Nebraska is calling: Summit’s Thomas DeBonville recruited for Div. I baseball |

Nebraska is calling: Summit’s Thomas DeBonville recruited for Div. I baseball

Summit County native Thomas DeBonville bats for the Eastern Arizona College baseball team in April 2016. The 19-year-old former 4A Western Slope All-Conference player was recently recruited by University of Nebraska-Omaha, a Division I program, and starts playing for the Mavericks in fall 2017.
Sam Martin / Special to the Daily |

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.”

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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