Indy Owner Pat Salvi Has Vested Interest in Unbeaten Irish And Colabello’s Major League Dream Comes True
While Notre Dame will not have any shortage of supporters when the Irish go after their first national football title since 1988 in the BCS Championship game January 7, it seems unlikely anyone will be more amped than Pat Salvi.
In case the name escapes, Salvi is the successful Chicagoattorney who along with his wife Lindy owns both the American Association team in Gary, INand the Schaumburg (IL) Boomers of the Frontier League. Oh, yes, three generations of Salvi family members have been on or involved with the Fighting Irish gridiron glory, with Pat’s involvements including currently serving as chairman of the LawSchool Advisory Council.
But the capper is that two of Pat and Lindy’s sons are seniors on this year’s unbeaten team. Chris, who wears number 24, is a 5-foot-10 hustle guy who finally got a scholarship this season and will be on the front line when Notre Dame lines up to start the 60-minute battle against Alabama since he is a two-way regular on special teams. Will Salvi walked on just this season, but will be there wearing his number 36 uniform after serving as a scout team corner this season.
“I’m still pinching myself”, Pat Salvi told me recently, and the pride showed when he reminded that he had been to 37 of Chris’s 38 games since the safety transferred from Butler Universsity three years ago. Each player gets six tickets for the BCS Championship, but Salvi indicated their other three sons plus an assortment of aunts and uncles will swell the family turnout to about 20 people.
Who knows what additional thrills may come from this final game, but Pat Salvi, who wrestled with my question about his biggest Irish thrill, knows Chris Salvi already has accounted for 17 tackles in his career, sprung George Atkinson III for an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown with a key block against Michigan State in 2011 and was both game day captain and winner of the game ball against Navy that same season.
Pat Salvi has passion for his baseball teams, too, including a collegiate team in Lynn, MA. “I tell Miles (Wolff, the American Association commissioner) and Bill Lee (Frontier League boss) to be more pro-active in improving the state of Independent Baseball,” he said. “We need a much higher level of criteria for ownership—credibility to get in and stay in” as well as being certain the teams are “strongly capitalized. Many (major league baseball-affiliated) markets don’t do as well as a number of Independent teams, but are worth more. Until we do this (improved criteria) the value will be diminished.”
Chris Colabello Got the Call Every Player Yearns to Receive
Chris Colabello is trying not to use his cell phone much while playing in Mexico this offseason, but he took the one call this week every Independent player—make that every baseball-playing hopeful—dreams of receiving.
“I got a call…from (Minnesota Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan, and he told me he had been following me every day here in Mexico and that he was calling to officially invite me to major league camp,” the longtime Can-Am League first baseman said via email. “Feet definitely still not on the ground.”
It is necessary to understand Colabello’s career to fully appreciate the significance of that call. The Massachusettsnative hit over .300 seven consecutive Can-Am seasons, virtually all with the home-state Worcester Tornadoes (he was with Nashua, NHbriefly) before ever being offered a contract by a major league organization. He was turning 28 when the Twins signed him in the fall of 2011, after a .348-20-79 season for Worcester.
“The first thing I did (after Ryan’s call) was call my mom and dad,” the happy email continued. “My dad in particular got really emotional, probably just as emotional as he did when I told him the Twins had signed me last year.”
The right-handed hitter’s production has been nothing short of amazing since leaving the Independent game. It took a 38-home run, 104-RBI season by another first base prospect, Philadelphia’s Darin Ruf, to keep Colabello from winning MVP honors in the Double-A Eastern League because he drove in a team-record 98 runs and clubbed 19 homers while hitting .284 for New Britain, CT. He has followed that up with strong performances in helping Italyqualify for the World Baseball Classic and in taking the lead in the league batting championship race this offseason with Algodoneros de Guasave. He could win the Triple Crown since his 17 home runs, including one in each of the two games since Ryan’s call, share second in the Mexican League and his 44 runs batted in rank second.
Others Independent grads receiving non-roster invitations recently include pitchers Darren Byrd by Milwaukee (Fargo, ND, American Association) and Logan Kensing by Colorado (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic League), catchers Dayton Buller by Milwaukee (Camden, NJ, Atlantic), Rene Rivera by San Diego (Camden) and Jose Yepez by Atlanta (Pensacola, FL, and Gary, IN, bothAmerican Association), and outfielder Justin Christian by St. Louis (River City, Frontier League, and Southern Maryland, Atlantic). Our count is up to 15 non-roster players along with 21 others on 40-man rosters.
Lindsey, Sherrill on Watch List
Veteran major league lefty specialist George Sherrill and long-ball-hitting John Lindsey, who both will be 36 for most or all of 2013,are two prominent names on my watch list for spring training.
Sherrill, whose career has been well documented because he spent his first four and a half professional seasons in Independent Baseball and now has nine major league campaigns, signed a minor league contract with Kansas City recently, but surely will be looked at if he has recovered from elbow surgery performed in May. His Indy play included two seasons with Evansville, IN (Frontier League) and two and a half more with current American Association cities Sioux Falls, SDand Winnipeg.
