BRANDON -- The final curveball in the Hillsborough County career of former Jesuit ace Lance McCullers Jr. was a logistical one.
Because the rapidly-rising employee of the Houston Astros never could carve out a free weekend in which to personally accept one of the area's top prep baseball honors, he finally had to accept by proxy.
On Sunday evening, McCullers' maternal grandfather, Bob Perdomo, went to the Brandon home of former Jefferson High classmate Tony Saladino and accepted the 42nd annual Saladino Award, given to Hillsborough County's top senior player.
He then read a prepared statement from McCullers to the audience of roughly two-dozen, which included other McCullers family members and Jesuit coach Richie Warren.
"First and foremost, I apologize that I could not attend tonight," said McCullers, who was promoted Friday to the Astros' rookie-league affiliate in Greeneville, Tenn., and makes his first start Monday.
"I have been honored state-wide and nationally as a great player and all-well-rounded person, but it does not compare to being honored by my hometown and by a man who has done so much for the Tampa community. I am honored to have even been considered by Mr. Saladino for his annual award and I am humbled to know that people in my own city think so highly of me."
The first Saladino winner unable to personally receive the award, McCullers finished 13-0 with a 0.18 ERA in 77.1 innings this past spring.
He later was named Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year, and was taken by the Astros with the 41st overall pick in the supplemental first round of June's Major League Baseball first-year-player draft.
He's the fifth Jesuit player to win the Saladino and first since Ryan Gloger in 1999.
"He sets a record for this award for the longest and hardest to schedule," Tony Saladino said with a chuckle. "But that's okay; that mean's he's doing good (in the pros)."