Every spring since 1981, there has been the Saladino. ¶ For a week, high school baseball players spend their spring break on the diamonds of Hillsborough County and immerse themselves in the historical tournament. ¶ "It was the biggest tournament in the state of Florida as far as I was concerned," former Hillsborough standout and current Detroit Tiger Gary Sheffield said. ¶ With the 28th annual Saladino Tournament opening Saturday, the Times got nostalgic. Taking us back in time is a big part of what the Saladino is about. We assembled our team of the best to play in this great event. Then we looked forward to the players people will mention when reminiscing about 2008.
The all-Saladino team
P — Dwight Gooden, Hillsborough
Before Doc was named the 1984 NL rookie of the year and won the 1985 NL Cy Young Award, he was MVP of the first Saladino Tournament in 1981.
P — Kenny Rogers, Plant City
The Gambler, a four-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, is still going strong heading into his 20th major-league season.
P — Brad Radke, Jesuit
The consummate innings eater during his 12-year career with the Twins, Radke was always in control.
P — Danny Graves, Brandon
One of the game's top closers in the early part of the decade, he had four 30-save seasons. Was on Saladino all-tournament team in 1991.
1B — Tino Martinez, Jefferson
Tampa alum was a big part of the Yankees' glory days. He hit .296 with 44 homers and 141 RBIs and was AL MVP runnerup in 1997.
2B — Ryan Raburn, Durant
Super-utilityman can play second, third and outfield. One of three Tigers on this team.
SS — Chone Figgins, Brandon
He has at least 57 steals in each of the past four seasons. Last year, he swiped 58 in just 115 games.
3B — Gary Sheffield, Hillsborough
Sheffield has an impressive resume: Already hit milestones with 2,500 hits, 1,500 runs and 1,500 RBIs, he's 20 homers short of the 500 club. He was top six in MVP voting five times.
OF — Carl Everett, Hillsborough
He was outspoken, but Everett could hit everywhere he played: two All-Star games, four 20-homer seasons.
OF — Luis Gonzalez, Jefferson
Four-time All-Star is one of the game's class acts. Hit 57 homers in 2001.
OF — Derek Bell, King
An 11-year major-league career included a pair of 100-RBI seasons.
C — Kevin Cash, Gaither
His number is retired at Gaither. He has seen spot duty in the majors with Blue Jays, Rays and
DH — Fred McGriff, Jefferson
The Crime Dog, right, is Tampa. He holds an advisory position with the Rays and still gets in uniform as a Jesuit assistant. Within Hillsborough County, his 493 homers are worthy of the Hall of Fame.
Today's all-Saladino team
(stats through Tuesday)
P — Alex Panteliodis, Alonso
Ravens senior, right, has won 19 straight decisions and is 7-0 this season.
P — Kyle Parker, Newsome
No-nonsense lefty is a workhorse. Three complete games, five times with six-plus innings.
P — Andrew Virgili, Wharton
All five starts have been complete games, owns
a 0.60 ERA.
P — Kris Castellanos, Newsome
County's strikeout leader has 68 strikeouts in
1B — Preston Tucker, Plant
Florida-bound left-handed hitter leads county with seven homers.
2B — Sherman Johnson, Alonso
Senior leader for the Ravens, hitting .514 and has scored 19 runs.
SS — Mychal Givens, Plant
County's top pro prospect is 6-0 as a pitcher.
3B — Jamie Mallard, Middleton
It's not Mallard's natural position, but we need his bat in this lineup.
OF — Connor Mitchell, Plant
Panthers' underrated No. 9 hitter sets the table
for the top of the order.
OF — Ethan Lovell, Newsome
Speedy centerfielder is a factor in the field and on the basepaths.
OF — Kenny Wilson, Sickles
Senior centerfielder has great range and is headed to play at Florida.
C — Jared Womack, Plant
Steady hitter led league in batting average most of the season.
DH — Michael Smith, Brandon
Junior first baseman/catcher has been hitting above .500 all season.