BRANDON – The class was physical education and the game was usually dodgeball. Valrico Elementary teacher Tony Saladino let his fourth- and fifth-graders have at it during his classes most days.
But it didn’t take long before Saladino noticed one of the boys in his class was putting a little too much heat on his throws at classmates.
Tyler Danish was his name.
“We had to tell him to ease up a little bit,” Saladino said.
Nearly a decade later, Danish stood in his old gym teacher’s living room and accepted the 43rd annual Saladino Award, given to Hillsborough County’s top senior baseball player. Throwing hard, turns out, has worked out pretty well for Danish.
“They had to calm me down back then,” Danish said with a chuckle. “Those were some good times.”
The 6-foot right-hander is in the midst of an incredible run of accomplishments: he graduated last Monday, was drafted No. 55 overall by the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, chosen the Times’ Hillsborough County Player of the Year on Sunday, then named the Florida Dairy Farmers’ Mr. Baseball on Monday.
Then came Wednesday, when he jumped into the car with Durant coach Butch Valdes and assistant Donny Scolaro for what he thought was dinner with the high school principal.
Instead, Valdes and Scolaro pulled into the driveway of Tony and Bertha Saladino’s home in Brandon for the surprise gathering.
It was something of a final sendoff before Danish leaves for Chicago on Thursday, when he’ll undergo a physical and likely sign a contract with the White Sox. Then he’ll be off to the club’s training facility Phoenix on Friday and likely join their rookie-league team in Bristol, Va., on Monday.
His mother Charlotte Danish, former coaches, and several other friends and associates gathered in the Saladino’s living room to honor one of east Hillsborough’s most-celebrated athletes and reminisce about one of the area’s most dominant senior seasons in recent memory.
Danish went 15-1 and didn’t allow an earned run in 94 innings, leading the Cougars to their first district and region championships and first appearance in the state tournament. Durant went on to lose in the Class 8A final.
“What a special thing we witnessed,” Scolaro said. “I’ve never seen it before in my life and I’ll probably never see it again.”
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)
2012--LANCE MCCULLERS (JESUIT)