gatto

Mikey Gatto of Citrus bats during a game in the 2019 season. The Hurricane senior had a promising 2020 campaign cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He's among several county seniors set to participate in the Black and Red Senior Night, hosted by Crimson Baseball at Dunnellon Little League on Sunday, June 28, 2020.

Editor’s note: This is one of a series of stories the Chronicle will tell highlighting some of the senior spring sports athletes in the county who had their careers cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mikey Gatto had certainly gotten off to the kind of start he’d want for a senior season.

Through seven games he was batting .435 with a .567 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot. He had even seamlessly transitioned to a new position.

But he never got to play another game. The Citrus baseball team, like all teams, saw its season unexpectedly conclude in mid-March due to COVID-19.

“It’s kind of sad how everything ended,” Gatto said. “I played with most of these kids my entire life and to have it ripped away. But we had a good run.

“I think I had success just knowing it was my last year and putting everything on the line this year. I was hoping for my best season to go out.”

It seemed to be heading in that direction. Gatto’s previous two years with the Hurricanes were nothing to scoff at, especially a sophomore season that landed him on the All-Chronicle team.

Back in 2018, Gatto hit .373 with nine doubles, a triple, 13 runs scored and 15 RBI in 24 games. He admittedly slumped as a junior to .267 with six doubles, 15 runs and five RBI.

This year he roared back with a vengeance at the plate, impressing new head coach Jon Bolin.

“He was hitting the ball hard to all fields,” Bolin said. “He was using the whole field instead of trying to pull everything.”

There were a couple other new wrinkles this season for Gatto. For one, the No. 6 he had worn since T-Ball wasn’t available in his size. So he switched to No. 2, paying homage to Derek Jeter.

Unlike Jeter, though, Gatto found himself departing from the infield. Primarily a second baseman with some time at shortstop sprinkled in, Gatto had to fill a void in center field this year.

“We moved him from second base to outfield and just being the natural athlete that he is he adjusted right away,” Bolin said. “He became one of our better defensive players. He swung the bat well, but we knew he could do that.”

“It was going pretty good,” Gatto said. “I thought it wouldn’t be as fun or enjoyable out there, but it was still pretty fun. I had a lot of balls hit to me. I had to learn a lot but I learned pretty quick.”

Gatto produced an All-Chronicle campaign in football back in the fall, recording 76 tackles out of the defensive backfield while tying for the team leads with three interceptions and nine passes defended. But he’s ready to leave the gridiron in the rearview mirror.

Baseball, however, is a sport he plans to continue going into college. He has yet to make a decision on a school and barely getting to play this spring didn’t help improve his stock.

“I hate it for everybody, for all the seniors throughout the United States,” Bolin said. “This was only a snapshot of what we’ve seen from Mikey. I wish he had more of an opportunity for colleges to see him. He can definitely play college baseball.”

Indeed there were missed opportunities on and off the field. Prom, Grad Bash, a traditional graduation were all things Gatto lamented not getting to experience.

At least with baseball, he figures there’s more to come at the next level. However, he’ll never get that time back with his fellow Hurricanes.

“We had a good run,” Gatto said. “They’re all my buddies. We made a lot of memories. All that good stuff.”

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Contact Chronicle sports reporter Chris Bernhardt at 352-563-5660, chris.bernhardt@chronicleonline.com or on twitter @cpbernhardtjr.