John Bellino never doubted his youngest son, Michael, was tough. He grew up the third child in the Bellino household, behind two brothers, John, and Andy, who were eight and six years his senior.
He grew up tough, playing with his brothers and their older friends. And of course, as big brothers do, they’d beat on the little brother at times and toughened him up.
Then a funny thing, the baby brother got big, fast, and he wasn’t such a little brother anymore.
“They used to pick on me, but not so much anymore since I got big,” Bellino said.
“He better be tough,” John Bellino Sr. said with a laugh. “He’s had to be tough. John and Andy stay on him pretty good and they expected to do well.
“I think he’s had a good career at St. Bede. He withstood it all. I’m pretty proud of the kid. He had a tough football year. Got hurt first game and toughed that out for nine other games. He nursed that through the winter time. And then he got spiked in baseball and got 12 stitches in his middle finger and chipped a bone in his wrist.
“I can’t say enough about the kid. He’s a tough kid.”
That toughness served Michael Bellino well in both sports. It also led to securing the 2014 BCR Player of the Year honors in baseball, leading the Bruins to their second straight regional championship game appearance.
Bellino’s senior season on the diamond was the culmination of steady improvement coming up in the Bruins program. After a tough sophomore season at the plate, he batted .310 as a junior and then led all-area batsmen with a .486 average, 29 RBIs and 13 doubles this spring.
He received unanimous all-conference selection in the Three Rivers South Division.
“It was all mindset really,” he said. “Last year, I think I was guessing. This year, stayed relaxed and just played baseball. Mindset was the big thing, knowing you could hit anybody.”
“I think just that experience the senior year makes big difference, and he worked hard through the spring,” coach Bellino said. “He needs a lot of confidence. He started off very well. He knew he had to be one of the leaders, we only had him and Dutt (Ethan Duttlinger) and Dutt didn’t play last year. Him and Jack Brady were really the keys at the start to at least holding us together. We had a very rough start when you’re starting five freshmen. We lived through that and actually the second part of season we played very well.”
As well as he batted, Bellino enjoyed his pitching the most. And did that well, too, posting a 4-1 record with a 2.26 ERA for the 10-15 Bruins.
“That’s my favorite thing. I thought I did pretty well,” Bellino said, noting a four-seam fastball and change up were his main two pitches, sometimes having a good curve and cutter and sometimes not.
“The hitting was a plus. We always knew he could throw strikes,” coach Bellino said. “He really became an excellent pitcher. That’s what he was, a pitcher. He kept hitters off-balanced and didn’t try to overpower people.”
Bellino helped lead the Bruins to an 8-2 upset win over the top-seeded Hall in the regional semifinals before falling to Erie/Prophetstown 2-1 in the championship game, just falling short of a second straight regional crown.
“Obviously, I would liked to win that last game, win that regional champ and we were right there, We had the opportunity,” he said.
The younger Bellino said having his father as his coach had its pros and cons.
“He gets a little more on me than other kids. I had to bite my tongue sometimes,” he said. “In baseball, he was not quite as hard and didn’t harp on me much. He let me figure out on my own and gave me direction.”
The next stop in Bellino’s career will be Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, where he turns in his ball glove for football pads to play tight end for the Titans. Again, his father offers some advice,
“I hope he does well, but I want him to hit the books, too,” the elder Bellino said. “I keep stressing that to him. I kind of went through that stuff. You can get can lost sometimes that sports is everything, but you’ve got to take care of the books.”