Mike Salvatore is an unusual success story in college baseball. And he’s taken a road infrequently traveled to become one of Florida State’s most valuable players in 2019.
Major league baseball scouts took notice, too.
Not drafted through 40 rounds a year ago as a junior, that only made Salvatore work harder to improve going into his senior year.
“Definitely at the plate, just work on approach,” Salvatore said. “Driving balls into gaps and just making that approach a lot better.”
The difference has been impressive. He’s hitting nearly 100 points higher than a year ago, while hitting 22 doubles and setting the table atop the Seminoles lineup. Salvatore was the Athens (Ga.) Regional’s most outstanding player – hitting 9 for 14 with eight runs scored and four RBI – and on Tuesday he was selected in the ninth round by the Seattle Mariners.
Salvatore moved to second to begin 2019 but then went back to short as FSU coach Mike Martin flipped positions with freshman Nander de Sedas, allowing the veteran to hold down a more difficult defensive position on the left side of the infield.
Martin compares Salvatore’s work ethic to that of some of the Seminole greats, noting that he is like Buster Posey and Jeremy Morris in having a dedication to pushing himself.
“He comes to work and he works hard every single day to get better,” Martin said. “Salvy is just like that. He’s the same guy day in and day out. He wants to get better. He never complained when he was moved from short to second. He never was complaining when he moved from second to short. He was just a guy that loves to play baseball. Those guys are not exactly easy to find.”
Salvatore, a New Jersey native, arrived at FSU after playing at Northwest Florida State College for two seasons in 2016 and ’17. He started all 62 games at shortstop in 2018, hitting .244 with eight doubles, a triple and a home run.
But Salvatore used the summer of 2018 to play at the Cape Cod League and work on his swing, momentum that carried him over to fall ball and the 2019 season. Salvatore leads the Seminoles in hitting (.341), runs (53), doubles (22) and triples (4) going into this weekend’s Super Regional at LSU.
While providing a quality bat in the leadoff spot, Salvatore has also been a senior leader on a team that needed his presence. The Seminoles often had to fill gaps in the lineup with freshmen, meaning that there was a necessity for veterans like Salvatore to guide the younger players along the way.
“It’s a young group mixed with a bunch of older guys and we just formed together through friendships and stuff to come together and lead the team because we know there are a bunch of younger (players with) big roles on this team,” Salvatore said.
The timing of the draft has always been difficult within the NCAA postseason, but Salvatore was able to monitor the picks and talk with teams when they called on Tuesday. He feels rewarded for his hard work and said that hearing the Mariners pick him was “pretty cool.”
It’s because of veterans like Salvatore who helped keep the Seminoles with a positive focus going into the NCAA postseason. Just 10 days ago, FSU was on the edge of not making the 64-team postseason NCAA Tournament. But after a 3-0 record in Athens, the Seminoles are now just two wins from a trip to the College World Series. LSU is quite the challenge but FSU is coming off its best weekend of baseball and is riding momentum.
“We’re excited,” Salvatore said. “We’re ready to go. I think this is something that we always knew we were capable of doing but it’s good to see it finally coming together at the right time.”