For senior Tennessee pitcher Rob Catapano, a passion for guns spreads farther than the length a bullet can travel.
Catapano grew up in a family where guns were not foreign subjects, including the left arm he's harbored since Little League.
Growing up, the lefty always looked up to his two uncles, who served in the Marine Corps. Although Catapano's biggest desire is to play professional baseball, the Marines follows at a close second because of their influence.
"I definitely want a shot to play pro ball," he said. "Hopefully I finish the season out strong, but whatever happens happens after that. I graduate in May, and if I don't make it (in pro baseball), then I'm going to join the Marine Corps.
"I have always seen myself doing something like it, something bigger than yourself. I also like the challenge that it presents, so I'll go in as an officer if I can make it through the training and all that."
The senior in political science grew up in Florida, where baseball played a constant role his life.
With the consistent warm weather, Catapano tossed the baseball with his friends daily. He began to compete in little league baseball at 5 years old. Once he got the taste of competition, he was hooked.
It was not until his move to the Knoxville area and once in high school that he realized he might play at the collegiate level.
"In high school at Farragut, we had a real good team," Catapano said. "I went and tried out my freshman year and made the team, and I got to dress out with varsity. This was a big deal, because we had such a good team. I got a few starts as a freshman and had some success. Then I returned as a sophomore as a starting pitcher behind Kyle Waldrip, who had a good year then, and I started getting some looks."
After first playing for the University of North Carolina, Catapano decided to return to Tennessee to his family and friends.
"I enjoyed my time there," Catapano said. "I think it is a great place and they have a great program, but I think the best thing for me was to go somewhere different. Now I'm back home, and I love it here."
Catapano said he likes to model his pitching game after Dontrelle Willis and Nolan Ryan, two former successful pitchers in the Major Leagues. Both pitchers were known for their unique personalities and taking command of the mound. Catapano is known for his "take charge" style of pitching.
UT baseball coach Todd Raleigh said he was enthusiastic after a clutch performance by Catapano last Saturday against Ole Miss.
"Rob really set the tone for us," Raleigh said. "He went out and gave us exactly what we needed. I can't say enough about what Rob did for us today."
Catapano has become used to the constant pressure pitchers are faced with. He finds that as long as you clear your head and focus on what you need to do, anything is possible.
"If you let the stress get to you, and you think it is stressful, then you probably won't make the pitch," Catapano said. "You just have to eliminate the count, eliminate the runners on base, eliminate the hitter. You just have to think of it as you and the catcher and try and hit your spot. Sometimes it is difficult, but other times when it's going good you don't even realize it. You just black out of everything around you, and all you see is the mitt."