By Tamas Mondovics
Following a tumultuous and emotionally charged year, Hillsborough County School’s Tony Saladino High School Baseball Tournament has reached its 37th consecutive season.
This year’s event has geared up to host a total of 55 games played between 32 public high school teams during spring break at Brandon (headquarters), Jesuit, Jefferson and Newsome High Schools from Saturday, March 11 through Friday, March 17.
As each team aims to reach the coveted trophy, the annual week-long, round-robin tournament provides fans and spectators of all ages an opportunity, not only to watch, but to participate in and enjoy a variety of baseball-related activities in a patriotic, nostalgic, family-oriented, educational and safe atmosphere.
“This is much more than just a tournament,” said Tony Saladino. “It is a celebration of the sport, while it keeps the kids and all who love baseball busy and out of mischief during Spring Break.”
Saladino’s sentiments are clearly emphasized in the tourney’s online invitation as it mentions that the event helps keep local high school players close to home, thanks to the countless activities and memorabilia displays that supplement the educational, recreational and baseball opportunities for players, coaches, fans and spectators.
As it is the case every year, the tournament will showcase nearly 800 players during, giving baseball scouts representing Major League teams and many college coaches from throughout the country in attendance the opportunity to find their next pick.
The event also includes the traditional home run derby championship, held just before the final game on Friday night adding to the annual baseball fun.
Unfortunately, tournament’s matriarch, Bertha Saladino, the engine that has propelled the week-long tournament forward each year for the past three and a half decades will once again be greatly missed.
Bertha’s absence will not go unnoticed by anyone who has had a chance to taste the tournament’s spirit, anchored by Bertha’s unmatched generosity, kindness and love of her family friends, fans, the media and, of course, the young players.
Leaving behind her husband Tony, of 52 years and a large family, Bertha suffered a heart attack before she died in early 2016—surrounded by friends and family. She was 84.
Last year’s Tony Saladino High School Baseball Tournament final game saw the defending champions, Alonso Ravens, facing off Steinbrenner High School Warriors.
At the end, the Warriors defeated the Ravens 6-4 to become tourney champions for the first time in school history.
As to who might take the trophy home this year is anybody’s guess, after all this is high school baseball.
Tourney organizers are urging residents to fill the bleachers, root for their teams, and enjoy the celebration.
For more about the Saladino tournament, please visit, www.tonysaladinobaseballtounament.com.