Independent Player of Year Finally Gets a Chance; Twins’ Chris Colabello Is One Happy Guy
While spring training can be devastating for those who have to face the reality of not making a team, it also brings out a great deal of happiness for some, especially for those players who have labored a long time to reach a certain level.
Down in Fort Myers, FL where the Minnesota Twins train there seems to be one really happy, perhaps giddy player.
The guy who we can almost picture with a constant grin is first baseman Chris Colabello, last season’s Most Valuable Player in the Can-Am League as well as Baseball America magazine’s choice as Independent Baseball Player of the Year. What makes the 6-foot-4 Colabello so happy is that after seven seasons of playing in the Can-Am League he is finally getting his first solid opportunity to play for a major league organization.
This type of opportunity does not happen often for a 28-year-old who did not get drafted out of Assumption College (Worcester, MA) and has waited so long, spending all this time with the professional Tornadoes in the same Massachusetts community. He did have half a season in Nashua, NH in 2007, then it was right back to Worcester.
“Through all the tribulations in Independent ball, I always believed there would come a point where somebody would give me an opportunity,” Colabello told columnist Tom Powers of The St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press. “I’m so grateful to be here.”
Twins Farm Director Jim Rantz points out why the organization decided to give Colabello a chance. “Look at the numbers he put up,” Rantz told The Pioneer Press. “We have some slots to fill.” Those numbers include career Can-Am figures of 86 home runs, 420 RBI and a .317 average for 583 games, with career bests of 20, 79 and .348 last season.
If all goes well, the right-handed-hitting Colabello may end up at first base for the New Britain (CT) Rock Cats in the Eastern League, earning about $1,600 a month (less than he made in Worcester), and within two levels of one day possibly suiting up at Target Field in Minneapolis.
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Hollimon Hot With Bat; Tiffee Struggles
Non-roster invitees Michael Hollimon (Grand Prairie, TX, American Association) and Terry Tiffee, Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League) are two switch-hitting position players getting important exposure in major league camps although both still appear to have a lot of work to make Opening Day rosters.
Hollimon, who has been used at both second and third base by Minnesota, hit a three-run home run against the New York Yankees and carried a .571 average (4-for-7) with three runs and four RBI into play Wednesday. He got into 11 major league games with Detroit in 2008.
Tiffee, who crashed 13 homers and drove in 46 runs in only 52 games for Lancaster last season, has been used frequently by Miami, mostly at first base, but has struggled at bat with only one hit in 18 at-bats and a single RBI. “I know the likelihood of me making the team is probably zero,” he told The Fort Lauderdale (FL) Sun Sentinel, “so I am just trying to get a job in Triple-A and do well and hopefully help them (Marlins) out at some time during the season.” The onetime USA Olympian, now 32, has played in 97 major league games, but none since 2008.
Roster Cuts, Invitations
Other roster cuts affecting Independent players in recent days have included catcher Eddy Rodriguez (Sioux Falls, SD and El Paso, TX, American Association) at San Diego, pitcher Scott Richmond (Edmonton, Northern League) with Toronto and hurler Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Victoria, Golden League) with Washington. At the same time, among the former Indy players getting into at least one major league exhibition game while doing regular minor league camp duty are pitcher Stuart Pomeranz (New Jersey Jackals, Can-Am League) and outfielders Cory Aldridge (Newark, NJ, Atlantic League) and Antoan Richardson (Schaumburg, IL, Northern) with Baltimore, and outfielder Jay Gibbons (Newark and Long Island, NY, Atlantic) with Milwaukee.
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe for 2012 at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blogs, www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com and www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)