John A. Salamon
/ Owner of Baseball Training Academy, ex-minor league pitcher
"He was always the kid that everyone looked to to make the big play," said friend Dave Marx, general manager of the Baseball Training Academy. "That's a tremendous honor to hold for almost your whole life. That never leaves you."
Whether as a minor league pitcher, a high school quarterback or, more recently, owner and instructor at Pittsburgh's Baseball Training Academy, people looked to him to make a difference.
Mr. Salamon, of Kennedy, died Monday. His cause of death is still pending, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's office. He was 37.
A 1990 Sto-Rox graduate, Mr. Salamon was a two-sport star in baseball and football.
"He just wanted to have a good time and laugh," said childhood friend Rocco Difilippo of their days together at Sto-Rox, "and when you did go out with John, you laughed."
He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 19th round of the 1991 Major League Baseball amateur draft.
Mr. Marx said Mr. Salamon was always proud of the time when professional scouts recorded him throwing a baseball 100 mph -- his father still carries a certificate complete with the calibration of the radar gun to prove it.
"I don't know how many people can throw a baseball 100 miles per hour," Mr. Marx said, "but John Salamon could."
Mr. Salamon pitched for a handful of minor league ball clubs from 1991 until 2000, a career that sent him from Beloit, Wis., to Tampa.
In 1993, he pitched for the then-Augusta (Ga.) Pirates -- a Class A farm club for the Pittsburgh Pirates -- on the same team as future major-leaguer Jason Kendall.
Once his professional career ended, Mr. Salamon started teaching the game at the Baseball Training Academy in Robinson.
"John bought the Baseball Training Academy in January and has really turned the place around in the very short time that he owned it," Mr. Marx said.
Mr. Salamon increased the number of AAU baseball teams at the academy, and this fall the academy started sponsoring programs for AAU girls' fast-pitch softball. There was enough interest to create five teams.
"We were hoping to get two programs together," Mr. Marx said.
He said he will remember Mr. Salamon as a man who loved baseball and could teach it to kids so as to not discourage them.
"The thing about John was, he was a gentle giant," Mr. Marx said, adding he never heard Mr. Salamon say a disparaging word about a child.
"He was a very meek man for being such a powerful athlete."
Mr. Salamon is survived by his girlfriend, Tammy Kelmeckis, of Kennedy, his parents, John J. Salamon and Sherry Trombetta Salamon, of McKees Rocks, and his sister, Jillian Salamon, of Cranberry.
Visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Schepner-McDermott Funeral Home, 165 Noble Ave., Crafton. A blessing service will follow.