June 25, 2014

Edwardsville's Failoni finds home with Crushers

While he was trying out for the Gateway Grizzlies earlier this month, former Edwardsville High and Lindenwood University star Michael Failoni wound up getting signed by the 1980 American League Rookie of the Year.

That would be former Cleveland Indians phenom "Super Joe" Charboneau, now the hitting coach of the Frontier League's Lake Erie Crushers.

"Lake Erie was playing Gateway that weekend and they had their hitting coach at the tryout," said Failoni, a 22-year-old first baseman who recently finished his senior season at Division II Lindenwood-St. Charles and had been playing for the Mon-Clair League's Edwardsville Mavericks. "(Charboneau) was the guy that talked to me and the one that liked me. I took the offer, I couldn't pass it up. I've been very fortunate and lucky to get this opportunity."

Failoni had two hits in nine at-bats in his first four Frontier League games with one walk and two strikeouts. The Crushers are based in northern Ohio not far from Cleveland.

"Once I see more pitching and get some more AB's, work with Joe a little more, hopefully things will start coming around," said Failoni, a prodigious hitter at every level he's played on. "I'm still starting to get back into the swing of things."

While he didn't repeat his monster junior season at Lindenwood, Failoni still led the team in hitting (.369) and RBIs (28) and hit four homers in 48 games.

As a junior, Failoni broke Lindenwood's school record and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference record by erupting for a .500 average (86-for-172) with 24 doubles, six home runs and 41 RBIs.

Failoni also scored 48 runs and hung up a monumental .767 slugging percentage.

Failoni held out hope of being drafted after his college season ended.

"My agent said a few teams were talking, but none of them contacted me," he said. "I was thinking maybe like a late-round free agent deal at the most because I didn't put up the power numbers I needed to this year."

Failoni's father, Joe Failoni, urged him to attend the Grizzlies tryout, which led to his first pro baseball contract.

" I really wasn't going to try out until my dad really influenced me to do it," the younger Failoni said. "It all worked out and I'm happy where I'm at. Right now I'm just taking it day by day, trying to do my thing like I normally do."

Unfortunately for Failoni, there will be no trip back to Sauget so that family and friends can watch him play against the Grizzlies.

However, the Crushers do make a trip to the St. Louuis region in O'Fallon, Mo., to play the River City Rascals July 29-31. Failoni also has a lot of friends in the Normal area where he played at Heartland, and Normal is another Frontier League stop July 24-26 and Aug. 26-28.

Failoni was also a prodigious hitter at Edwardsville High, setting a school record with 61 RBIs as a junior and banging out 17 homers with 125 RBIs during his career.

From there he moved on to Heartland Community College in Normal. He helped Heartland make two trips to Junior College World Series, turning in seasons where he hit .309 and .391 with a combined 14 home runs and 119 RBIs in 106 games.

Failoni enjoyed his college career, but wasn't ready to put his dream of playing pro ball to rest. Hitting has carried him this far and he'd like the trip to continue.

"It was a good senior year," he said. "I wanted to enjoy it with my teammates and the people around me. It was a roller-coaster ride no doubt, but I feel like I battled through adversity and had a pretty good season."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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