Sal Fasano, The Man Who Refused to Walk Away

“It’s hard for me to justify what those guys did when I’ve had to work twice as hard as they did just to get a job.”

Angels in the UK Editor Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

Sal Fasano, born in 1971 in Chicago, Illinois was aged nine when he begged his still fresh off the boat Italian immigrant parents to sign him up for Little League baseball. Over the next two decades he carved out a reputation as a good catcher and was picked up by the Kansas City Royals, in the 37th round of the 1993 June amateur draft. It took until 1996 for the Royals to call Fasano up to make his big league debut, and at times he reflected that he felt disappointed at being overlooked, passed over. For the next few seasons he found his playing time limited, sharing starting duties with regular starter Mike Macfarlane and a rising prospect Mike Sweeney. In March 2000 the Oakland Athletics purchased Fasano’s contract, but yet again he found himself as backup.

It was during his time with the Athletics that Sal realised that people around him were using steroids to bulk up and enhance their careers. In a 2009 Reader’s Digest article Fasano reflected on a conversation he had with his brother, Mike, who had informed Sal that he could obtain an undetectable steroid. Mike told him; “Sal, I think you really should consider taking stuff. Look around you. I know a lot of guys are doing it, it’s obvious. Why not make yourself better? You can be either a mediocre player or a great player. You can make either $200,000 a year or $10 million a year.” Fasano declined the offer, choosing to rely on his God given talent.

In his short stint in Oakland Fasano played his part in helping them win the American League West division title and made his only post season appearance, as a defensive replacement. In May 2001 the Kansas City Royals purchased Fasano back from the Athletics, but he appeared in only 3 games for them, before being traded to the Colorado Rockies, in June, where he played in 25 games. From here Fasano entered a merry go round of sorts. On December 21st 2001 he was granted free agency by the Rockies and on January 11th 2002 he was signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who then released him on June 1st, 2002. On June 6th 2002 he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers then on July 31st 2002 he was traded away to the Anaheim Angels, for Jorge Fabregas.

”My career has been a really big disappointment.”

Angels fans need no reminder that the 2002 season was a hugely successful campaign, with the Halos securing the World Series in memorable fashion, but despite technically being a World Series champion, Fasano played only managed to play two games for the Angels, going 0 for 1 at the plate with a strikeout. On November 5th he was released by the Angels, after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, an injury that led to him missing all of 2003. Fasano went on to bounce around the majors and minors until finally retiring, in 2009, stating; ”My career has been a really big disappointment.” Despite this, many greats of Major League Baseball remained great admirers of Fasano as a colleague and as a man.

The publication of the Mitchell Report really helped Fasano put his journeyman career into some focus, but did little to ease the anger at how he felt he had been the victim of performance enhancing drugs, identifying a number of catchers who were found guilty of being steroid users who were picked ahead of him. He reflected; “It’s hard for me to justify what those guys did when I’ve had to work twice as hard as they did just to get a job.” With his playing career behind him Fasano has forged a career in baseball coaching and management, first in the minors and, since 2017, in the majors as the catching instructor for the Atlanta Braves, with whom he won his second World Series, in 2021. Hopefully Fasano can now reflect on that achievement, and his long career in baseball so far, with a renewed sense of pride.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

Published by Matt Thomas - Editor

Editor of the Yorkshire Baseball Journal and Archive, Editor and Chair of Angels Over the Pond.

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