Chris Colabello’s Journey From Can-Am League To Majors Has Uniqueness Written All Over It
To put Chris Colabello’s feat into proper perspective one must realize he is only the 38th player in the 21 seasons since Independent Baseball started up to break into the professional game at the non-affiliated level and climb all the way the major leagues.
But not a single one of the 37 before Colabello, who got his long-awaited chance Wednesday afternoon for the Minnesota Twins in Atlanta, played as many as seven Independent seasons before his contract was picked up by a major league organization and he got as far as a regular season game.
Catcher Chris Coste is the closest example, playing for five years in Independent leagues before he played his first affiliated minor league game. Pitchers Chris Jakubauskas, Scott Patterson and George Sherrill also went five seasons before their contracts were picked up by major league organizations.
Colabello came out of Assumption College in Worcester, MA and joined the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am League when he was 21 in 2005. Except for ’07 when he played half a year in the same league for Nashua, NH, the Framingham, MA native was Worcester’s first baseman all the way through the 2011 season.
His offensive outbursts continued with a team-record 98 RBI for Class AA New Britain, CT last season, for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic and for Triple-A Rochester, NY this season where Colabello’s 12 home runs, 39 RBI (in 46 games) and a .358 average forced the Twins’ hands to replace a disabled Trevor Plouffe. Colabello led the International League in homers, hits (63) and OPS (1.076).
Even the call to join the parent team did not come easily while on the Rochester team bus about one a.m. Wednesday, only five a half hours before he needed to catch a flight to Atlanta for a noon start. Making it more harrowing, two hours later the bus was hit on the side by another vehicle, costing an hour’s delay. With all of the scrambling, Colabello cracked the first pitch he saw from the Braves’ Paul Maholm into right-center where Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward managed to track it down. Everything considered, he probably should be excused for going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts while playing right field and batting sixth in an 8-3 defeat.
Colabello may have a long run in the majors or it could last for only a few days, but either way, his feat of going from seven years of Independent play to the majors can be treasured.
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Also With Twins, Thielbar Praises American Association
It was two days before Chris Colabello got his first major league opportunity that teammate and fellow Independent Baseball graduate Caleb Thielbar was summoned from the same Rochester Red Wings to join the Minnesota Twins.
The southpaw reliever, only 26 and a mere 21 months from having his contract sold to Minnesota by the St. Paul (MN) Saints, has strung together four scoreless innings in two appearances for the Twins, allowing only one hit in the interleague games against National League East-leading Atlanta.
Thielbar told me from Detroit today (Thursday), where the Twins start a series tonight, he did not expect to reach the majors “this quickly” after leaving the Saints. “It has been quite a ride.” But he had plenty of praise for the American Association, telling MLB.com: “The competition there was actually really good. We had a lot of good players on our team and I learned a lot. I don’t think my time with the Saints hurt me. That’s for sure.”
MLB Count of Independent Players Grows to 175
Adding Chris Colabello and Caleb Thielbar, four Independent players have made their major league debut already this season, lifting the list compiled exclusively by the Independent Baseball Insider to 175. Scott Rice (Atlantic League teams in York, PA, Long Island, NY and Newark, NJ) and Vidal Nuno (Washington, PA, Frontier League) broke in earlier. Rice is with the New York Mets, Nuno with the New York Yankees.
By BOB DUTTON The Kansas City Star
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Forty columns are planned during 2013. Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy added stories on the blog 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)