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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tony Blasucci Interview, Part 3 of 3: Hard Work

FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading, Pa., in 2010. Tony Blasucci's Williamsport Bills played at the park in 1990.

Part 1: Pumped Up | Part 2: First Thing | Part 3: Hard Work

Ruben Sierra was a veteran of two major league seasons by that point. Tony Blasucci was a veteran of 12 games - at AA.

But there Blasucci was, facing down Sierra in winter ball in Puerto Rico. He also struck Sierra
out, Blasucci recalled recently.

"I said, 'wow, maybe this game isn't as hard as I think it is,'" Blasucci recalled to The Greatest 21 Days.

Then it suddenly was: "The next time I faced him, he hit a home run off me."

"But, you've got to realize, this is a guy that's pretty much been in A-ball his whole life, and then all of a sudden I'm in a different part of the country pitching against some of these guys."

Major leaguers.

Blasucci spoke with The Greatest 21 Days recently by phone from his Florida home. Blasucci played eight seasons as a pro, starting in the Pirates system and ending with the Mariners. He never made the majors himself, but he did make it to AAA in three separate seasons.

In between the Pirates and the Mariners, Blasucci played in the White Sox system. The White Sox moved Blasucci to the bullpen and Blasucci started to post some numbers.

Beehive Field in New Britain, Conn. in 2008. Tony Blasucci's Williamsport Bills played at Beehive Field in 1990.

His first season with his new club, in 1987, Blasucci pitched in 33 games for single-A Daytona Beach, picking up nine saves and a 2.31 ERA. He also got those 12 outings at AA Birmingham.

With Birmingham, Blasucci helped the club win the Southern League championship.

And, after suffering injuries as a youth, and in the Pirates system, Blasucci stayed healthy for the most part the whole year.

That off-season, Blasucci arrived in Puerto Rico, facing Sierra. The next spring, he was in big league camp. Blasucci called it a "whirlwind situation."

"The year before, I was pretty much washed up," Blasucci said, "not given a chance in hell, and the next thing you know, I'm in big league camp, given a chance to make the team."

Blasucci, though, spent that year largely back at Birmingham. He did make it to AAA Vancouver for two appearances.

He stayed with the White Sox for three full seasons. Then came his year with the Mariners, what would be his final season.

NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton, NY. Tony Blasucci's Williamsport Bills became the Binghamton Mets in 1992.

Blasucci started at AAA Calgary. Soon, though, he was sent to AA Williamsport, the Mariners needing the roster spot at Calgary. It was at Williamsport, playing in the Eastern League, that Blasucci's career ended.

"Pretty much, at that point, I could have continued playing, but I just, I had enough," Blasucci said, "and I was ready to get on with my life."

"I never gave up," Blasucci added a short time later, "but my last season season was a little difficult because I didn't love the game anymore. I didn't love going to the field every day."

Out of the game, Blasucci returned to school. When the Pirates signed him, they agreed to pay for him to finish school. He'd left Florida State before he got his degree. It was something he had promised himself and his family that he would do.

Blasucci and his wife Kris are now the parents of two boys, Tony Jr., 22, and Nick, 14.

After he finished his playing career, Blasucci left the game for a time. He's now back. His son Nick is a freshman in high school, an infielder on the baseball team.

He's also six months on from double-knee replacement surgery, required from normal wear, rather than his playing days.

But he's still able to get back on the mound again, throwing batting practice. Blasucci spoke having just thrown 300 pitches to his son.

As far as pointers, the one-time outfielder-turned-pitcher give his son the same ones his father gave him, Blasucci said.

"It's just hard work," Blasucci said. "Hard work and dedication is the way to be successful. That's basically what I tell my son, is you have to work harder than the next guy because, like in professional baseball, there's always someone there try to take your job away from you. So you've got to work hard."

June 2014: A friend of Tony's informed me that Tony passed away May 28, 2014, from injuries suffered in a boating accident. Tony's obituary: Anthony "Tony" Blasucci

Part 1: Pumped Up | Part 2: First Thing | Part 3: Hard Work

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