South Xtra: Bethel grad won't give up on career
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HARLINGEN, Texas -- Every baseball player has dreams of making it professionally, but how far will a player go to make that dream come true?
John Sciullo, a Bethel Park native, is a player who simply won't let his dream die.
Even now, after having his latest bid to make it in the pros scuttled a few weeks ago, he won't give up.
Sciullo, 27, who played for the 2003 Bethel Park High School team that finished as PIAA Class AAA runner-up, last played college baseball in 2007 for Southern Wesleyan University, an NAIA school based in Center, S.C.
His collegiate career was productive, always hitting well above .300 at Southern Wesleyan and in his first two years before that at Marietta College, an NCAA Division III program in Ohio.
When Southern Wesleyan won the 2007 National Christian College Athletic Association championship in his senior season, Sciullo hit .375.
Nonetheless, he went undrafted by any major league organization, but his dream of playing professional baseball did not die.
"It's what God wants me to do," Sciullo said. "I can feel it in my heart."
It was at that point that Sciullo, made a decision.
First, he would try to attend every tryout camp he could find to try to sign a professional contract.
And second, he would add muscle as a bodybuilder.
At the end of his collegiate career Sciullo stood 6 feet 3 and weighed 215 pounds. But despite those impressive dimensions, he never hit more than four home runs in a season.
With an off-the-field career as, at alternative times, a sales representative for Infinitive Labs in Orlando, Fla., a maker of bodybuilding supplements, and a personal trainer at the Lifeforce Fitness Center in Green Tree, the move to bodybuilding was a natural.
As a result, in the five years since he played collegiate baseball, Sciullo added 45 pounds of muscle ... all in pursuit of his pro baseball dream.
First he played in the Greater Pittsburgh Federation League. Then he had a tryout with the Washington Wild Things, as well as many others in Savannah, Ga., Richmond, Va., Philadelphia, Reading, Akron, Indianapolis, Chicago, Evansville, Ind., and seemingly any other metropolis that had a baseball diamond.
There was even the chance to possibly play for an independent minor league team in Maui for Garry Templeton, who was a star shortstop with the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres in the 1970s and '80s, but Sciullo couldn't afford the expense of traveling to Hawaii.
Finally, after five years, it appeared as if he would get the chance to play professional baseball when he signed last spring with the Newark Bears of the CanAm League, but he was released before the season began.
No matter. The dream of playing in a professional baseball game came true with the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings, an independent minor league team based in Harlingen, Texas, in the North American Baseball League.
The WhiteWings were in need of a power hitter, having hit just three home runs in 37 games before Sciullo's July 3 signing. After being contacted by his agent, Jim Hayes, Sciullo was invited to take batting practice with the team that day in Fort Worth.
Upon seeing his muscular, 260-pound frame, the White-Wings signed Sciullo on the spot.
Unfortunately for Sciullo, his dream scenario was short lived. He only lasted nine days with the WhiteWings, batting .125 (2 for 16) in five games, all as a designated hitter.
"I was elated I got the opportunity," Sciullo said. "This is the first time I've been noticed. I haven't seen live pitching in a long time. But to only strike out three times in 16 at bats is saying something.
"But I know if given 300 at bats, I'll hit 20 to 30 bombs and hit .300. After seeing the pitching I saw, I know I can do it."
After returning to Pittsburgh, he realizes his career is at a crossroads. With his degree in sports management he has lined up interviews to become an account executive for Dick's Sporting Goods.
But he still won't give up on what he believes is his "real" career. He said there may be opportunities to extend his playing career in a winter league in Latin America or possibly even next season in Italy. He just wants another chance.
First Published August 9, 2012 7:45 am