— Tim DiGiorgio set records as Frankford’s quarterback; now, he’s giving baseball a try. And guess what? He’s pretty good.
In last Thursday’s 8-5 Division A victory over Franklin Towne Charter, something about Frankford’s baseball team looked different, and it wasn’t hulking first baseman Kevin Montero’s adventurous attempt to play third for the first time in two years.
Sure, that was a strange sight, but far less off-the-wall than watching Tim DiGiorgio, the Pioneers’ record-setting quarterback, batting third and playing center field for Juan Namnun’s two-time defending Public League championship program.
If watching DiGiorgio stride to the plate in the bottom of the first wearing his familiar No. 11 was a surprise, then imagine the reaction when the kid bound for Temple University as a preferred football walk-on smoked an opposite-field double to stake the Pioneers to a 1-0 lead. Two innings later, just for good measure, DiGiorgio led off with another opposite-field laser to left-center and quickly scored Frankford’s third run. He finished the game 2-for-4 with an RBI and scored two runs … not bad for a kid who hadn’t played organized baseball since one stint of JV his freshman year at Frankford.
So what gives, Tim?
“It’s my senior year, plus it’s my dad’s favorite sport,” Frankford’s quiet, unassuming star said after the win. “I wanted him to have a chance to see me play.”
DiGiorgio’s accomplishments as a quarterback are no secret. In just two years as the starter, he compiled 4,061 passing yards, good for second all-time for a Public League QB. He also fired 44 touchdown passes — 30 his junior year — helping the Pioneers to a 17-6 record, two regular season crowns, two league championship appearances and one league title this past season.
Namnun, Frankford football’s defensive coordinator, certainly knew about DiGiorgio’s abilities on the gridiron. But nobody was more surprised than Namnun when DiGiorgio sought him out a few weeks before spring practice and began to tell the coach of his desire to give baseball a try.
At first, the coach was hesitant.
“My first thought was ‘No,’” recalled Namnun, who has won eight of the last 13 league baseball titles, including three of the last five as head coach. “One, he knew baseball was my passion, and I didn’t want him to think he could just come out and goof around. It had to be taken seriously. And also, he’s a Division-I football player. He’s well on his way. I didn’t want to be the guy who jeopardized his future by messing with his throwing mechanics.”
Gradually, DiGiorgio wore his coach down. It was his senior year after all, and the Frankford native wanted to experience everything he could at the high school level before moving on to Temple. DiGiorgio backed up his promise to take this seriously with true baseball skills on the field, of which Namnun called “my most pleasant surprise” this season. Faced with the daunting task of replacing league MVP Augusto Ortega in center, Namnun gave DiGiorgio a shot and saw right away he could smoothly run down fly balls.
Not only that, but the kid with the golden left arm can pitch a bit too, firing a baseball with as much force and purpose of a pigskin. While DiGiorgio’s mechanics on the mound still need some refining (namely harnessing his control and throwing offspeed pitches with confidence), his coach loves the fact that he has a backup pitcher who can reach the mid-80s on the radar gun.
“Throwing a baseball and football successfully, that’s a total 180-degree turn,” Namnun said. “Honestly, I didn’t expect him to be so impactful right away. I thought he could maybe make a difference on the mound come late April, but we’ve had to change our goals for him now. I’ve had to adjust my lineup to bat him third because he hits the ball on the screws every time. Not only can he help us pitching, but if he continues on this meteoric rise, he can be one of the best hitters in our league this year.
“You could have given me 50 names on who my center fielder would be, and I never would have guessed Tim. But he just picks things up so easily.”
DiGiorgio has even surprised himself a bit.
“I didn’t really expect to be a key contributor,” he admitted. “I figured I’d try to make the team and maybe get a starting spot. It’s still a process, and I’m not all the way there yet. I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Namnun told a story of an earlier game this season against division foe Prep Charter when a professional scout came to watch the 6’5’’ Montero — a future Major League hopeful — play first and display his tremendous power at the plate. By the third inning, the scout had gone to retrieve a radar gun from his vehicle, suddenly transfixed by the tall, lanky kid throwing gas on the mound.
“That scout’s mission sheet went from ‘Kevin Montero’ to ‘Kevin Montero’ and ‘Who is this kid?’” Namnun said. “He does it naturally. That’s athleticism. Plus, he’s a bulldog. That’s what he brings to the table.”
On a team that lost seven starters from last year’s group, DiGiorgio’s surprise emergence has been pure bliss for Namnun. DiGiorgio’s calming presence on the field as a leader makes the young players more comfortable, even if most of them don’t know a football from a beach ball.
“My second biggest concern was Tim not exactly fitting the traditional Frankford baseball mode,” Namnun said of the program’s heavy Latin-American influence. “But he befriended kids instantly, kids who don’t even speak much English. He cracks one-liners to keep them loose, but he also teaches them. It’s been fascinating, and honestly amazing, to watch.”
Just to be clear, football still comes first for DiGiorgio. However, with the Pioneers off to a quick 3-1 league start and him being right in the middle of the action, he is open to the possibility of giving baseball a shot at Temple … if his football coaches allow it.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” he said. “I’d like to do both, so we’ll have to wait and see. Playing competitive sports is just who I am. I like it out there in center, being the quarterback of the defense.”
And make no mistake about it: DiGiorgio would absolutely love to win one more championship at a school that has grown to mean so much to him. If not, that’s OK too, because as he’s finding out, giving baseball a shot has proven to be a fitting end for a guy who will go down as one of the all-time greats at a school that’s produced plenty of legendary performers over time.
“It’d mean everything to finish up with another championship,” he said. “But that’s number two … number one is to go out and just have fun with the guys on this team in the time we have left. But if we did win?
“It would be a great ending to a pretty good book.” ••