BRANDON — It was a hot topic in the Ehrhard home during the high school baseball season.
Who would win the Saladino Award?
"I honestly really didn't think I would win," Drew Ehrhard said.
He was wrong. On Sunday night, the Wharton shortstop and leadoff man won the 47th Saladino Award, presented annually to the outstanding high school senior baseball player in Hillsborough County. Ehrhard is Wharton's first Saladino winner.
"It's unbelievable to be part of that crowd," he said. "I have no words for it."
Ehrhard, who is headed for a scholarship and more baseball at the University of Tampa, hit .422 as senior with four home runs, 24 RBIs and a .505 on-base percentage for the Wildcats, who reached the Class 8A region finals. Ehrhard, a four-year varsity player, hit .380 in his high school career.
He also graduated 21st in Wharton's senior class, with a weighted 6.1 GPA, and was recently the recipient of the Wade Boggs Athletic Achievement Award, named for the Tampa baseball Hall of Famer and awarded for outstanding athletic, academic and community service achievement.
No one was prouder than the award's namesake — Boggs has coached at Wharton for 17 seasons and worked closely with Ehrhard.
"Last year, he really blossomed as a junior," said Boggs, who attended the award ceremony, held at the home of Saladino Tournament patriarch Tony Saladino. "He has incredible leadership qualities. His baseball IQ is off the charts. It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. I really compare him a lot to Dustin Pedroia."
"From Day 1, he has done everything the right way," Wharton coach Scott Hoffman said. "He never took short cuts. A lot of people do. He is definitely an old-school guy."
Boggs thinks the 5-foot-9 Ehrhard deserves to be chosen in the June 12 baseball draft.
"The University of Tampa has a jewel coming its way," Boggs said. "But major-league baseball needs to put his name in one of the rounds. We wouldn't be having this conversation if he was 2 inches taller. He goes in the first or second round, no question."
"This is enough — for now," Ehrhard said. "Winning this and the Boggs Award means so much. I would love to give back to this area like Mr. Saladino. This is my home. That's a big reason I picked UT. This is where I want to be."