Christian Cairo will likely never forget the summer of 2016.
Cairo, who will be a sophomore at Calvary Christian this fall, has spent almost the entire summer away from his Clearwater home, playing baseball.
He has been to Jupiter to try out for the under-15 U.S. national team, which he made.
Then came trips across the country, including to California and North Carolina, to prepare for the World Baseball Classic in Japan. The tournament is currently in the elimination rounds. As of Tuesday, Team USA was 5-0 and had outscored its international competition 65-7. Should the United States advance to the championship game, it will be played on Monday. Cairo will then fly back home and begin school the following week.
"I've been away for a while, but I love it," Cairo said from Japan. "I wouldn't want to be doing anything else."
The fact that Cairo is playing baseball at a high level isn't a surprise. His father, Miguel, had a 17-year professional career that included three years with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Miguel was the eighth pick in the 1997 MLB expansion draft by Tampa Bay and played with nine different clubs before retiring after the 2012 season.
Miguel is with Christian in Japan.
Christian Cairo has been around baseball ever since he can remember. Like his father, he is an infielder. For Team USA in Japan, he is playing second base, shortstop and third base.
As a freshman for Calvary Christian, Cairo played both third base and shortstop.
His route to Japan was more than a year in the making. Last August he tried out for the under-15 national team but didn't make it. Undaunted, he tried out again and made the final cut of 40.
"Everyone there is a stud," Cairo said. "To make a team like this only boosts your confidence."
He spent most of the July at the team's training center in Cary, N.C. There was a game in Sherman Oaks, Calif., prior to making the long trip to Iwaki, Japan, for the World Baseball Classic. Cairo is one of the final 20 players to make the cut. He is also one of five Floridians on the team, including Northside Christian pitcher Colton Olasin.
Cairo's confidence has been growing since his freshman year with Calvary Christian. He had some doubts as to whether he would be able to play against high school seniors. He struggled at the plate, hitting just .088 in 26 games and 42 at-bats. But he held his own as an infielder.
"I didn't even know if I would make varsity,'' " said Cairo, who is 5 feet 9, 155 pounds. "At the high school level, everyone was bigger, stronger, faster. That was a big adjustment. I didn't hit as well as I wanted, but I did fine defensively. It was definitely a learning experience."
Calvary Christian coach Greg Olsen said he could tell Cairo had talent, and he's only going to get better.
"He's a good one," Olsen said. "He's going to be a player we count on as a 10th grader. He's got a very nice skill set. And he hasn't even hit his growth spurt yet."
By making the under-15 national team, Cairo not only has the chance to play on a national stage, but he is also getting noticed by scouts and college coaches. That is not something he thought of at this time last year.
"I've got a lot of colleges looking at me now," Cairo said. "It's pretty exciting."
Contact Rodney Page at [email protected] Follow @RodneyHomeTeam.