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Bo Bichette skipped his freshman year of high school to hit big league bombs

The Futures Game prospect and son of former MLB slugger Dante Bichette already knows a thing or two about hitting.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

MIAMI — Normal 15-year-olds go to high school five days a week and deal with world-ending problems like homework, relationships, and trying to make the all-important freshman team.

Back in 2013, Blue Jays prospect Bo Bichette wasn’t a normal 15-year-old. Instead of starting high school the traditional way, Bichette spent the bulk of the year going to work with his dad, Dante, a four-time All-Star outfielder who at the time was serving as the Rockies hitting coach.

Dante, who retired after the 2001 season, accepted the Rockies job in Nov. 2012 and said he had immediate regrets about missing his family when he arrived in spring training. Those regrets vanished when Bo not only showed up at Coors Field, but became a valued member of the organization.

“He was [15] and the big league guys always wanted him to hit during the regular BP with them,” Dante Bichette said before the Futures Game at Marlins Park on Sunday. “They’d always pull him out there and he loved it. He would crash balls in the upper tank in most of the parks. He even did that here.”

Bo’s success in his year as a mini major-leaguer gave him the confidence to believe that he could turn into a real one someday, emulating Rockies players like Nolan Arenado and Troy Tulowitzki, both of whom made an impression in 2013.

“It was everything for me, and I think it’s a huge foundation of how I am as a baseball player now,” Bo said. “Just learning from some really good players on that team, just how they went about the game and understanding what it takes to be a big league player. I think it gave me an edge.”

That edge has already paid off for both the Bichettes and the Jays, who selected Bo with their second-round pick (66th overall) in 2016. Despite being home-schooled for the entirety of high school, Bo shined for Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg and was named Florida’s Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Baseball his senior year.

Now, Bo is a likely candidate for even more accolades after one of the best first-half performances in minor league history. Hitting .384 with 10 home runs in 70 games with the Blue Jays Single-A affiliate, he isn’t a normal 19-year-old either.

“I think Bo understands hitting at a little bit more of an advanced level than that league,” Dante said. “I think he probably proved that. He understood how they were pitching him, and he would look for pitches. He’s already got a two-strike approach, which is rare for that age. I think he’s just a little bit more advanced as a hitter.”

Bo’s advanced approach, the Bichettes say, is the biggest benefit of having a resource like Dante available at all times to an evolving prospect.

“I just got the advanced stuff right away,” Bo said. “A lot of people learn things when they get into the big leagues, but I think that I got to learn those things when I was young.”

“If you want to play in the big leagues, you better hit.” Dante said. “So we put our efforts on two-strike hitting and hitting breaking balls; things that I think most people don’t. Most people put their efforts on the swing ... my gosh, most 10-year-olds can swing a bat. Actually hitting at the big league level is about other stuff.”

Bo hit at that level during big league batting practice and though he’s far away, looks poised to do the same in real games for Toronto in a few years. Despite his son’s success spending time around a major league clubhouse, Dante knows that type of experience isn’t always a beneficial one.

“It’s important, but your kid’s gotta behave, man,” Dante said. “Bottom line. Your kid can’t be going and clowning around in the clubhouse. The guys don’t get that much time to themselves. If they’ve got some kid in there distracting them all the time, it can be a pain.

“Bo was always under strict orders. You don’t go in there unless you’re asked to go in there and hang out. He would handle himself in a way that the players enjoyed having him around.”

Now it’s the Blue Jays who are enjoying having Bo around, so much so that they’ve decided to promote him to High-A Dunedin after the All-Star break. Bo will head to Florida with his famous teammate, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who also happens to have a famous dad.

Dante and Vlad Sr., who have 13 All-Star appearances between them, recently spent time together at the Midwest League Home Run Derby and will continue tracking their sons as they both try to reach Toronto.

“We aren’t real tight or anything,” Dante said, “but it looks like we might see a lot of each other coming up.”