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Litsch caps rapid rise with callup to Toronto

As a Devil Rays bat boy in 2001-02, former Dixie Hollins High star Jesse Litsch got to see what life in the major leagues was like.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published May 14, 2007


As a Devil Rays bat boy in 2001-02, former Dixie Hollins High star Jesse Litsch got to see what life in the major leagues was like.

Now he'll experience it.

Litsch, a right-handed pitcher, was called up by the Blue Jays and is scheduled to make his major-league debut as the starter Tuesday against Baltimore.

With a strong start at Double-A New Hampshire 5-1, 0.96 ERA, seven no-hit innings in his last outing, Litsch, 22, was anticipating a move to Triple A. When he got word late Saturday he was going straight to the majors, he immediately called home to Pinellas Park to tell his dad, Rick, who'd coached him through the youth leagues.

"It was more or less, 'Oh, my God, you're not going to believe this, ' " Rick recalled Sunday. "This is what he's been working toward. As soon as he was old enough to walk he was running the bases, and he's been obsessed ever since."

Litsch made headlines as an 8-year-old in 1993 when he had a perfect season for the Pinto Reds in the Pinellas Park Pony League, going 46-for-46 and pitching 14 no-hit innings.

He starred for the Rebels and South Florida Community College, participated in the Rays' RBI Program and signed with the Jays, who made him a 24th-round pick in 2004. In two pro seasons, he quickly emerged as one of Toronto's most promising prospects, ranked No. 8 by Baseball America this season.

Rick Litsch used to go to Tropicana Field to watch Jesse work as a bat boy. Now he's flying north to see him pitch at the Rogers Centre. "I still have his first 'major-league' uniform, " Rick said. "Now I'll have one to put with it."