BRANDON, Fla. — From high school to professional, baseball is on hold due to the ongoing health crisis. But, the game lives on for Tony Saladino… in his home.
Collectibles, trinkets, bobbleheads and autographed pictures clutter the shelves and walls.
Saladino picks up something.
“A Pete Rose autographed bat,” he points out.
It’s a mini museum.
“So much stuff in there, I don’t even know what’s in there,” Saladino said. “There’s a lot to look at you’ll never see it all in one day.”
The 84-year-old is known as a Tampa baseball legend. He fell in love with the game because “small people can play baseball.”
If what you see inside doesn’t impress you, step outside. Saladino recently had a replica baseball diamond with synthetic field turf installed in his front yard.
“It’s amazing. It’s actual turf. there will be no weeds,” Saladino said. “I don’t have to cut the grass and it goes along with the museum.”
As they say, if you build it…
“They started to come by, look and take pictures.”
The mighty mite played high school and semi-pro ball but for the last four decades, he’s been organizing the nationally-heralded Saladino High School Baseball Tournament.
“Luis Gonzalez, Tino Martinez, Pete Alonso the phenom right now,” just to name a few players that participated during their high school years.
In all, 88 players that played in his tournament made the Big Show. But, a COVID-19 curveball canceled the event’s 40th anniversary this year.
“It was very sad, somber,” Saladino said.
He lives for baseball and for honoring his late-wife of 52 years. He named his new field, “Bertha Saladino Field.”
And, wants to make her proud.
“I think finally I can hit a home run there.”