One of the most popular part-time players of recent memory will return to the Blue Jays organization, marking a new chapter in his baseball career.
Sal Fasano recently retired as a player and has been appointed as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays Single-A minor league team, the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League.
The Chicago, Illinois native is making his coaching debut after 17 professional seasons as a player, eleven of which were spent in the major leagues.
The right-handed hitting catcher played in 427 Major League games with nine different clubs, including the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007.
Sal began his big league career with the Kansas City Royals in 1996. In 1998, while with the Royals, he was second in the American League with 16 hit by pitches. Fasano's Fu Manchu mustache earned him cult status by the Phillies fans during his time in Philadelphia in 2006.
Phillies fans started a fan club devoted to Sal called Sal's Pals. They would attend games dressed with wigs and drawn-on mustaches like Sal's. During one game, Sal had pizzas delivered to the group.
Retiring wasn't a tough a decision once he was offered the managing position with the Jays.
"In the offseason I made contact with Tony LaCava (Blue Jays assistant general manager)," Sal explained. "Tony called me and asked me what my plans were for next year, and at the time I wasn't really sure. I know that if I had to play this year, I would have had to have a couple knee surgeries, and I didn't really want to have to do that. So they basically made me a really good offer and told me I could have the job I really would like to have, so I took it. So I get to be the manager of the Lansing Lugnuts, in A ball. I'm pretty happy about that."
Sal is 38 years old now, and if he had played another season, this would have been his 19th spring training camp as a player. This is now his 19th spring training, but it is in a completely new role.
"I'm not really missing it (playing) at all," Sal said after a preseason spring training game in Dunedin. "I'm happy I can turn the page on playing, it was a fun career, but the body hurts, you know. Its easier to make that decision when that's the case. Its been really fun, the kids just give you so much energy, you want to teach, you want to learn, its really been a lot of fun so far. Its a new challenge."
He was able to accumulate enough service time on major league rosters to build up a decent pension, but he has not maxed it out—yet.
"I got 70 percent of my major league retirement, which is good enough, and hopefully I can end up coaching in the big leagues and build it up. Retirement's nice, baseball's a pretty good deal, now I have to think about providing for the family and if I can have fun doing it, that's all a bonus."
Sal will be replacing Clayton McCullough, who will be taking over the Jays' Single-A team in Florida this year. Sal is hopeful he will be successful with the Lugnuts and eventually move up the chain and eventually land a coaching position with a big league team.
"I hope so, you know, development's nice, but there's still only one place to go," Sal said. "There's one place to manage, there's one place to play, and that's in the big leagues. So that's a goal of mine and I'm gonna try to learn everything I can to try to get there."
Sal is definitely one of the nicest guys in the game, and will hopefully go on to have a long, successful career as a manager/coach in professional baseball.
Jeff Pearlman on ESPN.com once wrote about Sal, "When I think of Sal Fasano, I think of greatness. Not of Willie Mays or Ted Williams greatness, but of a uniquely excellent human being who, were class and decency the most valued standards of a career, would be the easiest Hall of Fame inductee of all time."
The Lugnuts' season will begin on Apr. 7th and run through Sept. 6th.