In baseball it doesn’t matter how small of a town you come from, if you have major-league talent the scouts will find you.
The Reds have discovered their share of big names from little places. Johnny Bench was from Binger, Oklahoma, Don Gullett grew up in Lynn, Kentucky, and John Sansone hopes he can one day be added to that list.
The Dayton Dragons third baseman is from New Castle, Pennsylvania in the northwest corner of the state. The city’s claim to fame has always been Chuck Tanner, the former major-league player and manager who led the Pirates to a World Series title in 1979, but Sansone’s success has opened some eyes.
“Baseball is not that hot where I’m from, it’s more football,” Sansone said. “I feel I kind of brought baseball back when I went to Florida State and people watched me play. I think the younger kids got into baseball, and even now kids are playing a lot more than they used to.”
Growing up in New Castle means the high school baseball season is a short one almost every spring, but Sansone’s talent was hard to ignore and he ended up at Florida State, where he was in the lineup for one of the top college programs in the country from day one.
“My freshman year I hit a home run off a senior pitcher and that’s when I knew I belonged there,” he said.
Success with the Seminoles took Sansone to the next level. The Reds picked him in the eighth round of the draft last year, and after a solid season at rookie-level Billings, he found his way to Fifth Third Field this season.
“From rookie ball to here the pitchers are much better,” he said. “Last year the pitchers were kind of wild, they didn’t know what they were throwing or where they were throwing. Here they have a better idea of what they want to do.”
Better pitching hasn’t hurt Sansone at the plate. Although his batting average (.232) isn’t where he’d like it to be, he leads the Dragons with 12 doubles and is second with 28 RBIs.
“I come out every day like it’s my job to lose,” the 23-year-old said. “Whether there are bumps or bruises that I have, I never want to sit out because it gives someone else a reason to take my place.”
Sansone says he wants to coach when his playing days are over, but right now that kid from New Castle isn’t ready to get a “real” job just yet.
“If it’s a job, then you shouldn’t be playing,” Sansone said. “I come out here every day and try to play to the best of my ability and if it was a job I wouldn’t be happy.”