Tennessee center fielder Drew Gilbert after being ejected from Friday’s Super Regional game against Notre Dame. Photo via Ric Butler/Rocky Top Insider.
Tennessee Baseball lost an abundance of talent from last year’s team, including all eight starters in the field.
More than that, the Vols lost multiple guys who helped build the Tennessee Baseball culture. As polarizing as it may be, the Vols villain mentality has been one of the most exciting and interesting aspects of Tony Vitello’s squad over the past two years.
This is the first season where Tennessee will have to find new guys to keep the intensity going that the Vols never fail to bring on any night. Jordan Beck and Drew Gilbert were the most notable Vols that helped create that culture, especially Gilbert.
But four games into the season, has Tennessee already found their new Drew Gilbert? Is there a new Tennessee Baseball hothead that can also be one of the team’s top hitters?
After Tennessee Baseball’s 10-0, run-rule victory over Alabama A&M on Tuesday night, outfielder Jared Dickey met with the media and gave catcher Cal Stark a comparison that indicates Tennessee may have found their new Drew Gilbert.
“You lose guys like Gilbert, and someone has to replace him,” Dickey said. “And Cal’s doing a good job of that so far, just playing with that fire.”
Stark’s bat has been one of the most significant bright spots of Tennessee’s season so far, as the JuCo transfer catcher has gone 4-11 at the plate, hitting .364, with a home run and two RBI. More than that, Dickey gave an example of how Stark brings that fire that reminds him of Gilbert.
“It really started against Arizona on the first night,” Dickey remembered. “Whenever they got time, he kinda got into the umpire a little bit, so seeing that fire from him… he was the nicest guy in the fall, and don’t get me wrong, he’s still a nice guy, but seeing that fire out of him, I think it fired all of us up.”
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Tennessee has been a team that feeds off of energy in recent years, so it’s unsurprising that Dickey noted Stark giving it to the umpire fired the team up.
But what may be surprising, though, is that Stark is becoming that guy. As Dickey noted, Stark was one of the nicest guys in the fall, so his intensity caught the dugout a tad off guard.
“I think it shocked us all,” Dickey said.”
Gilbert was not only Tennessee’s most pronounced hothead/energizer bunny/passionate player, he was also consistently a standout hitter for the team.
If Stark’s bat can continue to be a big part of Tennessee’s lineup, and his passion continues to bleed out onto the baseball field, the Knoxville native will have no issue becoming the next Drew Gilbert for Tennessee.
“He’s doing a great job and credit to him for bringing the energy every day,” Dickey added. “I think it’s gonna carry over into our dugout… and just seeing him do whatever he’s gonna do for the rest of the year, credit to him for that.”