Bloomingdale's Ryan Strauss is voted best player in Hillsborough.
BRANDON - From the age of 8, when his dad started taking him to King High to watch games, Ryan Strauss wanted to play in the Tony Saladino Tournament.
At Bloomingdale, Strauss did more than grace that tournament, making the all-tournament team twice and taking the Bulls to the state tournament twice.
Strauss and the Saladinos became further linked Sunday when he was named the 34th recipient of the Saladino Award, which is given to Hillsborough's best senior baseball player as voted by county coaches.
"I've been around that name my whole life," Strauss said.
The connection goes even further as the speaker at the first Saladino breakfast was Florida State coach Mike Martin, Strauss' coach this fall when he becomes a Seminole. The man assigned to pick up Martin that day was K.B. Scull, Strauss' coach at Bloomingdale.
"Ryan's a winner at whatever he does," Scull said.
Under Scull's guidance, Strauss helped the Bulls become winners, too.
The team went to the state semifinals for the second time in three years, recording a 25-5 record. Strauss earned a spot on the Times' all-county team, registering a 2.12 ERA in 66 innings as he struck out 108. He also was a second-team All-Suncoast pick and was voted team MVP by teammates. But the individual awards, even the Saladino, could not compare to his experience at states.
"There was the competition, and the whole team got to go and was excited," Strauss said.
Of course, not many honors can match the tradition of the Saladino. Strauss joins a select group that boasts current major leaguers such as Gary Sheffield (1986) and Tino Martinez (1985) as past recipients. For Strauss, though, a possible big-league stint will have to wait until he is done with the Seminoles.
"You look at the list and see the names, and it's a great honor to be mentioned in the same category," Strauss said.