KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – You probably know him as the face of baseball at the University of Tennessee. Or, you may have heard him referred to as “East Tennessee’s most eligible bachelor.”
UT’s baseball coach Tony Vitello loves the people of East Tennessee almost as much as fans love him.
The interview focused on learning more about the man who took the UT baseball team to the College World Series in Omaha for that first time since 2005. Vitello was named National Coach of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. He’s even earned a viral video credit with another famous Tennessee sports icon — Peyton Manning.
“It was right off the bat when our staff was hired that people would ask… what do you like so far and it was how welcoming the people are,” Vitello said Thursday after stopping by Living East Tennessee for an interview. “It hasn’t gone away and its just the nature of the people in this area and it really makes a difference in your every day life.”
Rumors swirled after the College World Series run that other entities were attempting to lure Vitello away from Tennessee.
“There were things that were out there,” he said, adding that his staff wanted to stay together and be someplace they felt they could win every year. So what put Tennessee at the forefront? The fanbase, he said.
“I think this place became a rowdy place to play, so much so that other coaches were complaining about our fans. and I’ll take that any day of the week,” Vitello said.
“The people we have around our kids every day… are tremendous. Those kids want to play for those people who have their back every day and I think it shows on the field with their enthusiasm and they also kind of shine through with their personality and out of that comes things like the Daddy Hat,” Vitello said.
The coach calls himself a foodie, and said his dad is a “big-time chef” but he spends most of his money on takeout due to recruiting efforts.