March 28, 2008

‘Tuch’ Brings Family Tradition to Cornell

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Sophomore pitcher Tony Bertucci’s given name is actually Don Antony, but the biggest thing the Cornell hurler has in common with a Mafia mastermind is the Family emphasis — and, in Bertucci’s case, baseball is a prominent part of the family legacy.
“[I started playing baseball] in the backyard with my dad and my grandpa, just learning the game,” he said. “It goes back pretty deep in my family, so [there’s] a lot of pride as far as baseball’s concerned.”
Baseball is in the Bertucci blood. The Cornell pitcher’s older brother played one year at Notre Dame, while his younger brother is a sophomore on his high school team. All three brothers have answered to the same nickname in their baseball careers based on the family name, “Tuch.”
The nickname and love of baseball followed, even as Bertucci came to Ithaca from the other world of the Midwest.
“I grew up outside of St. Louis,” he said, “so I’ve been a St. Louis Cardinals fan going to Busch Stadium ever since I was really young.”
It was there that Bertucci saw his favorite player in action, beloved Cardinals center fielder Willie McGee. The 1985 NL MVP Award and three-time Gold Glove winner spent most of his career in St. Louis.
Like his childhood hero, the sophomore tends to mix talent on the mound with modesty off the field. A self-described “pretty traditional player … just happy to still be playing,” the pitcher is preparing to follow up on a banner rookie season Getting his first collegiate win against Dartmouth April 7 — Bertucci won the No. 2 starter spot as a rookie.
In his approach to his second season on the mound for the Red, Bertucci wants to build off last year but sees himself as just one cog in the team concept.
“Definitely what I wanted to get back into doing was to be more attack-oriented and aggressive,” he said. “[I want to] really going out there trying to dominate at bats and letting the great defense I have behind me, who really has stepped up especially in Ivy League play last year … just try to let them make the plays.”
After a successful summer as a starter in the Great Lakes Collegiate Summer League, elbow surgery interrupted Bertucci’s offseason development.
Though the surgery was a simple “cleanout procedure,” a slow transition back into the rotation made for a “strange” offseason and frustrated Bertucci.
He took the mound this year for the first time in the Spring Break game against Pittsburgh. Recording a save in the 8-5 win, he allowed one earned run in three innings of relief.
“I feel like I’m back competitively, with the competitive spirit,” Bertucci said. “I love being out there with the ball. … I’ve been sitting here injured reserve for so long. Hopefully I put something together [this year].”