Moments before and after every game, Michael Gigliotti talks to his mother. Reminds her that he loves her.
Paula Gigliotti, Michael’s mom, was 50 when she died of kidney failure. That was eight years ago.
Now 21 and a graduate of Archbishop McCarthy, Gigliotti said his mother’s memory is one of his main motivations, one of the biggest reasons why he’s expected to be selected in the first four rounds of the MLB Draft, which begins on Monday.
Gigliotti said his father hasn’t been very involved in his life. He was raised by his mother, and, in essence, by his brother Anthony, who is eight years his senior.
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“Losing my mom, with my dad not being there … it was tough,” Gigliotti said. “I was lost there for a little bit.
“My mom was my biggest fan — her and my brother. She would brag about me to all her friends. She was so proud of me playing baseball.”
There’s no doubt that Paula would be overjoyed with what her son has accomplished so far.
A 6-1, 180-pound leadoff hitter and center fielder with tremendous defensive ability, Gigliotti is a classic late bloomer. He didn’t play varsity ball until his junior year at McCarthy, and he didn’t take over as the Mavericks center fielder until his senior season.
It was during the summer before that senior season when Gigliotti committed to Lipscomb University, a private Division I school in Nashville.
This was far from the big time, but, at that time, the only other scholarship offer Gigliiotti had was from South Carolina Upstate, a school with similar athletic stature.
As a senior, he hit .489 and made The Miami Herald’s First-Team All-Broward, and that sparked some interest from FIU, Gigliotti said.
Too late though.
“I fell in love with Lipscomb and the coaches,” he said. “[Lipscomb coach Jeff Forehand] has a heart of pure gold.”
Forehand said a former McCarthy player who had played for him, Branden Cadavid, alerted him to the talents of Gugliotti.
“We needed a leadoff batter,” Forehand said. “And when we met Michael, we knew he could play, and we saw a vibrant personality.”
Gigliotti became an immediate standout at Lipscomb, starting 163 games during his three years there.
As a freshman, he hit .336 with 17 steals and a .409 on-base percentage, leading the nation with 22 bunt singles. He was a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American, ranked fourth in the nation in runs scored (51) and finished the season on a 32-game on-base streak.
Gigliotti hit .301 with 15 steals and a .409 on-base percentage as a sophomore, again leading the nation in bunt hits with 17. He also scored 55 runs.
It was that summer of 2016 when Gigliotti elevated his status among pro scouts, starring in the wood-bat Cape Cod League. In a league that features most of the nation’s top college players, Gigliotti was named the Cape’s “Top Prospect.”
Scouts flocked to Lipscomb games this season, and Gigliotti admits he got away from his approach. Instead of hitting to the opposite field or up the middle, his swing “got big,” he said.
“It was frustrating,” he said. “After a while, I realized I had to let go of this pro thing and focus on winning.”
After a slow start, Gigliotti ended up hitting .282 with 31 steals and a .447 on-base percentage. He finished the year on a 32-game on-base streak, just like he did in his freshman year.
But defense is Gigliotti’s identity.
McCarthy coach Rich Bielski still raves about a catch Gigliotti made in a playoff game during his junior year. Mater Academy was the opponent and McCarthy held a 6-5 lead. Mater had runners on first and second.
Gigliotti raced back, dove and caught the ball with a full extension. He got up and threw to second, doubling up a runner who had assumed a hit and was nearly standing on home plate by the time Gigliotti made his memorable grab.
“It was a Superman catch,” Bielski said. “It was legendary.”
Forehand said Gigliotti made another incredible catch this year against Vanderbilt, racing into left-center field and reaching over the fence to prevent a home run.
“I don’t know of a better defensive center fielder in the country,” Forehand said. “When it comes to bunting, he’s the best. Even when the infield is playing in, he will still be safe.
“He steals bases, and his strike-zone discipline is really good. He’s capable of hitting with two strikes. … He’s just a big-play guy.”
Gigliotti is grateful for the kind words from his coaches. But it is the memory of his mother that drives him most.
“I don’t want to be complacent,” he said. “I want to make her more and more proud of me every day.”