NEW CASTLE —
Baseball is John Sansone’s passion.
He spent countless hours fielding ground balls, taking batting practice and working on his speed and strength while growing up in Neshannock.
Nothing has changed now that he’s a college freshman. That investment continues to pay off for Sansone, who is attending Florida State University on a baseball scholarship. He earned the starting job at second base for the Seminoles, who open their season today against Rhode Island in Tallahassee, Fla.
“I am so thrilled. Coming from a small town like New Castle, I’ll never forget the good, quality people I met and the good values I learned in my hometown,” he said during a phone interview after a class yesterday. “It’s crazy I am getting a chance like this. I am so excited. Everything is going great. I am really enjoying my time right now.”
Really, it’s no coincidence he’s earned the chance to start for Florida State. Sansone’s dedication paid off in high school as he led Neshannock to the past two WPIAL Class A championships.
Last spring, Sansone batted .597 (40 for 57) with 40 RBIs, 34 runs scored, 12 doubles, six triples and seven home runs, all of which were tops in Lawrence County. He added 18 stolen bases for the Lancers. He wrapped up his high school career with a .479 batting average (127 for 265) with 110 RBIs, 112 runs scored and 22 home runs.
Once he got to Florida, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder went to work during the fall baseball practice season.
“It was pretty much the same, in terms of how we do things in spring — practice and scrimmaging. We went a lot longer in the fall. I think we went five or six weeks straight, with a couple off days in there,” he said. “It was awesome. I did kind of get tired in the fall, but it was fun playing in the sun when, back home, it was starting to get cold.”
A shortstop in high school, the Seminoles moved Sansone to the right side of the infield, where graduation left them with two openings.
“Most of the fall, I was at first base. The last week of fall, they moved me to second,” he said. “Ever since I got back for the spring, I was at second the whole time. I just did good battling with the other position players. I guess you could say I won the spot.”
Florida State head coach Mike Martin, entering his 34th season, wants Sansone and first baseman Casey Smit to solidify the infield.
“John Sansone is a freshman and Casey Smit is a junior college transfer and they are going to need some time to get their feet under them,” he said. “I am anxious to see how they adjust as we go through the season.”
Sansone benefited from the extra preparation he put in over the years with his father, John.
“Really, the older guys helped me a lot and the coaching staff is there, too. The pace of the game is so much faster in (NCAA) Division I,” he said. “Everything about it is faster. Once I get used to that, which I am starting to, I think I should be fine.”
Already, Sansone has had to make some adjustments at the plate to handle better pitching.
“I think it’s more the off-speed stuff that I will have to adjust to because it’s a lot better,” he said. “I had to change my stance a couple times. I don’t think my dad will be too happy about that. I had to adjust to the way I was swinging at certain pitches and recognizing certain pitches.”
A Sport Management major, Sansone earned a 3.0 grade-point average in the fall. He doesn’t believe baseball will interfere greatly with his academic schedule.
“The only time we actually travel is on the weekends,” he said. “I have only one class on Friday and I’ll probably only miss a couple tests, which I can make up.”
Sansone is eager to start the regular season. The Seminoles, ranked No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, are hoping to return to the College World Series this year.
“Everyone here is excited. As a team, we just want one goal for everyone; it’s not about individuals here,” he said. “It’s about one goal we have — to win the whole thing.”
Sansone’s parents, John and Mirella, will be on hand today to watch his debut. An aunt and cousin will join them for the weekend.
“The game is on ESPN3, so I know a lot of people back home are all getting together and going to watch it somewhere. That’ll be fun,” he said. “I know a bunch of people going to come down to the Maryland games (March 15-17).”
Next year, people may have a shorter trip to see Florida State, which is shooting for its seventh-straight ACC Atlantic Division title. Pitt joins the ACC in the fall, so it’s possible Sansone and the Seminoles could make a trip up north to play the Panthers.
“That would be crazy,” he said. “I can’t even imagine that.”
However, Sansone is focused on this year.
“I just want to do anything I can to help the team win,” he said. “I don’t really worry about my own stats. They are nice, but any way I can help the team win is a bigger stat for me.”
NEW CASTLE —
Baseball is John Sansone’s passion.
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