NEW BRITAIN, CT - The New
Rock Cats are off to a hot start in 2012 and first baseman Chris
Colabello has done
his fair share to help the team climb to first place in the Eastern
Division. For the
28-year-old rookie, he's just happy
someone gave him the chance to play ball.
up less than 100
miles from New Britain Stadium, Colabello has taken an unusual route to
Britain. The path from Milford, Mass. to New Britain, Conn. may not
seem like a
long one at all, but for Colabello it has been one lengthy road paved
determination, hard work, and patience.
"I just went
out and played the
game hard and played the game the right way," Colabello said of his
path to the
His first stop
along the way was Division
II Assumption College, where he batted .352 with 40 doubles, 24 home
111 RBI in 154 career games. After going undrafted in 2005, Colabello
with the Worchester Tornadoes of the Canadian-American Association
seven seasons, he proved he could simply rake at the plate - he never
a season under the .300 mark - yet found himself in the same position.
kept suiting up and taking the field chasing a dream.
"I was very
fortunate. I had some
people around me early in my career that gave me some good advice. They
'Keep playing until someone rips your uniform off your back. As long as
have your uniform on, someone could see you,'" Colabello said.
best season in independent
ball came in 2011, when he batted .348 with 20 home runs and 79 RBI on
to being named the Can-Am Most Valuable Player. It was enough to be his
"I was very
fortunate to have a
good year and I think that kind of got me on the map a little bit," he
The success of
last season was certainly
enough to garner the interest of the Minnesota Twins. After seven
dream was realized with one phone call.
tremendous," he said. "It
was something I waited for a long time. I had a little bit of an
with Detroit in 2006."
Back in 2006,
working out for Team Italy in an attempt to make the roster for the
Baseball Classic - and thus following in his father's footsteps of
the Italian National Team.
"My dad ended
up in Italy in
1976, I think was his first year, and played eight years over in Italy.
an American guy from Milford, Mass and met my mother over there," said
His dad pitched
for the Italian National
Team in the 1984 Olympics, facing off against the United States at
Stadium. Colabello just grinned when asked how the game ended for his
"It didn't go
well for him. He
still has nightmares about it a little bit," Colabello joked.
It was while
following in his
father's footsteps in an attempt to represent Team Italy at the WBC
learned the Tigers were holding a tryout. It resulted in his first
Training camp. And his first Spring Training cut.
"It seems so
far back. I always
promised myself I would use that experience as a learning experience
future in case I got another opportunity," he said.
opportunity finally arose
with the call from the Twins. With that, the independent ball
veteran-turned-minor league baseball rookie was packing his bags for
Training once again. Now, a month later, he finds himself in Double-A,
steps away from the big leagues on the organizational ladder.
On Saturday afternoon, while he
stands near the on deck circle as the visiting New Hampshire Fisher
batting practice, he can look in the home team dugout and see the
instructors. Among the Minnesota staff perched atop the dugout bench is
Famer Paul Molitor. Consider it a perk of working in the Twins'
and a far cry from the Can-Am League.
had heard about
Minnesota from even before I signed was that they are a first-class
organization in terms of the way they treated guys in their minor
and the opportunities that guys got in the system," said Colabello. "All the coordinators, all
of the coaches have
been tremendously helpful. They don't short-change anyone. Being an
the beginning was a situation that could have been fairly uncomfortable
they made this transition so easy for me."
made the transition
to the Eastern League look effortless as well. The New England native
leads the team with a .313 average (15-for-48), four home runs, a .414
percentage, and .667 slugging percentage. He ranks second in runs
12 and is tied for second with 12 RBI. With the Twins' brass in town
current homestand, Colabello learned on Sunday he had just been named
Minor League Player of the Week.
"It's a great
environment to be
in," said Colabello. I think there are a lot of good people around. I'm
thankful to the Twins for the opportunity. I'm just trying to go out
the game I've been playing."
He enters the
season as the
oldest member on the Rock Cats' roster and finds himself surrounded by
a mix of
veterans and young prospects. It is the young faces and naturally
prospects that have been two of the biggest changes for Colabello to
noticed is that there
are a lot of guys that are certainly tool guys. You'll notice you have
like (Rock Cats center fielder) Aaron Hicks on your team that it speaks
itself - the way he runs, the way he throws, the way he goes and gets
it in the
outfield," Colabello said. "I think in independent baseball, you're
going to find guys who have been around the game a little longer. It's
for me to be the oldest guy on the team. I've never been that guy in my
"oldest guy on the team"
to the list of firsts for Colabello this season. With his lifelong
becoming a reality, it likely won't be something he will let deter him
continuing to flat-out rake at the plate no matter what uniform he puts
"At the end of
Colabello said, "you have to remind yourself that baseball is baseball
matter where you play."
Rock Cats fans,
Colabello finds himself playing in New Britain these days.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.