Nebraska is calling: Summit’s Thomas DeBonville recruited for Div. I baseball
January 21, 2017
He grew up in snowy Summit County, but Thomas DeBonville always wanted to play baseball for a living. Next season, he'll be one step closer.
Shortly before the new year, DeBonville, a 19-year-old Summit County native who's currently playing third base for Eastern Arizona College, heard the news all JUCO players want for Christmas (or anytime): the Division I club at University of Nebraska-Omaha was interested in recruiting him.
"Since I was little I wanted to play Division I sports or be a professional athlete," DeBonville said. "That was my goal in life. I always grew up thinking I could do it."
DeBonville will finish his sophomore year playing a 56-game schedule for Eastern Arizona, where the season has already started, before making the move to Omaha in time for the fall-ball practices in August.
The Summit High grad and former 4A Western Slope All-Conference player has been just about everywhere on the ball field — third base as a freshman with the Tigers, then into the outfield, then up to shortstop until his senior year, then back to third for JUCO and the Extreme Black Diamonds, Summit's 2-year-old summer collegiate team — and comes into his first hard-boiled collegiate season just wanting to learn. It's why he started with JUCO ball: sometimes, you've got to follow the pipeline.
"In high school, I learned that junior college was the route I should go," DeBonville said. "I was skinny and needed to get bigger and better, and with junior college there are lots of opportunities to do that."
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Now, that patience is also paying off with a scholarship. Shortly after meeting with the Nebraska coaches, the school offered him a joint athletic and academic scholarship. If he maintains a 3.0 average in the classroom — not to mention an impressive .370 batting average from last season — he qualifies for in-state tuition. Essentially, his 50 percent scholarship will become a full ride by the time he's a senior at Omaha.
"A lot of the positions are decided in fall for college teams," DeBonville said of the fall-ball season to come in a few short months. "It's big for inter-squad scrimmages, when the coaches get to know the players, but they've already offered me a scholarship. That means they like me and think I'll do something good for them."
It's something of a dream come true (or at least halfway true) for a mountain-town kid who first played ball in preschool and has wanted to be a big leaguer since then. Again, he's already one step closer than most.
"I'll be out there giving it 100 percent and playing my hardest," DeBonville said. "I'd love a chance to get drafted and play some professional ball."
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