The pathway to his goal of a lifetime grew brighter last month when former Sheehan and current Tulane University shortstop Sal Gozzo was chosen to play the 2018 summer season in the prestigious Cape Cod League for the 2018 Orleans Firebirds.
“It’s one of the premier leagues for sure,” Gozzo said. “It’s a great opportunity. It’s always been the next step after your sophomore year for me. [Tulane head coach Travis Jewett] knew I wanted to go. He knew some coaches and put me there.”
Gozzo, who just completed the fall portion of the Green Wave’s schedule, is a sophomore. As a freshman, he started 41 and played in 49 of Tulane’s 58 games. He batted .211, scored 17 runs and drove in 23 in the demanding indoctrination to college baseball at its highest plateau. His defense did not suffer, providing a foundation for continued growth as he strives for a professional career.
He has a believer in his former high school coach Matt Altieri.
“The combination of being a hard worker and very talented is why he’s climbing baseball’s ladder,” Altieri said. “He’s very even keel. He doesn’t let the little things bother him.”
The Firebirds, guided by veteran California high school and college coach Kelly Nicholson, count Frank Thomas, Carlton Fisk, Nomar Garciaparra and Mark Teixeira among their legion of alumni who went on to play in the major leagues.
Gozzo, whose father Mauro “Goose” Gozzo pitched for four MLB teams, was not drafted out of high school. He will next be draft-eligible after his junior season, something that looms as his primary goal along with a career that combines business, management and marketing. Sal Gozzo was selected for the American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team last season and is a member of the Tulane Athletics 3.0 Club.
“[Getting drafted is] the goal, that’s for sure. It would be great to get drafted after my junior year. It’s been a goal ever since I began hearing about it,” Sal said. “But school is obviously very important. My mom, my dad and my coach have tried to instill that in me. I’m trying my hardest to see how far I can go, but I can continue on with other opportunities in the field I’m going into.”
Sal, for the first time, is separated from playing with his twin brother Paul. Paul Gozzo, a catcher, also attended Tulane, but opted to transfer to UConn for his sophomore season. The pair will play against one another when the Green Wave visit UConn next spring for Friday and Saturday games at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford and Sunday in Storrs.
“[Paul’s transfer] was a big shock to a lot of people. Being twins and brothers, we hadn’t been in different states or even five miles apart for even a week,” Sal said. “It was eventually going to happen. It’s not like we were going to go into business together because we have different life paths.
“It’s good in some ways and weird in others. It’s just an adjustment in life that you have to make. This is one of the bigger ones.”
Sal played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League for the Plymouth (Mass.) Pilgrims last summer. The NECBL generally is regarded as a lower-tier circuit compared to the Cape Cod League, but still ranks very high among the burgeoning multitude of summer wooden-bat leagues available for the collegiate underclassman.
Sal, a 6-foot, 186-pound switch-hitter, batted .274 in 23 games with the Pilgrims.
“I improved a lot offensively but defense has always been my strength,” Sal said. “I always need to work on my offense.”