Lindsey, long known for his hitting prowess in the minor leagues but given only one brief major league opportunity (Los Angeles Dodgers), is scheduled to return to Detroit’s top farm club in Toledo, but seems deserving of a look from the defending American League champions because of the way he is continuing to hit. Lindsey, whose career was re-energized while playing for the New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League), is hitting a robust .328 in the Mexican League with 11 RBI in 16 games (three homers) after slugging 36 round-trippers between Mexico and Toledo last season.
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Greenberg Is Back as Baltimore Minor Leaguer
Adam Greenberg, the hustling outfielder who got one at-bat from the Miami Marlins late this season as a second-chance-signing because of his beaning when he made his very first major league appearance with the Chicago Cubs in ’05, agreed to a minor league deal with Baltimore, MASNsports.com, reported today (Thursday).
Greenberg spent virtually all of 2008-11 with Bridgeport, CT (Atlantic League), but did not play last season except for an appearance with Isreal in the World Baseball Classic qualifier and the one-time Marlins appearance. The gritty lefty said at the time he planned to keep trying to reach the majors.
Atlantic Winter Leaguers Could Reach 100
The wide spread access to winter league baseball for current and former Independent players has become so pronounced that Joe Klein would not be surprised if the Atlantic League that he serves as executive director reaches 100 players by itself this season. The former major league general manager already has totaled up 74 such participants, led by 32 in Puerto Rico.
Pitchers so often seem to dominate among Indy players playing for major league organizations or elsewhere, but there appears to be a nice blend with position players this time. Onetime Atlantic League outfielder Cory Aldridge (Newark, NJ) is primary among the hitters with a league-leading 18 home runs in Mexico, one ahead of Chris Colabello.
Recent Baltimore signee Jason Botts, who hit. 348 in 39 games for the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters in 2012, is having an all-around productive season in Mexico with 15 homers and a .328 average. The first baseman-outfielder, who has 93 major league games to his credit, also spent time with York, PAin 2011 and Camden, NJin ’10. Another player who has popped up is Jay Gibbons, who we reported in July was giving up on another comeback at the age of 35. The outfielder, with 840 major league games including some with the Dodgers in ’10-11, has appeared in three games (1-for-9) recently in Venezuela.
On the mound, onetime Atlantic City, NJ (Atlantic) righty Greg Burke, now a submariner, has saved 11 games so far in Mexico (3-1, 2.30) as he prepares for spring training as a recent 40-man roster addition to the New York Mets. Bridgeport, CT reliever Rommie Lewis (3-1, seven saves, 2.01 in 48 outings) has a 1.23 earned run average along with a 4-0 record and five saves in the Dominican Republic.
T-Bones Have Four on Single Aussie Mound Staff
How is this for sticking together?
Four hurlers from the Kansas City (KS) T-Bones (American Association) make up a giant share of the Canberra Cavalry staff in the Australian League. Ace Brian Grening (10-5) is there along with relievers Steven Kent, Dustin Loggins and Sean Toler. Grening took his lumps, though, in the league All-Star Game when he gave up three second-inning runs and became the losing pitcher. At least seven Independent players were in the game, with recent Arizona signee Ryan Stovall (Fargo, ND, American Association) collecting two of the five hits for the World All-Stars, who lost to the host Australians, 6-4.
Ken Oberkfell (Lincoln, NE, American Association), Jamie Keefe (Rockland County, NY, Can-Am League) and Jeff Isom (Lake Erie, Frontier League) are among those landing Independent managerial jobs recently, but the list of hopefuls is far from empty. Former Indy skippers known to be interested include Hal Lanier, Vince Moore (who still could return to Edinburg, TX) and Chip Plante.
Buzz From Board Room
Hard off-the-field news is not at all plentiful (stability, perhaps), but Atlantic League Founder Frank Boulton, stressing “when opportunity and need cross (is the time to act)” told us this week he hopes to reveal plans in the first quarter of 2013 about the much-discussed Atlantic League 2 (or whatever the league for younger professionals ends up being called). Emphasizing “I am very, very involved; it is my project”, he said any announcement likely would include naming “most of the teams and owners”. He even hinted a corporate name may be attached to the league.
Boulton also said “some very fine progress” is being made for a possible Atlantic League team in LoudounCounty, near Washington, DC. “I work on Loudoun most every day.”
We have been told the Independent Baseball Prospect Tournament held late last winter in St. Petersburg, FL will not return. It was a nice idea, but the timing did not turn out to be effective.
(Bob Wirz also writes about Independent Baseball on www.IndyBaseballChatter.com. Fans may subscribe to this Independent Baseball Insider column, which has been published 41 times in 2012, at www.WirzandAssociates.com or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The authorhas 16 years of major league baseball experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners, and lives in Stratford, CT.)