Tampa Catholic made a splash in filling its baseball coach vacancy, hiring former King standout and ex-pro player Ty Griffin to lead Tampa Bay's most state-title rich program.
He will replace Pat Russo, who resigned after leading the Crusaders to the Class 3A state tournament two years ago and to the region final this spring.
Tampa Catholic has won nine state baseball titles, third most in Florida (Key West 11, Westminster Christian 10), but hasn't claimed a championship since 2001.
“I think the first thing that stands out is the tradition that TC has,” Griffin said. “It’s a small school with a family atmosphere. I think I can come over and bring something learned throughout my career and ultimately take us to the top and win another state championship.”
Griffin, a speedy run-scorer with surprising power, was one of the top high school players to come out of the Tampa Bay area in the 1980s. He was drafted out of high school, but instead went to college at Georgia Tech, where he became an All-American. He played on the USA National team for two years -- playing alongside former Jefferson standout and eventual major leaguer Tino Martinez -- and was a member of the team that won the gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He went on to become the ninth overall pick by the Cubs in 1988.
“I think the biggest part the kids are going to learn from me is the mental part of the game,” Griffin said. “They’re going to learn how to make decisions. I can draw on my international experience playing for Team USA. They’re going to learn what college coaches and pro scouts are looking for and ultimately how to set themselves up for life through baseball.”
He played in the minors for eight seasons and has been an assistant at King the past five seasons. He also has been a constant presence at his alma mater, even going back to help out during his college days.
“When you talk about him as a player, he’s a guy who always led by example, a quiet leader, that’s always been his personality,” said King coach Jim Macaluso. “He’s not a yell guy, but in his own way will be a great communicator with his players. I think he'll be a breath of fresh air for TC.”
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)