tops in SCIAC ? and held his opponents to a .199 batting average. In his six conference starts, he threw two complete games, which included a 16-strikeout shutout against Occidental College.

Nationally, Vessella ranked 48th among all players in ERA, 24th in victories and 38th in strikeouts for nine innings.

Along with his school honor, Vessella was also a first-team All-SCIAC selection, a first-team West Region and is a strong All-American candidate.

"I have been lucky because I have been able to kind of grow into my position as a pitcher," Vessella said. "I feel I've learned a lot as a pitcher the last few years, and I think that has helped me be more successful."

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Vessella has been literally able to grow into his success. When he entered Notre Dame as a freshman, he was just 5 feet 8. However, he continued to grow through his high school years, and stood 6-4 when he graduated.

However, the growth spurt didn't stop there. He has added two more inches since beginning college, and is now a formidable presence at 6-6 and 210 pounds.

Bill Hertz, a Vessella family friend and Tom's advisor, said not only is the athlete an accomplished baseball player, but he is also a fine student.

"Along with all the hard work he has put in on the baseball field, Tom has also worked very hard in the classroom," Hertz said. "He has a lot going for him."

Studying kinesiology at Whittier College, Vessella said he has been able to maintain a grade-point average above 3.0.

With details of his contract with Houston still to be worked out, Vessella said if everything goes well and he is able to begin playing professional ball, his future plans including returning to college to get his education.

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