Tyler Saladino, 22, makes a throw from second base during warm-ups with the AA Birmingham Barons.
Tyler Saladino, 22, makes a throw from second base during warm-ups with the AA Birmingham Barons. Russell Lewis/NPR
Tyler Saladino plays baseball in the minor leagues in Birmingham, Ala. A prospect in the Chicago White Sox system, he was sent to the AA Birmingham Barons after spending part of spring training with the major league club.
And when he arrived in Alabama, Saladino's first task was to find a place to live, as he tells Morning Edition's David Greene. He settled on sharing an apartment.
Tyler Saladino, 22, during batting practice with the AA Birmingham Barons.
Tyler Saladino, 22, during batting practice with the AA Birmingham Barons. Russell Lewis/NPR
"There's three other teammates living here right now," he says. "We're all splitting the cost of everything. I think it's $881 for the month, and we're splitting that four ways. So it's actually working out pretty well for us."
An infielder who plays mostly at shortstop, Saladino's goal is to reach the majors. To help him get there, Barons hitting instructor Brandon Moore tutors him in getting the barrel of the bat through the inside part of the plate, to cover more of the strike zone.
"Once you start getting the barrel to that inside pitch," Moore says, "because you backspin the ball better than anybody I got, when you're on — you're going to see doubles and triples in that left-center-field gap."
Many in the Chicago organization think Saladino will make it to the majors; Moore is one of them.
"He asks good questions for a young ballplayer — which is always fun," Moore says. "The guys that, in my experience, ask the right questions, at his age, usually do pretty good."
NPR's Southern Bureau Chief Russell Lewis, who has attended some of Saladino's games — and is an admitted Barons fan — says the fans and players seem to like the rangy player who always seems to have a smile on his face.
Tyler Saladino's glove. Russell Lewis/NPR
And while many of his teammates call Saladino "Sally," some fans have given him a different nickname: Salad.
"Let's go, Salad!" yelled one fan at a recent game.
In that game, Saladino hit a run-scoring single. The next night, he nabbed a liner behind second base to make a nice defensive play, spinning to throw the runner out at first.
With plays like that, Saladino hopes to make his case for being in the majors. And if it he makes it there, perhaps he can pick his own nickname.