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Tolisano playing pro baseball in Dunedin, homecoming series this weekend

By Staff | Jul 14, 2009

From the time he was very young, John Tolisano wanted to become a professional baseball player. He dreamed of the day he would step onto a big league diamond, his name in lights on the scoreboard with thousands of fans cheering his name.

Of course, not every youngster who dreams of becoming a baseball hero grows up and fulfills that dream.

But Tolisano is certainly well on his way.

The 20-year-old resident of Sanibel Island is in his second full season of pro ball, having earned the starting second baseman spot for the Dunedin Blue Jays. So far this season, he is batting .254 with 10 home runs (leading his team) and 44 runs batted in (tied for the team lead).

This weekend, Dunedin will make their lone appearance in Fort Myers facing the Miracle, which Tolisano’s family is treating sort of like a “homecoming” for the Major League-hopeful young talent.

“We’re gonna be there all four games,” said dad Dr. Michael Tolisano, an island chiropractor who played college baseball at the University of Connecticut. “We went to all of his games up in Charlotte County, too, but we haven’t gone to all of the games in Dunedin. That’s a two-and-a-half hour drive each way.”

Asked about what it’s going to feel like playing in front of his “home town fans” at Hammond Stadium, John noted that he is looking forward to the series, which begins on Saturday evening.

“It’s gonna be like playing in high school again,” said Tolisano, who played locally at Estero High School. “I know that a lot of close friends and family will be there.”

Both he and his older brother, Joey, played and practiced the sport nearly non-stop as kids growing up in Connecticut. According to their father, the family’s decision to move to Florida in 1996 was, in part, based upon his boys being able to play baseball year round.

During his four years at Estero, Tolisano batted .532 as a freshman, .441 as a sophomore, .610 as a junior and .518 as a senior, completing his high school career with a total of 40 home runs, 138 runs batted in and 60 stolen bases. The Toronto Blue Jays rewarded Tolisano’s perseverance, determination and athletic drive by selecting him in the second round (85th overall) of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

After being drafted in June 2007, John was assigned to play for the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, also located in Dunedin. He finished his rookie campaign by batting .246, belting a league-high 10 home runs along with 33 runs batted in (tied for fifth in the league), 35 runs scored and seven stolen bases in 49 games. For his efforts, Tolisano was named the 2007 GCL Player of the Year.

“The hardest thing to adjust to as a pro is the grind of playing baseball every day,” Tolisano explained. “I just try to improve a little bit each day and do the best that I can. I feel very blessed to be doing what I do.”

After playing with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2008, where he hit .229 with six roundtrippers and 47 RBI, Tolisano advanced to the Blue Jays Class A affiliate in Dunedin. The season started rather slowly, with John batting a lowly .194 in April. However, his numbers have steadily improved as 2009 has progressed. He batted .245 in May, .287 in June and (as of Monday) .324 in July, upping his average to a more respectable .254 overall.

“John’s really hard on himself,” Michael said of his son. “He knows that he can do so much better, but in reality he’s doing very well this season.”

Should his production continue to improve, Tolisano may be looking at an assignment to the Blue Jays Class AA affiliate – the New Hampshire Fisher Cats – next season, or perhaps even sooner. But for now, the Sanibel resident is quite happy playing the game that he loves in the Sunshine State.

“I try to come home whenever I can,” he added. “That’s the best thing about playing in the Florida State League… I’m only a few hours away, so I can shoot home on an off day.”

However, Tolisano said, “I love playing baseball every day.”

The Fort Myers Miracle will host the Dunedin Blue Jays for a four-game series July 18-21, with 7:05 p.m. starts on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. Sunday’s game is at 1:05 p.m. For tickets or more information, call 239-768-4210 or visit www.miraclebaseball.com.