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John Santangelo III to manage Basciani’s new Louisiana facility

Fred Recchiuti, general manager of Basciani Foods in Avondale, PA, told The Produce News that Michael Basciani, company president, knows the value of hard work and teamwork, and he is pleased to announce that John (Littleman) Santangelo III is the newly appointed team leader at the company’s recently opened Independence, LA, mushroom farm and packinghouse.

“Baseball was Littleman’s first life,” said Mr. Recchiuti. “They jokingly call him Littleman because he stands six-feet, four-inches tall and throws a mean baseball. Littleman says that the fundamentals of baseball have played a very important role in his life, such as learning to play fair, respect others, improve every day, strive to always be number one and work as a team player. He certainly is that man.”

Mr. Santangelo was drafted by the Kansas City Royals right out of high school in 2004. He declined the offer to continue his education and to improve his pitching skills. He was picked up by Bossier City Community College in Bossier, LA, and two years later he was offered and accepted a full scholarship to Northwestern State University. At the end of his junior year, he suffered an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery.

In medical terms, Tommy John surgery is ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, a surgical procedure in which a ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. The procedure is common among collegiate and professional athletes in several sports, most notably baseball.

“After a year of rehabilitation, Littleman was motivated to return to the mound,” said Mr. Recchiuti. “He ended his senior year with an ERA [earned run average] of 3.23 to include six wins, seven no decisions and no losses. Unfortunately, his velocity was never the same after surgery. As disappointing as it seemed at the time, he would always be able to say he was one of the 1,500 athletes drafted into major league baseball in 2004.”

After graduating from Northwestern State, Mr. Santangelo returned home to work on the family farm in Louisiana. When Basciani offered to buy the farm and lend its expertise, Mr. Santangelo accepted the position of general manager of Basciani’s Red Hill Division in Louisiana.

“Littleman says that baseball is still in his heart,” Mr. Recchiuti added. “At the farm he is now the coach. He was always taught to give it his all with determination, dedication and desire. He tries to inspire the same philosophy in all of his employees. At the same time, he says that he is still a player, with the Basciani family as his coaching staff. His inspiration for managing the plant comes from watching the work ethic of his head coach, Mr. Basciani, and the rest of the Basciani family. He calls them the hardest working family in the mushroom business. Mr. Basciani now refers to Littleman as ‘Bigman.’“

Mr. Recchiuti said the new facility will produce about 60,000 pounds of all mushroom varieties each week.

“With the heat and humidity contributing to perishability in that area of the country, we wanted to be able to service customers there with the freshest and most-local product,” he said. “Louisiana is very generous with its ‘Buy Local’ campaign. Given the economic condition there, we feel it’s important to keep jobs in the state.”

The Louisiana “Buy Local” web site lists over 20,000 farmers markets, growers and growers associations enabling consumers to search out local producers and retailers easily and efficiently.

“We are also looking forward to some expansion at our Pennsylvania farm in the near future,” Mr. Recchiuti added. “And we’re working on some sustainability projects to insure that we remain the lowest-cost mushroom producer in the market.”

Basciani Foods also has operations in Chicago and Minneapolis. The company distributes its mushrooms across the United States and into Canada.