Coach Tony Saladino (left) is a legend in the Brandon baseball community. He is known for his great coaching and mentoring skills as well as his love for his community. Many of his former players, like Mike Owen (right), are honored to call him their friend and mentor.

If you played baseball growing up in the Brandon community, your life was likely touched by Tony Saladino. He is a legend when it comes to baseball in our community for his yearly baseball tournament, the Saladino Tournament.

“My son runs the tournament now, but I still attend all the games,” Saladino said. “It’s a beautiful tournament, and to see old friends and meet new ones. It’s just a good thing for me to still be there.”

Saladino was born in Ybor City. He was a teacher for 57 years in the Hillsborough County school system and he worked with the county’s Parks & Recreation Department. “I love kids and I love being at the ball field with them,” Saladino said. Saladino was the 2020 recipient of the Civic Leadership Award from the Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

The Saladino Tournament was established in 1981 as a memorial for Tony Saladino Sr. and to promote high school baseball in Hillsborough County. The tournament started with 11 public schools and has grown into a 32-team event.

In keeping with a consistent commitment, the tournament always strives for excellence through a continuous quest of contributing to the growth and development of the educational environment and youth sports.

Dwight ‘Doc’ Gooden of Hillsborough High School was the tournament’s first most valuable player. Since then, 38 players that participated in the tournament have gone on to play baseball in the major leagues. Twelve of these players were first-round draft picks and countless others have played baseball in the minor leagues or college.

Many of Saladino’s former students and players still live in the Brandon area and have fond memories of their time playing baseball and playing in the tournament.

“Coach Saladino was an awesome coach and mentor,” said Michael Owen, one of Saladino’s former players. “He is a kind and caring man who loves and supports our community.”

Due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the Saladino Tournament had to be cancelled last year.

“Last year would have been our 40th year doing the tournament,” Saladino said. “I’m glad we can have the tournament this year because it’s something the players and the baseball community look forward to each year, and so do I.”

The Tony Saladino Tournament will be held from Saturday to Wednesday, March 13-17. For more information on the tournament, visit the tournament’s website at www.tonysaladinobaseballtournament.com.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.