Bo Bichette, 19, a former star player at Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, has returned to Pinellas County as a top prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system. Bichette, son of 14-year Major League vet Dante Bichette, is currently playing shortstop for the Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays following a recent promotion from Low-A ball in Lansing, Michigan.
DUNEDIN Ė As a star infielder for Lakewood High, Bo Bichette played at Spectrum Field and Florida Auto Exchange Stadium against rivals like Largo and Dunedin high schools, and he still has fond memories of those games.
In fact, theyíre still fresh in his mind, as the 19-year-old is just one year removed from his playing days with the Spartans.
Today Bichette, the 2016 Gatorade and USA Today Florida Player of the Year, is playing in those ballparks as one of the hottest prospects in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system. The son of former Major Leaguer Dante Bichette was selected in the second round of the 2016 Major League Baseball draft, number 66 overall. After a solid season in the rookie league last fall and a spectacular start in low Single-A ball this year, where he hit .384 with 10 homers and 51 RBI in 70 games, the Orlando native was recently promoted to high Single-A Dunedin in the Florida State League.
Despite his meteoric rise Ė Bichette played in the Futures Game at the MLB All Star Game in early July and was named the Player of the Month for June while with the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts. While his father is a 14-year Major League veteran, the young shortstop remains humble and committed to improving his game.
The Dunedin Beacon caught up with Bichette as he was settling into his role as part of a loaded D-Jays infield that also includes the sons of former Major Leaguers Vladimir Guerrero and Craig Biggio.
He was asked about coming back to Pinellas County as a professional player, how much his father has helped him with his career, and if he plans on following in his dadís footsteps to make the big leagues.
How did it feel when you learned you would be playing baseball back in Pinellas County?
It was awesome. Itís something that I kind of had as a goal, to get promoted and be back home before the seasonís over, so Iím really excited to be here.
Do you feel any added pressure playing in your backyard?
No, Iím just excited to be here and have people I know coming to the games and watching. Itís an awesome experience. Itís been cool seeing a bunch of kids Iíve played against over the years and hear them cheering for me in the stands. Itís cool to grow up here and now a lot of them can come watch me play.
Are you being inundated with requests from friends and family to come to your games?
Iíve had some people I know show up to the games, but so far just close friends and family asking for tickets. My mom and pop have been pretty excited.
Speaking of, how much of an influence has your dad been, and how often do you talk?
Heís been huge. I definitely wouldnít be where I am today without him. Everything that heís taught me over the years has given me an edge, I feel like, in the pro game. Heís pretty much been at every game so far Ė I think heís missed two since Iíve been back Ė and he texts me every day after the game, telling me to keep on grinding and keep on playing hard. So heís been huge for me.
What was it like playing in the Futures Game with so many elite MLB prospects, including D-Jays teammate Vlad Guerrero Jr?
It was awesome. Especially being by Vladdy, my teammate. There was a ton of talent there. I would say I had four or five friends from when I was really young playing there with me. It was a goal of mine at some point in my career to make that game, but to have it come after my first season was kind of a shock. It was probably the best experience Iíve ever had on a ballfield.
What are your career plans? Do you have a goal for when youíd like to make it to the majors?
I just want to be the best player that I can be. Just continue to play hard every day, continue to get better, whatever I can do that day to get better.
So, you donít have an actual timeframe for making it to The Show?
Well, Iíd like to be there tomorrow! But I trust the plan the Blue Jays have for me and I think if I just work on getting better every day and stay in the moment, itíll come soon. This is a great organization and I trust the plan they have in place for me.
Any words of advice for local players hoping to make it into professional baseball?
I think that, obviously, my success gives them hope. I would say just continue to work hard. The way that you make your dreams come true is to work hard, to play hard, and whatever happens, happens. But youíve got to control what you can control and youíve got to keep on chasing. I donít think thereís any dream too big, so they just need to continue chasing that dream.
The Dunedin Blue Jays play at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin.