KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee baseball head coach Tony Vitello spoke for the first time on Thursday after getting ejected and suspended for four games after chest bumping into an umpire in the Vols' game this past Saturday against Alabama.
Vitello said the frustration began when Alabama was relaying pitches. Starting pitcher Chase Dollander was then hit by a line drive in the game. Assistant coach Frank Anderson went out to talk to the umpires about his frustrations following the emotions of Dollander getting injured and about the relayed pitches. Anderson was ejected, which prompted Vitello to defend his guys.
He was ejected and then he chest bumped the umpire, which resulted in his four-game suspension. Vitello said he will always step up for his guys, but he deserved to be suspended.
"I'm not looking for sympathy," he said. "It's an automatic penalty. It is what it is and it is deserved. It's what I need to do, but it isn't fun. It's so different."
While he can still be involved in game preparation, Vitello has been forced to watch games from outside the stadium. At home games, he's been able to set up a live feed. On the road against Florida this weekend, he'll have to watch on Watch ESPN like anyone watching that isn't attending the game.
"You're a minute behind and that will drive you crazy," he said. "I'll knock those two games out and I cannot wait for Sunday more than I normally do, but Sunday is a big day as is."
Vitello went viral on Wednesday for a way he raised money for Wound Warrior at a fraternity event. He had a sign that offered people chest bumps for $2. Between that, dunk tanks with football head coach Josh Heupel and a GoFundMe link, $2,000 was raised for the charity that helps veterans and active duty service members.
Vitello jokingly had another idea to raise money as well. He said another idea would be to do a dunking booth at a rival SEC team's school like Florida and have them try and dunk him in the water.
"Hopefully people don't take me too seriously at times," he said. "I wouldn't actually do this. I was going to do a dunking booth, that had anything to do with this, it would be kind of fun to do a dunk tank at Florida dressed up in orange and let all their fraternities and sororities have at it, but that might turn into a bloodbath."
Vitello has two more games to serve in his four-game suspension. Those will happen on Friday and Saturday during the road series against Florida. Vitello can return for the series finale on Sunday.
Assistant coach Josh Elander will continue to serve as interim head coach until Vitello returns.