NEW CASTLE —
Putting in the time to become a success has been the downfall of more than one athlete.
That never was the case for Neshannock High baseball standout John Sansone.
Before school, before or after practice, Sansone was there to pay his dues.
“I usually take two rounds of balls, about 50 balls (of batting practice) in my machine,” Sansone said. “I usually take two rounds, or maybe three if I’m feeling good. I usually try to do some sprints, a little jogging.
“I always take ground balls every day, either before or after practice. I usually do that after school, but sometimes I woke up early. Whatever is needed.”
That committed work ethic is what earned Sansone the 1,204th overall pick by the Detroit Tigers on June 6 in the 39th round of this year’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Prior to the season, Sansone signed a national letter-of-intent to continue his baseball career at Florida State University. He recently chose attending Florida State over signing with the Tigers.
Sansone, a senior shortstop who also was a star guard on the Lancers’ boys basketball team, was named the Lawrence County male athlete of the year by the New Castle News sports staff.
“He’s just an amazing kid,” Neshannock baseball coach Mike Kirkwood said. “I can verify the work ethic and what he’s done. It’s nice to see the fruits of his labor.”
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 the county. He added 18 stolen bases as well.
“It’s a constant grind with kids. As soon as they don’t hit a ball hard, they want to change things differently with their swing,” Kirkwood said. “He’s always had a grasp on hitting.
“He’s traveled a lot of miles to play games against the best competition during the season. It’s all about his work ethic and what he’s willing to do.”
The numbers were stellar across the board for Sansone. But he’s most interested in team success —which means he’s unhappy with how the season ended.
Neshannock won the WPIAL Section 3-A title with a 12-0 mark and rolled to a 22-3 overall record. But the Lancers were upset in the second round of the PIAA Class A playoffs by Elk County Catholic, 4-3.
“We really thought we had a good chance at winning it all this year. It’s just the way the ball bounces,” Sansone said. “It wasn’t our day that day. I still don’t want to talk about it. I’m still disappointed, but that’s just baseball. It wasn’t our day.
“We really didn’t feel any (PIAA) pressure. We tried to block it all out. We weren’t really worried about that. We were just locked in on our own goal, trying to win a state championship.”
Despite the strong overall numbers, Sansone concluded his career in a mini slump. He was 0 for 5 plus a walk in the state playoffs, dipping his average below the .600 mark. At one point during the season, he was over .650.
“I was frustrated after that,” Sansone said. “It was my last couple high school games and I couldn’t perform for my team. I just wasn’t getting the bat on the ball in those games.”