In future ECU baseball recruiting classes, the state of Maryland is represented well. Recruiting coordinator Jeff Palumbo’s ties in the area run deep and the Pirates have garnered commitments from some of the state’s better talent.
ECU’s 2022 class alone sports two prep catchers from the state in Lamar King and Nick DeLisi who ranked first and third respectively among Prep Baseball Report’s best back-stops in Maryland.
DeLisi, who committed roughly a month before King during the summer of 2019, toured ECU on his way home from a showcase and immediately fell in love with the facilities and community.
“I loved the town of Greenville, it was pretty cool to see purple and gold all throughout the campus, but also the community,” DeLisi said last week. “I loved the stadium, it was pretty big when I first saw it. I loved the locker room, the field. It just kind of felt like home to me. All the other places were nice, but they didn’t feel like home, I didn’t get that feeling, and at ECU I got that feeling.”
Listed at 6’0” and 190 pounds, DeLisi fielded several offers before landing on ECU as his final destination. While the home-like feeling he got played a large role in his commitment, he said it also helped the Pirates’ case that head coach Cliff Godwin is a former catcher.
“I had heard a lot of good stuff about him, I had watched a lot of interviews,” DeLisi said. “I found out he was a catcher when I first started talking to him and looked at the school. That definitely helped sway my decision because he was an amazing catcher and I thought he could help me grow as much as possible from behind the plate, because that’s kind of what he specializes in.”
With aspirations of being drafted by a major league team out of the prep ranks, DeLisi uses Godwin’s feedback on game film to keep his work behind the dish progressing. During the summer and after games, DeLisi has stayed in contact with Godwin via text to discuss things the future Pirate can work on cleaning up and improving.
During the Perfect Game 2020 Junior National Showcase this summer, DeLisi posted the fastest pop time to second base at 1.85, beating out some impressive competition from around the country. In the days and weeks leading up to the showcase, DeLisi said he continuously worked on various aspects of his game that went into posting that number.
Even when he is not preparing for a showcase, however, DeLisi spends time nearly everyday honing his craft and working to get bigger, faster and stronger.
“I got a machine so I do machine receiving five or six days a week,” DeLisi said. “I do a lot of blocking, four or five days. I do more receiving than anything, low fastballs, righty curveballs, lefty curveballs. I do a lot of secondary, primary stuff and then I usually finish with a bunch of footwork after my receiving…It’s pretty much an everyday thing just overall. I try to lift five days a week, I try to throw pretty much everyday, hit pretty much everyday. Behind the plate, it’s definitely something that you can’t just pick up like that, you got to definitely get used to it and work on it. I pretty much do it five, six, seven days a week whenever I can get to my machine.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into just about everyone’s life, DeLisi is still getting his lifting in at Our Lady Good Counsel High School in Maryland. Three days a week he is there with eight other boys his age working out, while the other two days are spent at home using weights he bought off Amazon.
In-game, DeLisi’s work ethic does not wane; if anything it heightens. At showcases, he takes the time to talk to his pitchers and ask them questions ranging from what kind of target they like behind the plate to what pitches they throw in certain counts.
“I know a lot of guys throw a lot of 0-2 sliders, so sliders in the dirt or curveballs in the dirt,” DeLisi said. “I kind of talk to them before the game, especially if it’s a showcase and I’ve never met them. I just ask where they like to put their curveball or their slider on like 0-2, 1-2 or 2-1 count, if they’re trying to throw it for a strike or they’re trying to throw it for a ball in the dirt.”
Behind the plate, DeLisi is trying to help his pitchers out as much as possible. Presenting a good target and controlling the run game are important parts of that, but stealing strikes is also a critical piece of any catcher’s skill-set. That is why the Pirate commit spends so much time working on receiving between games and showcases.
“Setting up to the pitcher’s liking, just being able to show a good target at all times,” DeLisi said in regards to what makes a good catcher. “Definitely being able to control the running game, that’s a pretty big part. I think receiving is the No. 1 thing as a catcher in my opinion because you do it more than anything. So definitely present pitches to the umpire to make them look like strikes.”
A self-described defensive-first catcher, DeLisi has worked hard to make strides in the batter’s box. Distant cousins with Rockies All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, you could say hitting is in his genes. Not until recently, however, has DeLisi enjoyed sustained success at the plate, something that seemed to change this summer after numerous tweaks and adjustments, both physically and mentally.
“Definitely my mental approach, what I was looking for at the plate,” DeLisi said about what he has worked on offensively. “Just going up there hunting fastballs and just wanted to be on-time for the fastball. Whether it was 90 or 75 (MPH), I just needed to be on-time and that’s the pitch I needed to hit. I focused on my weight transfer, where I wanted to be in my swing to be the most powerful I could possibly be. I had a couple problems with my weight transfer last summer, but this summer I’ve fixed everything and feel a lot more powerful with my swing and a lot more confident.”
The knock against DeLisi at the plate is he sometimes gets out on his front foot too much, messing up his timing and causing him to be off-balance. During the winter and subsequent quarantine associated with COVID-19, DeLisi put that on his to-do list and ended up hitting .500 this summer, taking a bite out of the defensive-first narrative.
With something of an uppercut swing, the right-handed hitting catcher is at his best when he is driving balls to the gaps in the air, with the occasional one flying over the fence.
“I hit two (home runs) this summer,” DeLisi said. “I feel like I can definitely hit home runs, I don’t necessarily go up there and try to do it, but I just try to hit line drives gap-to-gap. I try to lift the ball as much as I possibly can, I’d rather have a pop-fly than a ground ball out. I just try to lift deep line drives, deep fly balls and if I get it perfectly, it’ll pretty much go. If I don’t get it perfectly, then it’ll pretty much be a line drive or a deep fly ball.”
While DeLisi is still two years removed from graduating high school, he has already begun gaining experience calling games. Doing so more at the prep level than on the showcase circuit, DeLisi said calling games gives both he and his pitcher more confidence that they are on the same page when it comes to the next pitch.
At ECU, the pitches come from the dugout with the coaching staff utilizing a wristband laden when number combinations. A three-digit number is called out, telling both the pitcher and catcher what pitch is expected. That process cuts down on sign-stealing by the opposing team, but will take some getting used to on DeLisi’s part.
“I’ve talked to coach Godwin a bunch about it, they really like it,” DeLisi said. “I think it’s a good system. I’ll have to get used to it, I might start doing it senior year in high school just to get used to it, but I definitely think it’s a good system and it does help out with sign-stealing.”
Learning ECU’s way of doing things gives DeLisi a goal to work toward in his final two years at the high school level. Mentioned above, however, DeLisi wants to use the next couple seasons to boost his draft stock in the eyes of big league scouts to the point where he may not even make it to the Pirates’ roster.
“My No. 1 goal out of high school, I want to get drafted somewhere in the draft,” DeLisi said. “I’ve already talked to a handful of pro scouts, which is pretty cool, to get their feedback. My No. 1 goal out of high school is to get drafted and if I don’t, then I’ll be in a good situation at East Carolina. I’ll go either way, I’m just focusing on what I can control.”