Major League Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee Wade Boggs, Tony Saladino (founder of the Saladino Tournament), newly retired National Baseball Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson and acclaimed photographer Jean Fruth were part of a presentation, book signing and Q&A about Fruth’s book, Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin, that took place at the Oxford Exchange on November 18.
The book is a collection of photos and essays highlighting the people and places that make up the landscape of baseball around the country and the world.
The event in Tampa was one of many stops of the Grassroots Baseball: Route 66 tour. Many MLB Hall of Fame inductees such as Craig Biggio, Pudge Rodriguez, Johnny Bench and Boggs were a part of the tour that took place in several different cities.
According to the website, GrassrootsBaseball.com, its “mission is to promote and celebrate the amateur game around the globe, with a focus on growing interest and participation at the youngest levels. The overarching goal of Grassroots Baseball is to give back by providing inspiration, instruction and equipment to help ensure more children have the opportunity to learn, play and enjoy the game.”
Saladino has a special connection to baseball in the Tampa Bay area. The Saladino Tournament hosts over 30 teams from Hillsborough County in its annual prestigious spring break tournament.
“This book was special for me because it involved kids and their parents, minor leaguers and Hall of Famers,” Saladino said. “I’m incredibly grateful to be a part of it.”
Boggs, who wrote an essay for the Tampa chapter of the book, moved to Tampa when he was 11 years old and was a standout baseball and football player at Plant High School. After his Hall of Fame career in the major leagues playing for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Boggs has spent the last 20 years helping out youth players as an assistant baseball coach at Wharton High in New Tampa.
He said he appreciated being involved in Fruth’s book because it provided a look into the “dream” of reaching the highest level of the game of baseball and the lengths it takes to have that chance.
“I think this book exemplifies the struggles that people go through as they start a journey as a kid in little league with hopes and dreams of reaching the big leagues,” Boggs said. “To have a look at a kid who dreams as a 7 or 8-year-old of playing major league baseball, why not? If you work hard enough, dreams do come true. I’m a living example of that.”
Proceeds were donated to the Hillsborough Education Foundation (to benefit the Saladino Tournament) and Redbone Cystic Fibrosis.