Gainesville residents may recognize a familiar face around town for the next few weeks.
Nolan Fontana was a member of the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Gator baseball teams that made three consecutive runs at the College World Series. Fontana was drafted by the Houston Astros as the 61st overall pick at the 2012 MLB Draft and he is in Gainesville to get ready for the Astros spring training camp in Kissimmee, Florida which he leaves for on February 22nd.
Fontana has made Houston’s 40 man big league roster and he’s hoping to make the team out of spring training. In Gainesville, Fontana has been working out with the baseball coaches in order to make that next jump. Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan made a big impact on the player Fontana is and wants to become.
“I’ve always had a thick skin and I think being at Florida helped me even more, because you got a guy that cares. He’ll be your best friend too, but he’s trying to make you better and I love it.”
Another reason Fontana appreciates returning to Gainesville to work out is because of all the resources here that are available.
“You have everything and everyone you need here; it goes from Sully, Brad (assistant coach Weitzel), Craig (assistant coach Craig Bell) all the way to Paul Chandler in the weight room; everyone, you have everything and everyone and that’s huge and a large part on why a lot of us come back.”
Now that Fontana is living his dream as a professional baseball player he definitely understands the big difference from college baseball and the pros with the more intense practices and length of schedule.
“It’s living the dream; love every bit of it, it’s definitely a grind; I’m sure you here people talk about it being a grind all the time, you’re playing 162 games in 180 days and that’s something you have to dig deep down especially late in the season, but it’s a grind something you have to dig deep down especially late in the season but you have to love it to do it though.”
With all of the traveling Fontana has done since he’s left Gainesville with 14 hour bus rides and long plane trips with games and intense training he still finds his way back to the place where he has many memories and success as a Florida Gator.
Hopefully, he’ll find more as a big league player with the Houston Astros this season.