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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chris Colabello: Time Can't Stop Rookie From Reaching Major Leagues with Minnesota Twins

Dreams can be hard to achieve, but fortunately there is no expiration date on their fulfillment. Professional baseball player Chris Colabello learned that this year, as years of hard work finally paid off and landed him in the major leagues.

Colabello, a big right-handed first baseman/outfielder, played his college ball for Division II Assumption in Worchester, Massachusetts. Despite an excellent career, toiling in relative obscurity didn’t give him enough of a reputation to get drafted after his senior season in 2005.

He received an opportunity to play professional ball when his hometown Worchester Tornadoes in the independent Can-Am League signed him to a contract. Like most players, he hoped it would be a brief detour to bigger and better things in his playing career. Little did he know at the time, but he would end up spending seven years with the team.

He finished his excellent run with Worchester hitting a combined .317 with 86 home runs and 420 RBI in 583 games. Although considered old by traditional prospect standards, he signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2012 season.

Playing for Double-A New Britain last season, Colabello proved he could play. He appeared in 134 games and hit .284 with 19 home runs and 98 RBI.

Despite his excellent minor league debut, the soon-to-be 30-year-old was uncertain of what 2013 held prior to the start of the season. The Twins had former MVP Justin Morneau starting at first base and other players ahead of him on the outfield depth chart.

Trying to prove his worth, Colabello went out and tore up Triple-A, hitting .352 with 24 home runs and 76 RBI in 89 games (stats compiled in multiple stints at that level this year). His dominance was too much to ignore, and finally he received a call-up and made his major league debut on May 22 against the Atlanta Braves.

The big leagues have presented Colabello some challenges, but he is getting an opportunity to play. Morneau was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the rookie has received the lion’s share of playing time since his departure. He has hit .191 in 52 games, with seven home runs and 17 RBI. His first major league home run came in dramatic fashion, as he clubbed one into the seats in the 13th inning on July 26 to beat the Yoervis Medina and the Seattle Mariners.

What happens to Colabello after this season is up to him. Just because he has reached the majors doesn’t mean he is done. He is still living the dream, but it remains to be seen how much he still has to add to his journey.

Prior to this season, I had a chance to catch up with Colebello. Read on for more about his baseball story.

Chris Colabello Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I would have to say favorite player when I was a kid was Ken Griffey, Jr. He had such an incredible flow to the way he played the game, and I think him being young made him easier to relate to

Not being drafted, can you elaborate on how did you come to play professional baseball?: Obviously, not getting drafted was a pretty hard thing to go through. I was fortunate that the Worcester Tornadoes had just started their season in the franchise's inaugural year. Having gone to school in Worcester, thankfully some of the people in the organization were aware of me and they signed me.

You played seven years in the independent Can-Am League. What was that experience like and did you ever think you would be signed by a major league team?: Honestly, my experience in independent ball was great. In indy ball the one thing that you have to do as a player is mature quickly because there's really no player development. Playing with guys that had been to the big leagues/AAA/AA as a first year guy helps you do that I think.

In terms of getting picked up, obviously as time went along, a little more doubt crept into my mind that I may not get a chance, but I was always pretty faithful that if I kept going about my business the right way, kept improving and performing that someone would give me a chance.

Can you talk a little bit about how the Twins came to sign you?: My agent Brian Charles is really to thank for how this all started. At the time, he was more of a friend who was constantly pushing for me. He contacted teams on a regular basis for me, and eventually heard back from the Twins. Within about 10 days of that happening I had set up a workout with Twins scout John Wilson, and two days later I received a contract.

You had a close relationship with former major league catcher Rich Gedman; how much influence has he had on you?: I cannot speak highly enough of what Rich Gedman did for me as a player and a person. His experience in baseball obviously speaks for itself, but his humility and communication skills are what made him have so much impact on me. I can say with certainty that without him, I would not be where I am today.

How it feel having such a great 2012 season and getting so much attention after toiling in relative obscurity?: Honestly, the support I have gotten through all of this has been awesome. I don't necessarily feel like anything has changed for me personally, in terms of the way I go about my business and what not, but it is certainly nice to know that there are people out there following and supporting my career

What coach or player in the Twins system has given you the best advice?: Obviously, the coaching staff at New Britain is the group of guys I had the most direct contact with. Jeff Smith, Rudy Hernandez, and Stu Cliburn all played a big hand in helping me this past season. Our roving hitting instructor Bill Springman was also super supportive every time he came into town. I had plenty of talks with Paul Molitor and Riccardo Ingram when they were in town too, so I guess it's hard to name just one. I'm very thankful to each and every one of them.

Do you know what is in store for you in 2013 (asked prior to the start of the season)?: I know that I am still under contract with the Twins heading into next season, but beyond that, I really have no idea what their plans are for me. The one thing I can say with certainty is that I am looking forward to it, no matter where it is. I will continue to work hard here in winter ball to get better every day and be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead. 

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1 comment:

  1. I played over-30 baseball with his father, Lou, in Douglas, Massachusetts. He was a pitcher who was once a member of the Italian National Baseball Team.