Sept. 18, 2014
By Brad Muller | More Features
Scott Wingo and Justin Dalles are remembered by South Carolina baseball fans for their spirit and their ability to come through in the clutch. Don't expect either of the two to tone down their spirit and intensity as the newest additions to the Gamecock baseball staff. Both will serve as student-assistant coaches while they complete their degrees from the university.
"We want our former players to graduate," said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook. "Justin will play a role in helping our young catchers out. Wingo will help in a number of areas. He's a very energetic guy. He'll help our middle infielders, and he can help with the short game as well. But not only that, Scott Wingo is a College World Series Most Valuable Player. Just the fact that he's around and that recruits see that our former players are around and are wanting to be a part of this program, it goes a long way."
Whether it was scoring the game-winning run off of Whit Merrifield's hit against UCLA to give South Carolina its first College World Series title in 2010, making stellar defensive plays at second base to help the Gamecocks defeat Florida for the 2011 national championship, or even his spirited pre-game chants to lead the team before each game, Scott Wingo will forever be remembered by South Carolina baseball fans for his ability to get it done, and he doesn't think much will change in his role as a coach while he finishes his degree in retail.
"You come to school to be a student-athlete and it was pretty clear that I really wanted to finish my degree," Wingo said. "Coach Holbrook called me and said I could come finish my degree and coach. I still think I have an upbeat personality. I still have a passion for the game. Other than not playing, I think I'm the same guy."
Justin Dalles was a team leader as a catcher on the 2009 squad and was rewarded by being named Second Team All-SEC after hitting .324 with 15 home runs. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he had the distinction of being one of only a handful of players to be drafted four times. His parents pushed him to get his education, and after an All-American career in junior college followed by one year at South Carolina, he was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the sixth round of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft. He played five and half seasons in the minor leagues, playing as high as double-A ball before hanging up his spikes last spring. He is now finishing his degree in sociology.
"It just feels like a big family here and that's why I love it. When my father passed away, this was the family that took me under its wing."
"When I left independent ball, I texted Coach (Ray) Tanner and Coach Holbrook, and both of them responded immediately," Dalles said. "Doors started closing with baseball, and doors started opening with academics. So it worked out. I wanted to have my degree. One day, if I have kids, I want to show them that I have a degree and tell them that I think they should do the same."
Dalles was named to the 2009 NCAA Greenville Regional All-Tournament team after batting .579 (11-for-19) with three home runs and 10 RBI for the weekend. What most fans did not know was that he was battling food poisoning all weekend as well. Although Dalles only played one season with the Gamecocks before embarking on his professional baseball career, he had plenty of great memories in the Garnet and Black.
"It was the first year of the new stadium here," Dalles recalled. "It was awesome. Playing for Coach Tanner was great. Being a part of a tradition, playing in a college town and playing in the SEC with the competition you face was great."
Dalles had a special bond with the staff during his playing days that grew even more following the death of his father, James, in the fall of 2008.
"I love this place," Dalles said. "It feels like home. It just feels like a big family here and that's why I love it. When my father passed away, this was the family that took me under its wing. I feel like I've done pretty well for myself, especially with the help from these guys."
Wingo, originally from Greenville, South Carolina, was taken in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers following his four-year career as a Gamecock. Wingo hit .338 as a senior, earning first-team All-SEC honors, and had a knack for getting on base, evidenced by his being hit by a pitch a school record 63 times and ranking fourth with 130 career walks. He was also twice named to the SEC All-Defensive team. Wingo has plenty of great memories, but the ones that rise to the surface first have to do with those national championship seasons.
"My best memories were definitely crossing home plate and winning the second one," Wingo said. "I won't ever forget winning against Coastal (Carolina) to go to Omaha the first time. I remember (Christian) Walker's home run and running out and dogpiling. That was definitely special."
Wingo and Dalles believe the toughest part about life in the minors was the everyday grind and the living conditions, compared to what they had been accustomed with the facilities at South Carolina. Both also expressed that one of the best aspects of being a Gamecock was the ability to be a part of a great college baseball tradition, and they're happy to be a part of it again.
"I've always said that when I was done playing, I would know that I had already put out everything there on the field," Wingo said. "I'm at peace with it and excited about starting a new chapter."
Dalles added that he's ready to help South Carolina create more memories, and perhaps some of their character as players will rub off on this newest generation of Gamecocks.
"I want to help these guys get better and hopefully win a national championship," Dalles said. "When I was here, I didn't get a ring. I missed it by one year. I tried to be a leader and be that clubhouse guy who would make guys feel comfortable. At the end of the day, you're playing a game. You have to work, but there are times you have to have fun too."
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