Former Alonso pitcher Jose Fernandez unofficially ended his high school career -- and a whirlwind week -- with one for the thumb.
Fernandez, who on Monday became Hillsborough County's highest MLB draft pick in 14 years, walked into the home of Tony and Bertha Saladino on Sunday not realizing he was the guest of honor.
Fernandez was the recipient of the 41st annual Saladino Memorial Award, given to Hillsborough County's top high school senior baseball player, as voted on by county coaches.
As the award's recipient, he also was sized for a special ring, his fifth in high school to go along with two state championship rings and two Saladino Tournament championship rings.
"I want to win at least three more (rings)," Fernandez said smiling, referring to his future with to Marlins.
He's the latest on an impressive list of past award winners that includes major leaguers Tino Martinez, Gary Sheffield, Dave Magadan, Jason Romano, Mike Heath and Rich Monteleone.
Fernandez, who led Alonso to its second Class 6A state title in three years this spring, became the third Ravens player win the award in the past five years, following Tommy Toledo in 2007 and Alex Panteliodis in 2008.
On Monday, Fernandez was the No. 14 overall pick by the Marlins, the highest Hillsborough County selection since Jesuit's Geoff Goetz in 1997.
Fernandez just returned Sunday morning from four days in South Florida as a guest of the Marlins, meeting members of the organization's front office. The trip included taking in Thursday's Marlins-Braves game at Sun Life Stadium from a front-row seat next to team owner Jeffrey Loria. He also met Marlins star shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
"They told me how it's going to be, about the minor leagues, how it's going to work and how hard you have to work," Fernandez said. "Those guys are really humble. That's what I see. They told me, 'The way you talk, you sound very mature.' I talked a lot of Spanish. It was nice."
Fernandez said he will return to Miami tomorrow for interviews with local media and to also continue contract negotiations.
"I just want to start playing and do my best," Fernandez said. "We talk a lot and it looks like its working out."
This season, Fernandez was 13-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 134 K in 93 IP. He had nine complete-game wins, including four shutouts. At the plate, he hit .404 with nine homers and 35 RBIs. Fernandez earned a complete-game win and hit the winning homer -- a two-run shot in the seventh inning -- in the Ravens' 7-5 Class 6A state semifinal win over Park Vista.
He was a three-time All-Saladino Tournament Selection, winning the tournament MVP as a junior. This spring he won the Saladino Tournament home run derby.
The award has been given out every year since 1971 and is named is honor of the father of Saladino Tournament organizer Tony Saladino Jr.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)
(Photo: Alonso pitcher Jose Fernandez is given the 41st annual Saladino Memorial Award by Tony Saladino Jr.and Bertha Saladino)
SALADINO AWARD WINNERS:
1971--DAVIAN MENENDEZ (TAMPA CATHOLIC) & RICK FAULKNER (PLANT)
1972--ANTHONY LAZZARA (TAMPA BAY TECH) & DAN BAZARTE (LETO)
1973--MIKE HEATH (HILLSBOROUGH)
1974--NICK RAY (ROBINSON)
1975--JOHN SHOUSE (CHAMBERLAIN)
1976--SAMMY SPENCE (BRANDON)
1977--DANNY PICKERN (PLANT CITY)
1978--LENNY FAEDO (JEFFERSON)
1979--RICK FIGUEREDO (PLANT)
1980--DAVID MAGADAN (JESUIT)
1981--VANCE LOVELACE (HILLSBOROUGH)
1982--RICHARD MONTELEONE (TAMPA CATHOLIC)
1983--JOHN RAMOS (PLANT)
1984--CHUCK DONAHUE (ROBINSON)
1985--TINO MARTINEZ (JEFFERSON)
1986--GARY SHEFFIELD (HILLSBOROUGH)
1987--CHRIS MYERS (PLANT)
1988--MIN PARK (LETO)
1989--KIKI JONES (HILLSBOROUGH)
1990--SALVY URSO (PLANT)
1991--BRUCE THOMPSON (BRANDON)
1992--TROY KENT (JESUIT)
1993--TROY CARRASCO (JESUIT)
1994--SCOTT GLASER (BRANDON)
1995--MIKE VALDES (BLOOMINGDALE)
1996--GREG HOWELL (BRANDON)
1997--JASON ROMANO (HILLSBOROUGH)
1998--JEREMY GOMER (DURANT)
1999--RYAN GLOGER (JESUIT)
2000--PAUL WILLIAMS (GAITHER)
2001--RYAN ANDERSON (GAITHER)
2002--JOSH SAWYER (BRANDON)
2003--BRANDON McARTHUR (ARMWOOD)
2004--RYAN STRAUSS (BLOOMINGDALE)
2005--CALEB GRAHAM (GAITHER)
2006--CARMINE GIARDINA (DURANT)
2007--TOMMY TOLEDO (ALONSO)
2008--ALEX PANTELIODIS (ALONSO)
2009--ROBERT BENINCASA (ARMWOOD)
2010--JAMES RAMSAY (BRANDON)
2011--JOSE FERNANDEZ (ALONSO)