Tampa, FL - Paul Russo, owner of Tampa Hit Factory Baseball, has been around the game his entire life at every level. Russo played high school baseball at Jefferson HS in Tampa, then stayed at home and went to the University of Tampa where he hit .450 with 22 HR’s, 74 RBI’s as junior and was drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Paul ended up playing 10 professional seasons, 7 of which he played in AAA.
After Russo’s playing career ended, he started Hitmaster Sports Center in Tampa, Fl in 2001. From 2001-2010, Russo’s travel teams were under the Hitmaster name. Since 2010 they’ve been Hit Factory Tampa.
Russo has something big in the works that will help players well after their baseball careers are over.
He’s starting a new high school program for underprivileged kids in the Tampa area. Cristo Rey HS will open up in 2016 and provide underprivileged kids opportunities to not only play baseball, but learn a skill or trade that will help them start a career after high school when baseball is over for most of them if they don’t receive a college scholarship.
In an industry where there’s a lot of selfishness focused on winning, rankings, and ego’s, it’s refreshing to see an individual who is truly giving back to kids through baseball after everything that baseball has given him. Russo not only wants his players to get better on the field, but more importantly, he cares about their well-being and helping make their life better after baseball.
Imagine that, a travel coach thinking of what’s best for players after high school and travel baseball is over, and it may not involve college baseball.
Below are player reports from Hit Factory's tryouts this past weekend.
Kyle Langiotti - 1B/C - R/R - 6’ 3” 200 - Steinbrenner HS - Langiotti has a strong body, thicker arms and legs. Behind the plate, he showed decent footwork and pop’d a 2.13 with some arm strength. At the plate in BP, Kyle’s swing was a bit stiff but his brute strength and good bat path helped hit line drive after line drive from gap to gap. Langiotti has average to slightly above average batspeed for a 2016. His front hip was a bit quick at times opening up early but Kyle was still able to square balls consistently.
Jarrod Brunson - MIF - L/R - 5’ 10” 190 - Lakeland Kathleen HS - Brunson was one of the better all around players at the tryout. He ran well, defended well, and hit balls hard in BP. Brunson’s a good bodied, strong kid that showed good footwork at SS. In BP, when Jarrod kept his front shoulder in or closed, he hit balls harder and used more of the field. He showed average batspeed for a 2016. With some work in the cage and in the gym to get stronger, Brunson may have a chance to play at the next level somewhere.
Austin Appel - C/2B - R/R - 5’ 11” 175 - Wharton HS - Appel had the best pop time at 2.04 sec, with good carry, accuracy and a quick transfer. Austin’s a strong, physical bodied player. He showed average to slightly above average batspeed for a 2017 and was short to the ball during BP. Appel took the best BP, barrelling everything. He drove balls from gap to gap consistently making hard contact. Keep an eye on Austin this spring and next summer.
Gregory Barone - 1B/OF - R/R - 6’ 175 - King HS - Barone has a strong physical body type. He showed average to above average batspeed for a 2017 during BP. Gregory has some length in his swing, but his bat path stays in and through the zone with good extension. He hit balls hard consistently, once he gets shorter to the ball, Barone will hit balls harder and handle better velocity. Defensively, he moved well around the bag at 1B.
Matthew Costilow - OF/MIF S/R - 6’ 180 - Wharton HS - Costilow was one of the better players at the tryout and could become a two-way player at the next level. Matthew has a projectable, athletic body and moved well defensively at SS. He doesn’t have the softest hands and may have to make a move to 3B or OF at some point. During BP, he showed above average batspeed for a 2017 and looked better from the left side. Costilow kept his hands inside the ball and drove balls gap to gap. He showed good rhythm and timing, turned on some balls and hit balls as hard as anyone at the tryout. As a RHP, Matthew’s arm works well and the ball came out nice. He needs to work on using his lower half better, getting better extension and he’ll be mid 80’s sooner than later.
Derek Barone - C/1B/3B - R/R 5’ 10 150 Wiregrass Ranch HS - Behind the plate, Barone showed some arm strength but the pop times didn’t translate. At 1B, he showed good footwork, which led us to believe that with some work on his transfer behind the plate, his pop times will get in that 2.0 area. Barone showed good RCF gap power in BP and used the entire field. He showed above average batspeed for a 2018 and caught the ball deep several times driving the ball the other way. Derek has some length in his swing which may keep him from showing pull side power on better velocity for now. Barone has a chance at the next level if he can get quicker behind the plate.
Cameron Lassalle - OF/1B/LHP - 5’ 7” 130 - Lassalle isn’t a big kid but has some quick-twitch. We’re not sure where his primary position will be just yet. He showed a quick arm from the OF, but it didn’t translate as a LHP. The tools are there for Cameron to be a very good player by his junior senior year, he just needs to get stronger. Lassalle showed a quick bat in BP, but didn’t square up many pitches, pulling everything. He’s raw and needs to keep playing and as he starts to mature physically, we’ll know better what kind of player he’ll be.
Charlie Vari - C/3B - 5’ 10” 165 - Tampa Prep - Vari was the best prospect at the tryout! He has an athletic, projectable body and has a chance to be a great defensive/offensive catcher. Vari hit every ball hard in BP and showed above average batspeed for a 2019. The ball jumped off his bat and he drove balls from gap to gap using the entire field. Charlie’s an athletic catcher, which are hard to find. He moves well behind the plate and has plenty of arm strength. His pop times weren’t great (2.13), but he’s still growing into his body and the footwork and release will get better with physical maturity. Vari showed some effortless power in BP, short/direct to the ball with great extension. He’s a player that college coaches need to start looking at next summer, once he starts to mature physically, he’ll get a lot of looks from college coaches.
Ryan Clouser - 2017 - MIF/OF - Wiregrass Ranch HS
Tristan Valerio - 2017 - OF/1B - Seven Rivers Christian School
Raymond Moro - 2018 - MIF - Avon Park HS
Thomas Sutton - 2019 - 1B - Tampa Catholic
Ryan Dell - 2019 - MIF/OF - Strawberry Crest HS