MONTGOMERY, Ala. – As their selection approached in the fifth round of the 2022 Major League Baseball Draft, the Los Angeles Angels called Auburn’s Sonny DiChiara to let him know he was their guy.
“All right, let’s do it,” Sonny told the Angels front office. “Within 10 minutes, I was a Los Angeles Angel.”
DiChiara signed his contract that night. A few days later, he flew to Arizona to spend several days at the Angels’ spring training site in Tempe, then joined the Double-A Rocket City Trash Pandas while they were playing a series in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
“It was kind of crazy,” he said. “It went so quick. I had no expectations of what was going on. I had no idea of how it was going to work. Within 10 minutes, you’ve got a job. That was cool.”
DiChiara went 2-for-2 and reached base five times in his professional debut on July 30, then hit his first home run in his fifth minor league game Aug. 5 in Huntsville.
Switching from aluminum to wood bats came easily, Sonny says, but abiding by a strictly enforced 20-second clock between pitches has been an adjustment.
DiChiara remains a student of the game, grateful to begin his professional career in the Southern League – only two promotions away from the big leagues.
“A lot of learning going on out there on that field,” he said. “This is a completely different level. I’m enjoying it so far. I’m thankful to start here and see this level of competition.
“Learning what I have to do to better myself and learning how to win out there. It’s eye opening to know how much I can still learn.”
Adding to the whirlwind of being in-season since January, DiChiara proposed to his fiancee, Gabrielle Cerasoli, after the Tigers returned from the College World Series. They will marry Jan. 15 in Columbus, Georgia.
After hitting 41 home runs in three seasons at Samford, DiChiara transferred to Auburn and promptly produced an epic senior season, leading the SEC in batting (.383), on-base percentage (.549) and slugging percentage (.777).
A consensus All-American, DiChiara and LSU’s Dylan Crews were named SEC Co-Players of the Year.
With individual success came team success, as DiChiara led the Tigers to a 16-13 SEC record and a sweep of Auburn’s first home NCAA regional since 2010.
In the deciding game of the Corvallis Super Regional, DiChiara hit his 22nd home run of the season, one shy of the program record, helping Auburn beat Oregon State 4-3.
“That was probably the most special moment for me in my baseball career so far,” he said.
In Omaha one week later, Auburn beat Stanford to earn the program’s first CWS win in 25 years.
“Being able to knock that next door down and winning a game there, that’s huge for the program and Coach Thompson,” DiChiara said. “Now they’ve got another objective when they get there – win the whole thing. We set that bar for the next group of guys who go.”
As he continues his ascent to the majors, DiChiara expects the Tigers to continue to excel under head coach Butch Thompson.
“That foot is going to stay on the gas,” he said. “It’s going to be special to watch this program.”
Three hours before a minor league game in Montgomery, Sonny DiChaira reflected on the impact he made this year 50 miles away at Plainsman Park, where his mother was a Diamond Doll when she attended Auburn.
“To get the opportunity to come play for the Tigers, you can’t really explain it,” he said. “Everybody’s got their childhood dream of playing for their dream school. My dreams came true even if it was just for one year, it was unreal.”
A remarkable player, an exceptional team, a memorable season.
“We were so tight,” he said. “Everybody loved each other. We respected our coaches, we respected our players. It was a different breed of culture, playing together. That’s what I’ll remember forever.
“Being able to rep that Auburn across my chest, I don’t think there will be anything more special than that. The culture and the family that was built around that Auburn name, it lived up to every expectation I could have ever had.”
— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) September 8, 2022
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jeff_shearer
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