Dixie’s Alejandro Sabatino rips a double off the wall during Thursday’s 2-0 win over Crescent.

Dixie first baseman Alejandro Sabatino’s passion for baseball runs deep. It’s something that he takes seriously and he credits his grandfather for introducing him to the game.

“My grandfather, he’s the one who made me love baseball,” Alejandro said Thursday after Dixie beat Crescent. “My parents tell me stories about how I was a 1-year-old or 2-year-old and he would sit me in front of a television and put on a baseball game. Ever since I was 4 or 5 he was the one who took me to the field – three or four times a week.”

‘Throw me the ball,” says Heyni Sabatino, Alejandro’s mother, imitating what her son used to tell people when he was younger. “That’s what he used to always say when he was little and would walk around with a bat and ball ‘throw me the ball so I can hit it.’”

Alejandro and his father, Arnaldo Sabatino, smile and both agree.

But it wasn’t always the happiest of times for Alejandro, who’s originally from Valencia, Venezuela. He moved to Due West in 2014 after his mom received an opportunity to be a part of an international exchange program teaching Spanish at Dixie.

“He was kind of mad at the beginning because he left his friends, his school,” Heyni said. “He didn’t know the language at all.”

“Leaving my friends, leaving everybody I know – my family – I was pretty upset,” Alejandro said. “But I also knew that we were coming here to find a better way of life.”

Heyni and Arnaldo’s vision for their family worked out in the long run. Heyni was recently honored with the International Teacher Exchange Services’ 2016 International Spirit Award, given to teachers who best exhibit the spirit of the school and community.

As for Alejandro, he now speaks English fluently, and is part of numerous organizations, one being the National Honors Society.

But most importantly, after his final season at Dixie, he’ll continue playing the sport he loves after committing to play at Division II Brevard College.

“Ever since he came here as a freshman he’s been one of the hardest workers,” Dixie baseball coach Jimmy Prince said. “... Like I told people in our parent meeting when he was a freshman, I didn’t know if he would have a chance to play college baseball. But he’s worked and he deserves every opportunity.”

Alejandro, though, isn’t too keen on looking ahead just yet.

“Being committed to a school, of course, takes some pressure off me because I wanted to play college baseball,” Alejandro said. “But it’s not over yet. This is my last season in high school and it has to be my best one.”

Heyni never misses a game. And neither does Arnaldo, unless he has a soccer game to coach at Abbeville where he, too, teaches Spanish.

“This is what we enjoy,” Heyni adds, which means the couple will have to travel up to the Smoky Mountains to keep that streak going.

“This wasn’t only my goal,” Alejandro said. “This wasn’t only my work but my whole family and Coach Prince’s, too.”

As for his grandfather who’s still in Venezuela and still plays baseball, he couldn’t be happier.

“He’s happy that I’m getting an opportunity to play on the collegiate level,” Alejandro said. “Baseball is like a lifestyle to us both. It’s what we know, it’s what we love.”

Contact staff writer Julian McWilliams at 864-223-1814 or on Twitter@JulianMack105