WEIRTON - Madonna senior Luca Fuscardo decided to be a one-sport kind of guy.
It has paid off.
Well, that, and a lot of hard work.
SIGNING DAY — Weirton Madonna senior Luca Fuscardo, flanked by his parents Frank and Tammy Fuscardo, will continue his academic and athletic careers at Kent State University, where he will major in business and marketing and be a member of the baseball team. Also on hand for the signing were former Blue Dons head baseball coach Jeff Baire and Principal Steve Grasser.
-- Mike Mathison
Fuscardo has signed a letter of intent to continue his academic and athletic careers at Kent State University, where he will major in business and marketing and be a member of the baseball team.
"I was sitting at home after we had played one tournament in Virginia and I had received a couple of calls and the really big one was from Kent and I thought that was pretty awesome," he said. "That definitely got my attention.
"I had been fortunate to have a lot of interest, but Kent just fit me right. And, one of the reasons, obviously, is because of their success.
"Honestly, before my season even started, I was just hoping to go D2 or JUCO, I just wanted to play. I actually had a showcase at Akron and they really liked me. That blew me away and then I started getting these phone calls from Division I schools.
"I couldn't believe I was getting those calls.
"It (the recruiting process) was a lot more stressful than I ever thought it would be. All these schools are calling me and I'm like, 'What am I going to do?' I want to be close. I don't want to be close. It was good getting it over with.
"Honestly, I never thought I would have to make that pick."
Fuscardo is one of six players signed by new head coach Jeff Duncan, as part of his first recruiting class.
"It goes without saying that we are extremely excited to introduce these players into the Kent State baseball tradition," Duncan said. "We are very optimistic about these six newcomers. They have an opportunity to impact our program the second they step on campus. Our 2013 class was ranked 40th in the country and we think this class can rival that one. These six guys are not only good baseball players but they are good students, proven winners and extremely hard-working."
The 6-foot-1 Fuscardo will play center field for the Golden Flashes. The lefty batted .483 as a junior with 43 hits, including 12 doubles, two triples, three home runs and 25 RBIs. Fuscardo also stole 16 bases and had a .558 on-base percentage.
He has helped Madonna to a 62-22 record through three seasons and a state championship.
"Luca has a Steve Finley-type body," said Duncan. "He has great rhythm and a great left-handed stroke that will develop power when he gets here. He's a plus runner and plus defensively. He can really go get it."
Fuscardo has played summer ball for the Pittsburgh Diamond Dawgs and that exposure helped him tremendously.
"I have been around Luca since he was 7, playing around Kaleb," said former Madonna head baseball coach Jeff Baire. "An awful lot of hard work has gone into this and he knows there is an awful lot of hard work still ahead of him.
"With the way he developed over the past two years, they way he approaches the game, the way that he handles himself on the field, I'm not really shocked at all. He's played against some of the best competition there is over the past three, four summers and has done well.
"Personally, I think if we keep our kids local in the valley, they don't get the opportunity and exposure. It is my feeling that there are more than one or two other kids in the valley who can have this type of opportunity. Luca was out there playing in front of people that he needed to be playing in front of.
"He's going to a top 20 program in the nation and will have the opportunity to play right away. That's not to say he will, but he has the opportunity and Luca knows how much hard work he has in front of him.
"You can't ask for anything more than an opportunity. I believe he will do well and will have a lot of success. He lives baseball. He puts the time in the weight room and in the offseason program doing the things that he needs to do and it has shown on the field."
Fuscardo is a two-time first-team all-state Class A selection.
"My coaches in Pittsburgh have helped me a lot," he said. "They told me that my skill set is there, but I have to get bigger, I have to get stronger and I have to get faster.
"I gave up all other sports my freshman year. I've been around Jeff and Kaleb my whole life. Jeff is all baseball. It's been great. I love it just as much as he does. And, being around him and Kaleb, it just doesn't get better."
Duncan comes to Kent State from Purdue, where he was an assistant for four years. He played baseball professionally for nine seasons in the Mets, Padres, Blue Jays and Dodgers organizations.
He spent two of those years at the Major League level with the Mets during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Duncan was also a three-time All-Star selection while in the minor leagues. He was drafted twice: in the seventh round by the Mets in 2000 and in the 1997 MLB Draft by the Cubs out of high school.
"Coach Duncan said I remind him a lot of himself," said Fuscardo, who is the only outfielder of the six signees. "He said I was a great fit for Kent with my style of play."
This season will also be Fuscardo's final one on the mound.
"I really didn't want to pitch in college," he said with a laugh. "I want to be an every day guy, not be a Sunday guy. I also want to hit because I love hitting. I want to play all the time."
Fuscardo understands he has not gotten to this point without help.
"Obviously, I want to thank my parents. The places we have traveled. We travel miles and miles and all the money we have spent on those trips. I definitely want to thank my Pittsburgh coaches in Green Tree. Without them, I wouldn't be there. They gave me all the opportunities I could get and it has obviously paid off.
"I also want to thank Jeff for all he has done."