When Diaz Nardo was only 7 years old, he started playing tee-ball at the Rehoboth Little League. His desire to play ball started after watching his two older brothers play the game, and his passion grew as he got older.
His journey continued when he played for the Cape Henlopen Vikings varsity baseball team, coached by Ben Evick. Nardo capped off a stellar career that included two no-hitters, which became his most memorable moments.
“My first no-hitter happened my sophomore year on Opening Day at home against Woodbridge, where I threw 12 strikeouts,” said Nardo. “I threw my second no-hitter against Caesar Rodney my senior year. It was great to experience the win with my teammates, many of whom I played Little League and middle school ball with.”
That type of effort from his teammates was displayed through Nardo’s career as his team posted a 37-24 record. Last season, Nardo helped his Vikings finish 10-7, as he pitched and played infield.
During his time at Cape, Nardo was clearly a leader by example, but not as vocal as some.
“He played like a man amongst boys in both mental and physical stature,” said Evick.
Nardo was a four-year starter for the Vikings and hit .500 as a senior.
His success with the bat led to a baseball scholarship from the University of Delaware.
The Blue Hens baseball team has a winning tradition of being one of the best in the Colonial Athletic Conference while making 15 NCAA Tournament appearances.
Nardo feels that his family and baseball are the two most important things in his life.
“UD affords me the opportunity to combine those two things, my love for the sport and having family on the sidelines,” Nardo said. “UD is known as being a great baseball school and obviously, the program was really key in getting me to sign on.”
According to the Princeton Review, the University of Delaware has been recognized recently as one of the 75 best value public institutions of higher education.
“It provides a top-notch education that I know will prepare me for whatever the future brings,” said Nardo.
The future for him could include donning a Major League Baseball jersey.
A big benefit of being a Blue Hen is that Major League Baseball teams have drafted several UD players in past. That prestigious list includes: Kevin Mench, Mike Koplove, Alex Buckhholtz, Jimmy Yezzo and Chad Kuhl. Those players were some of the best to ever play at Bob Hannah Stadium.
That being said, sometimes good players don’t get drafted. A good example is Nardo’s favorite UD baseball player, D.J. Long. The former second baseman played at UD from 2009-2013 and was a solid contributor.
Nardo mentioned that he has admired the former Sussex Central graduate for years and that he participated in a lot of the same local tournaments.
Nardo believes Long was an outstanding ball player who helped lead the UD offense as an infielder.
“His dedication both on and off the field was what made him a favorite,” said Nardo. “DJ was a leader who focused his efforts on making the team a cohesive unit. His hard work and dedication left a huge lasting impression on the team, and made him a role model to many players.”
Long occupied second base for four seasons and as a freshman had a 30-game hitting streak. Besides Nardo and Long both being Sussex County natives, they have another thing in common: Nardo is a right-handed batter and is receiving instruction from UD baseball coach Jim Sherman.
“Coach Sherman continues to strive the importance of balancing it all, with nothing less than 100 percent being given to both academics and athletics,” said Nardo. “With his direction and high expectations, it allows me to stay focused on what is important while keeping me in great form on the field.”
Coach Sherman who has been at the helm of the UD program for 13 years and is very pleased with the progress of Nardo as a redshirt freshman.
“Diaz has done a good job with learning our system and approach to hitting,” said Sherman. “He is big and strong and we like his capabilities to drive the ball.
“He is behind a senior, Jake Clark, and we felt it was best to redshirt Diaz and for him to still have four years of eligibility."
Clark is playing first base this season for the Blue Hens, which very well could become Nardo’s position next season.
In the meantime, Nardo is learning to deal with the challenges that come with making the transition from high school to collegiate baseball. Nardo admitted that it has been a complete lifestyle change for him.
“As a freshman, you really have to work hard to earn your spot and stand out against some of the area’s best ball players,” he said. “Daily practices, workouts and many other areas are new to me. These are much more intense and rigorous than what I faced in high school.”
The Cape graduate added that the hardest thing has just been the overall intensity and dealing how to balance it all: practice, games and academics.
Even though Nardo is overcoming new challenges he sees a lot of familiar faces on the team. This season there are 10 players on the team from Delaware high schools who Nardo says he quickly became friends with.
Those Delawareans include Aaron Briggs (Caesar Rodney), Austin Niggebrugge (Caravel Academy), Brock Niggebrugge (Caravel Academy), Cameron Travalini (Indian River), Dan Gatto (Dover), Gary Jones (Caesar Rodney), Tyler Dean (Indian River), Ty Warrington (A.I. Dupont), Tyler Mahoney (Newark) and Zach Lopes (Salesianum).
One thing is clear, Nardo’s passion for baseball hasn’t changed from his early days playing with his brothers.