MOULTRIE – As a senior at Colquitt County High School, where he had been an All-Region football and baseball player, Tony DeRosso had a decision to make.

He had already accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Georgia Tech, one of the nation’s top Division I programs. He also had been drafted in the 19th round by the Boston Red Sox.

Actually, it wasn’t that big a decision.

“I’d always wanted to play professional baseball,” DeRosso said this week. “I was blessed with that talent. It wasn’t a tough decision for me.

“My mom and dad were fine with my decision.”

After outstanding careers in two sports as a Packer, DeRosso went on to play nine years of professional baseball with the Boston, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres organizations before retiring in 2003.

“For nine years, I got to play something I loved,” DeRosso said. “I played winter ball in Hawaii for two months. I played in a bunch of different places. I was on a team that won a championship.

“There’s nothing I’d change.”

Now an accountant at Vines, Wear and Ladson, DeRosso is the treasurer of the Packer Booster Club and is one of 14 members of the Colquitt County Sports Hall of Fame who will be inducted at the annual banquet on Oct. 25.

DeRosso will join former Packer football teammates Greg Bright, Christopher McCranie and Parks Hughes, Gwyned Bius, Mike Creasman, Rocky Jones, George “Bubba” Kendrick, Beth Redding, Wanda Purvis Ross, Robert Tharpe Jr., Bennett Willis, Wenbo Chen and Jay Lerew as members of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2007.

DeRosso was born in Wisconsin, but moved with his family to Moultrie when he was 5 years old. He soon began playing youth sports, learning under such coaches as Buster Dunn, Darrell Funderburk and his father, John DeRosso.

DeRosso credits his father, who was a fine baseball and football player, with much of his success.

“He instilled that work ethic to prepare myself to do well,” he said. “He probably hit me thousands, millions of balls.”

Tony DeRosso was a fine basketball player at the middle school level, but concentrated on football and baseball at Colquitt County High.

He was a sophomore quarterback on the 1991 Packers team that reached the state championship game at Mack Tharpe Stadium, falling to LaGrange 15-14 on a late field goal.

The next year, Jeremy Merritt took over from Hughes as the Packers quarterback and the 6-foot-3, 215-pound DeRosso volunteered to play receiver.

“Since I had been a quarterback, I knew all the plays,” he said. “And I had little advantage because of my size. I could go up and catch it and I was hard to bring down.”

Catching passes from Jeremy Merritt in 1992 and Clif Henry in 1993, DeRosso finished his career with 69 catches for 1,130 yards and nine touchdowns. He currently ranks No. 8 on the Packers all-time receiving list.

He also was a fine place-kicker, converting 44 extra points and kicking five field goals in this career.

DeRosso tied for the team lead in scoring as a junior with three touchdowns, 21 extra points and a field goal for 42 points.

As a senior he led the team with 71 points for six touchdowns, 23 extra points and four field goals.

In the Packers 10-7 victory over Valdosta in 1993, he scored all the Packers points on touchdown, an extra point and a field goal.

DeRosso received some offers to play college football, where he likely would have been utilized as a tight end.

But while he says there is nothing like playing high school football on Friday nights, his abiding talent was baseball.

He started playing varsity baseball as a freshman and early that season he and older brother David, a junior at the time, homered in the same game at Cairo.

In fact, Tony homered twice, his first two varsity round-trippers.

Used as a pitcher and a rightfielder as a freshman, Tony was primarily a pitcher and a first baseman his final three seasons.

And the four-time All-Region selection put up some remarkable numbers.

For his career, he batted .373 with 16 home runs and 75 runs batted in. As a senior, he hit .444 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs.

DeRosso also had a career pitching record of 21-10 with a 3.11 ERA. He struck out 200 batters in 193.2 career innings.

After signing with the Red Sox, he spent the 1994 short season at Fort Myers, Fla., where he hit .250 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 46 games as a first baseman.

In 1995, he played for the Michigan Battle Cats in Class A, hitting 14 homers and driving in 51 runs.

But his professional career was bedeviled by a heel injury that finally required surgery in 1997.

A few games into the 1998 season, he hurt it again and again went under the knife.

In 1999, when he finally got a chance to play in late July with the Class A Augusta Greenjackets, he has missed, essentially, two seasons.

But he was strong down the stretch, helping the Greenjackets make a run to the playoffs. In the postseason, he went 12-for-29, batting .424, hitting five home runs, five doubles and driving in 11 runs.

His final homer was the most satisfying.

With the deciding game of the South Atlantic League championship series in a scoreless tie in the eighth inning, DeRosso sent a fast ball from Cape Fear starter Trevor Wamback over the center field fence to give the Greenjackets a 1-0 victory and he league title.

The Red Sox sent DeRosso to Class AA Trenton in 2000 and he responded with the best year of his career.

“My foot was healed, although I never really regained the speed I had,” he said. “But that was the best year I had as a pro. Everything started clicking.”

He hit 20 home runs, drove 85 and was picked for the Class AA All-Star game in Bowie, Md.

As the Thunder’s only representative in the All-Star game, he did not start but went in to play third base in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom of the inning, he hit a long home run that helped his team with the game, 5-2.

After the game, he received with the Star of Stars Award presented to the top player representing the Eastern League.

Making the night even more special, his wife Staci, parents John and Sharon DeRosso and sister Gina were in the stands.

DeRosso became a free agent after the season and with some reticence chose to sign with the Brewers.

“The Red Sox were real good to me,” he said. “They stuck by me.”

DeRosso spent the spring of 2001 in the Brewers Class AAA camp, but when the season started, he was sent to Class AA Huntsville.

“That was disappointing,” he said. “I had a great spring training.”

Once the season started, he slumped and was released. He signed with the Padres and finished the season with Class AA Mobile.

A free agent again, he signed for the 2002 season with Pittsburgh and when the season started he was playing infrequently.

“It was the same situation,” he said. “They had some prospects they had to play. It was hard to get into a groove.”

Before the season ended, DeRosso joined the Brewers’ Class A High Desert Mavericks in the California League and in the final 30 games his .370 with seven home runs and 30 runs batted in.

“I was really on a roll, hitting everything,” he said. “I was really encouraged.”

But after the season, he received no serious offers and, he says, “I decided to move on to Plan B.”

DeRosso went to ABAC, where he received his degree in business administration and then graduated with a degree in accounting from Valdosta State.

He will able to apply for his accounting license next year.

He and Staci, a physical therapy assistant, have been married since 1999 and the couple spent plenty of time apart during his professional baseball career.

“She’s always been real understanding,” he said.

The DeRossos have a future Packer in son Brady, a year old.

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