“When I took the program over, I really felt like God put me where he wanted me to be,” said Sal Giardina Sr., who took over the Seffner Christian Academy baseball program last year. He had applied for the head coaching gig three years prior, but feels he may not have been spiritually ready until the second opportunity arose. Since then, the program has been successful on and off the field. Giardina and his players use their faith as a pillar to help guide them on their journey. “What Coach Sal brings to the table is a blessing,” said centerfielder James Peeler.
The team finished 15-7 last season. They compete in District 4, Region 3. They have seven returning seniors, three of whom have accepted scholarship offers, including third baseman Will Gilbert (.361), a Seminole State College commit; right fielder Bobby Turkett (13 RBIs), a Florida Southern commit; and catcher Dean Collins, a Morton College commit. Other key players include last year’s team MVP Peeler (.345, 19 RBIs), and left-handed pitching ace, Andrew Rodriguez (1.93 ERA).
Their team goal is to win their district, but their main goal is to get closer as a team and with God. “Our team motto is family,” said Giardina. “I want these guys on the team to really care about each other on and off the field as players and teammates. My core beliefs with baseball are that the game of baseball doesn’t define who you are as a person. It’s the things you do off the field.”
Every Thursday morning the players meet for bible study before school at the restaurant across from Seffner Christian. Giardina is starting to instill some of the things that he does with the AAU Bullets baseball organization, which he started and has coached for 20 years. They want to start giving back to the community during Thanksgiving, and want to adopt families less fortunate to give gifts to for Christmas.
“We want to win districts and be united as a family,” said Peeler. “We want to grow closer as a team, as a family and grow closer to God.”