Athlete of the Week: Frank Fortunato, Canon-McMillan
Name: Frank Fortunato
Fortunato’s week: Fortunato had seven hits in 11 at-bats during wins over Trinity, Brashear and Upper St. Clair last week to vault the Big Macs into a tie for first place in Section 5-AAAA.
It also continued Fortunato’s recent hot streak, with hits in 15 of his past 22 at-bats.
“He’s seeing the ball well,” Canon-McMillan coach Frank Zebrasky said. “He’s at the point where if he does make an out, he’s really upset.”
Being a leader/leadoff: Fortunato was supposed to be Canon-McMillan’s No. 3 hitter, but when center fielder Jake Cadez shattered the radial bone in his forearm prior to the season, Fortunato voluntarily took over for Cadez as the team’s leadoff hitter.
One reason was Fortunato knew he needed to see more pitches, which he would certainly do as a leadoff hitter. And he knew his team needed a spark.
“I enjoy batting leadoff, starting the game, hopefully getting up on the other team,” Fortunato said. “I think it’s made me more patient, and I’ve seen more pitches. I think it has made me a better hitter.”
Besides the hitting – as of Tuesday he was at .500 (23-for-46) – Fortunato had nine walks for an on-base percentage of .610. He was also 9-for-9 on steals, with one double, one triple, a home run, and 15 RBI.
“I’m more patient, yet I feel like I have more confidence,” Fortunato said. “I think I’ve matured. It’s mental, too. I’m a senior, and I feel like I can hit anybody out there.”
Fortunato has helped Canon-McMillan to a 5-2 record in Section 5-AAAA at the beginning of the week, 8-6 overall.
Not bad for a team that Fortunato feels many wrote off after injuries to Cadez and catcher Ryan Gillespie.
“We came in this year way under the radar,” Fortunato said. “Nobody talked about us at all. We just want to go out there and prove everybody wrong.”
Using the whole field: Fortunato has worked extensively with Canon-McMillan hitting coach Brandon Dittmar on spraying the ball to all fields, instead of trying to pull everything.
“He’s learning to use the whole field,” Zebrasky said. “He’s much more patient as a hitter and more understanding of pitching concepts.”
During certain rounds of batting practice, Fortunato won’t be allowed to pull the ball.
“I feel like that has helped,” he said. “I haven’t tried to pull a lot of balls. That helps with two strikes also.”
Grass (no roots) baseball: Fortunato lives next door to Big Macs first baseman Justin Davey, and the pair would often invite Cadez over to play baseball in the backyard when they were younger.
They dug out bases and a pitcher’s mound. Pitcher’s hand, ghost runners, the whole deal.
“Every day in the summer we’d get up early, play all day and wouldn’t quit until it was dark,” Fortunato said. “The grass still doesn’t grow back there.”