By Rubin E. Grant
Sonny DiChiara was somewhat awed at the outset of his freshman baseball season at Samford back in February.
“The first few games were eye-opening,” DiChiara said. “I couldn’t believe I was playing Division I baseball.”
The former Hoover first baseman struggled as he adjusted to college ball, but it didn’t last long. Once he figured things out, he put together a stellar season.
“After the first few games, I settled in and started rolling,” DiChiara said. “I realized it was the same game I’ve always been playing, just at a different level.”
The 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound DiChiara smacked 21 home runs, tying him for second on Samford’s single-season home run list. He also led the team with 55 RBI. He hit .293 and had a team-best .646 slugging percentage. He had 15 multi-hit games and a team-high 15 multi-RBI games as Samford finished the 2019 season with 41 wins, tying the school record for victories. The Bulldogs earned the program’s first Southern Conference regular season title.
DiChiara’s impressive debut season earned him some high accolades. He was named to Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman All-America team and was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman All-America second team.
“It was a goal coming into the season to be an All-American and I was able to get it done,” DiChiara said.
DiChiara was named first team All-SoCon by both the media and coaches, and he was the media’s choice for SoCon Freshman of the Year.
DiChiara also was named to the American Baseball Coaches Association’s Central All-Region teams.
DiChiara Exceeded Expectations
“He obviously had a great year,” Samford coach Casey Dunn said. “Like most freshmen, he got off to a rocky start, but once he settled in, he did a great job for us.
“I was expecting him to come in (and) contribute right away, but I don’t know if I expected him to come in and hit .290 and hit 21 home runs. His numbers exceeded expectations,” Dunn said.
As a senior at Hoover, DiChiara was tabbed the Over the Mountain Journal’s 2018 Co-Baseball Player of the Year along with Homewood’s Josh Hall, who played this year at Ole Miss.
Adam Moseley, DiChiara’s coach at Hoover, kept a keen eye on his former player, attending games whenever he could and watching him online.
“It was fun to watch,” Moseley said. “I don’t know if I expected him to hit 20 home runs, but I expected his work ethic to be evident on the field, especially his hitting. I knew he would have an impact, but I didn’t know he would have that kind of impact.
“It’s a credit to Casey. He told him he had a chance to play early and he honored it.”
DiChiara already is looking ahead to next season.
“It was a good year, but I’ve got to get better at other aspects of the game –strike zone discipline, not striking out as much, taking walks and working on my defense,” DiChiara said.
With that in mind, DiChiara is spending this summer playing for the Strasburg Express in the Valley Baseball League in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. The league is an NCAA and MLB-sanctioned collegiate summer league that plays from late May until early August.
Through July 1, DiChiara was batting .322 (29 for 90) with eight doubles, four home runs and 24 RBI in 23 games.
“It’s going pretty good so far,” DiChiara said. “The competition is good. You see some pretty good arms and some good players.”
His Eyes Are on The Show
DiChiara hopes in a couple of years he will be taken in the Major League Baseball Free Agent Amateur Draft after watching three of his Samford teammates get drafted in June – catcher Anthony Mulrine, Los Angeles Angels; Branden Fryman, New York Mets; and Stephen Jones, Colorado Rockies.
The Bulldogs have had 30 players drafted since Dunn became head coach in 2005.
“Being drafted is something I want,” DiChiara said, “but this was just my freshman year and now I’ve got to do it again next year and again the year after that.”