CARLSBAD — He plays for two.
Thomas Saggese maintained his path on the field as his mother succumbed last year after a battle with cancer. The weight of her passing, while devastating, gives Saggese the fuel he needs on the field.
On June 11, his dream was realized when the Carlsbad High School standout shortstop was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the fifth round, the 145th pick, of the Major League Baseball draft.
Saggese, who had committed to play for Pepperdine University, agreed to an $800,000 bonus, according to MLB.com. The slot value for pick No. 145 was $375,200.
“It’s been hard and doesn’t get easier,” Saggese said of his mom’s death. “She was my best friend and that was tough. There’s nobody else that you love more than your mom. Every game I play is for her. At the end of the day, the baseball field is where I was at peace.”
Ever since he can remember, Saggese has played baseball. He steadily got better, starting in youth leagues before skyrocketing up the draft board last month.
He’s always played shortstop and his talent started to take off the winter of his junior year at Carlsbad High. Prior to CHS, Saggese was enrolled at Rancho Bernardo High School, known for its development of baseball players.
However, when his mother was diagnosed, the family moved back to Carlsbad.
Saggese found solace on the diamond and he took his game to new heights that spring, he said. Saggese said he noticed the difference in his game as his arm grew stronger and the ball was jumping off his bat. The results followed.
Saggese was named the Most Valuable Player of the Avocado West League as a junior after batting .422 with 10 home runs and 26 RBI. His senior season was off the sizzling start, too, but was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think it really clicked my junior year,” Saggese said. “I started hitting balls a little harder, making solid contact. It was kind of fast and I really don’t see it. I just started seeing the ball real well and it slowed the game down a lot.”
Carlsbad coach Jake Savicki said Saggese has the tools to play shortstop at the next level but needs to work on his range and arm strength. The seventh-year coach, though, said he has no doubts his star player will remain a shortstop thanks to his work ethic and humble approach.
It’s difficult for Saggese to explain his talents, a characteristic his coach echoed. What is difficult for others comes more naturally and easily to the 18-year-old talent.
“He just did everything right,” Savicki said. “As a person, he’s resilient. I’m thankful I was able to coach him and be around him.”
As for 2020, while big league clubs are allowed to have 60-man rosters for the upcoming shortened season, the minor league season has been canceled. Unless Saggese is added to the 60-man roster for the Rangers, he likely will not start his professional career until next year.