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Sports Person of the Week
Salbinski Brings It on Both Sides of the Ball
Andrew Salbinski has turned in a strong season at third base for the Valley Regional baseball squad. The junior infielder earned All-Shoreline Conference Second Team honors for his steady play in the field and solid bat at the plate. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Salbinski)
Andrew Salbinski lives and breathes baseball, and that dedication to the sport has led to a stellar season with the Valley Regional baseball team for the junior third baseman. Andrew never disappoints with his quality play in the field or with his at-bats at the plate. As the Warriors prepare for the Class S State Tournament, Andrew hopes that his club can come home with some hardware this spring.
Andrew has had a great year both at the dish and in the field, resulting in a spot on the All-Shoreline Conference Second Team. Andrew appreciates the recognition and sees it as a testament to all of the hard work he’s done to improve his game.
“I feel proud of myself. I know that I’ve worked hard through the years,” says Andrew. “An award is an award, but in the end, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot throughout my career for baseball. The award is a good representation of that hard work.”
It was a big week for Andrew as the Warriors played in the Shoreline Conference Tournament. In Valley’s 3-2 quarterfinal win against Hale-Ray, Andrew made a big defensive play that saved a run in a tight contest. The next day, Andrew went 2-for-3 with four RBI in the Warriors’ semifinal win over Morgan. Andrew felt proud to come through and help his team in key spots.
“In the sixth inning Hale-Ray had a runner at third, and I threw him out at home plate, which saved a run. In the game against Morgan, I had a double that scored the first two runs of the game and a triple that also scored two runs. I also walked,” Andrew says. “I definitely feel like at the beginning of the season, I knew that we were a special team that could do something in the end. I felt like we could get to the Shoreline finals.”
The 2021 season was going to be a strange one after losing last year’s campaign to the COVID-19 pandemic. Andrew feels grateful that the Warriors have enjoyed so much success due to a strong group of underclassmen and upperclassmen who are willing to do whatever they can to win. Andrew knew that Valley’s youngsters would represent the team well this year.
“With the underclassmen, I have personally played with a lot of them on travel baseball teams. The majority of those kids play on my team, the Shoreline Breakers,” says Andrew, who lives in Essex. “I knew that they could play varsity baseball. Because I play year-round, I knew we had a chance to do good stuff this year. I had a feeling that our team was going to be very good.”
Even though Andrew didn’t have the opportunity to play for the Warriors in 2020, he’s still spent plenty of time on the baseball diamond since 2019.
“I was able to play my whole summer and fall seasons for the most part,” says Andrew. “I go to a facility for the travel team, so I can stay ready. I always have a time and a place that I can practice.”
Andrew tries to keep himself ready for all aspects of the game and works on each of the five tools that a player can use to impact a ballgame.
“I consider myself an all-around good player. If I make an error in the field, I can get the runs back at the plate and, if I’m having a down game at the plate, I can help my team win in the field by playing good defense,” Andrew says. “I would say that I’m a power hitter, but I’ve opened up to hitting to all fields hard. I feel like that as elevated my game and helped me get on base more. I can spray the ball all over the field, but I like the ball middle-in, so I can pull it for more power. I can really hit the ball wherever, though, and hope for the best.”
While Andrew has experience on both corners of the infield, he considers himself a third baseman at heart. Andrew features a strong arm, and he relishes the chance to show off that rocket on a bang-bang play at first. Andrew also has the wherewithal to read where the ball would most likely come off the bat and then station himself in the field accordingly.
“I enjoy playing third, because I have a strong arm over there. It’s nice to get that ball over. I can take a bit more time and trust my arm. I have a decent amount of range for a third baseman. I can get to the ball pretty quick on my feet,” Andrew says. “I feel like I could also play at the shortstop position because of the range I have. I read the batter’s swing in to see if he’s pulling the ball more to get it to the left side or, if he’s not, I will shade to the shortstop position.”
Valley Head Coach Brian Drinkard has relied on Andrew for timely hitting, steady defense, and a guiding hand as a veteran for some of the younger players on the squad. Drinkard has been impressed with Andrew’s accomplishments as a junior this spring.
“Andrew has been a leader for our team this season. He is a bridge between the young players who he plays with all summer and fall and the seniors who he played with during his freshman year,” says Drinkard. “We moved him to third base a couple of games into the season, and that move seemed to really light a fire for this team. Andrew also has a great presence at the plate and always gives a quality at-bat. He’s an excellent hitter.”
As hard as Andrew has worked to become the player he is today, he feels as though his family and his coaches at Valley and throughout his AAU baseball career deserve a lot of praise for helping him get to this point. With that support and the grind-it-out mentality of his teammates, Andrew feels like the Warriors can do something special this year.
“I feel like I should talk about all the coaches that I’ve had in the past. They’ve really helped me become the best player I can be. My whole family is there to support me, too, through the good and the bad times,” says Andrew. “All we have to do as a team is just keep on rolling and play our game of baseball. If we continue to play the way that we are playing, we’re a hard opponent to beat.”