TAMPA — If there is anything that Thomas Dorminy Jr. instilled in his son since his first pitch, it is that life is different between the white chalk foul lines of a baseball diamond.
Concentrate on the task at hand, he told his son of the same name, block everything else out and — most important — never show your emotions on the mound.
Now, Thomas Dorminy III is arguably the best high school pitcher in Hillsborough County.
The Alonso junior left-hander leads the Ravens, ranked 22nd in the nation by Baseball America, in today's opening game of the best-of-three Class 6A region final at Melbourne with a 10-0 record and 99 strikeouts in 63 innings.
Behind the backstop will be his father, watching with an IV attached to his left biceps pumping in the medicine needed to keep him alive.
His heart is working at just 16 percent capability. He will need a heart transplant, and the 46-year-old hopes that next week's visit to the doctor will show his lungs are healthy enough for him to be placed on a transplant list.
"My dad always taught me, when you go out on the field, act like you're the best there is and don't worry about anything off the field," Dorminy III said. "I still have him in the back of my mind, but I remember what he taught me, and I just keep doing it."
Said Alonso coach Landy Faedo: "He fights when he's out there. It seems like all this has given him more direction."
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On the evening of Aug. 21, 2007, Thomas Dorminy Jr. thought he just had a bad case of heartburn. But when the pain grew hours later, he left his bed in the middle of the night and told his son, then 15, he had to drive himself to the hospital.
Heart disease ran in his family. Dorminy's father died of a heart attack at age 36. Three uncles died of heart failure, and another two needed open-heart surgery. So it wasn't that much of a surprise when doctors told him he had a heart attack.
He had quadruple bypass surgery that year, but his heart still steadily faded. He was in and out of hospitals until four months ago, when a trip to Tampa General revealed that he would need a heart transplant.
"The doctors said I should be dead already," he said.
It was the first time he missed one of his son's games, but he was still on the phone getting updates from other parents.
His daughter, Ariel, returned from nursing school in Connecticut to take care of her father. Still, Dorminy is at every Alonso game. He spends spare time at the computer looking for information on opponents that could help his son.
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At 5 feet 10, the 16-year-old Dorminy might be undersized, but when you see him throw — his fastball that peaks in the low 90s, a knee-buckling curveball and a changeup that has hitters swinging into their heels — you can see he's special.
"My dad taught me everything I know about pitching, my mechanics, how to pitch, everything," he said. "To me, baseball is something I've got to do or else I'm bored."
He entered this season as Alonso's No. 2 pitcher. He threw just 19 innings last year, mostly in relief, but heading into the spring, he already accepted a scholarship to USF.
But when senior ace Ray Delphey went down with a season-ending knee injury, Dorminy was the new No. 1.
"He's been pitching as a No. 1 all year," Faedo said. "That's the luxury we've had this year. We had two No. 1 pitchers, so it wasn't a problem for him to slide up."
Hitters are batting just .186 off Dorminy. The Ravens are three rounds away from a state title thanks to him. And if he progresses during his senior season, the major-league draft could come calling.
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When Thomas Dorminy Jr. was in the hospital this season, newspaper articles about his son's achievements decorated the room. Trips to the hospital forced him to miss two of his son's games, but he still kept his sense of humor.
"I would tell the doctors, 'One day, my son is going to sign a big contract, and he's promised me 30 percent from the top. So you need to get me a new heart,' " Dorminy said.
Although the son still performed well in those games without his father present, his mother noticed a difference.
"When he's on the mound, he might blow it off, but he looks for his dad," Christina Dorminy said. "It's like he's without a co-pilot."
The co-pilot will be there today, with a trip to the state final four on the line.
"We all talk about it realistically," Dorminy Jr. said. "I could drop dead any time. I've always been direct to my kids. I don't want to sugarcoat it.
"But I don't think it's my time yet."