ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The No. 19 hangs on a batting cage fence at Lakewood High School’s baseball field.
“Usually you wait to retire their number 5-10 years after they got drafted,” Lakewood baseball coach Jayce Ganchou said.
But Bo Bichette is not your normal baseball player.
“Since he got drafted and moved up so quickly, we expedited the procedure and went three years after and the 19 came off the board.”
Instead of starting high school the traditional way, the budding Toronto Blue Jays star shortstop was home-schooled, spending the bulk of his freshman year going to work with his dad, Dante, a four-time all-star and at the time, the Colorado Rockies hitting coach.
“He was actually in the big league clubhouse taking batting practice, grounders with (Rockies shortstop) Troy Tulowitzki,” Ganchou said. “What kind of experience is that? I really didn’t have to show him anything, he came to me ready to roll.”
Bichette joined Lakewood’s team for his sophomore season. It was just by chance when Ganchou noticed Dante on another baseball field working out with his son.
“The swing,” Ganchou said. “Right off the get-go. The first practice we had batting practice you could see it.”
As a senior in 2016, Bichette batted .569 with 13 home runs and was named Florida’s Player of the Year and Florida’s Mr. Baseball.
“I have a stack of every Major League scouts’ cards and I kept them all,” Ganchou said. “I think there were only two teams that didn’t take a look at him.”
Bichette is beginning his third season in big leagues. His career continues right down the road in Dunedin where the Blue Jays will open the regular season at their spring training site due to COVID-19 travel concerns between the U.S. and Canada.
“Obviously we would all love to be in Toronto,” Bichette said. “For me personally, it is the best of a worst-case scenario to be home, be in a comfortable spot. Like you said, this is where I grew up.”
Always humble, he has not forgotten where he comes from.
“He shows up and surprises (the high school team) with tons of stuff,” Ganchou said. “They all got custom Nike high-tops, got their numbers on them.”
But it’s the number hanging on the batting cage that means the most.
“When I see it, it reminds me of everything him and his dad taught me,” Lakewood senior shortstop Torry Jones said. “When I hit in the cage with him, I learn a lot. You can sit there and just listen to him. You will learn without even touching a bat or baseball.”
The Blue Jays selected Bichette in the second round, with the 66th overall selection, of the 2016 Major League Baseball draft.
During the 2020 shortened season, Bichette batted .301 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 29 games.