Photo courtesy of Tim Doohan and the Rochester Red Wings
After spending eight seasons playing baseball in the Independent leagues, Chris Colabello finally was given the opportunity to play for a major league affiliate last year. In AA-New Britain, Colabello turned some heads hitting .284 with 19 home runs and 98 RBIís. So far with the AAA-Rochester Red Wings, it has been more of the same, hitting .395 with 4 home runs and 6 RBIís as well as being named the International League player of the week for the opening week of the season. After batting practice on Tuesday, I had the chance to talk to him about his time in the minors, his season so far, as well as his time playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
CF - Being from Framingham, the cold weather hasnít been bothering you at all this season has it? You must be used to it at this point.
Chris Colabello (CC):
Itís not to say that I like it. I would say no matter where you grow up, for me it was Central Massachusetts, where I spent almost my whole life. You get used to it I guess, but itís still not something I enjoy. (laughs) You do the best you can with it.
CF - What do you credit your early season success to? Being named the International League Player of the Week last week, hitting over .400, pretty good start.
I think more than anything else is to try to stay consistent mentally. Over the past couple of years I tried to put an emphasis on taking care of the process, not worrying about the results. When you focus too much on results, you force things. You try to focus on the things that you can control every day, taking care of things that you can take care of. Taking care of your swing. Taking care of your pre-game, and prepare yourself the best you can and hope for the best. At that point playing that game becomes part of the process.
CF: The team is off to kind of a rough start (Rochester was 2-9 when we spoke), how is the morale in the locker room?
I think everyoneís doing okay. I mean obviously as individuals you want to get off to a good start, team-wise and on a personal level. Itís very important to remember that itís a long season and you have plenty of time. Not to say that starting 2-9 is something that everyone wanted to do, you just keep battling, keep grinding. We havenít gotten very many breaks, and thatís part of the game, when it rains it pours. We just have to go out, keep grinding every day and things will start to turn, start to catch some breaks, start feeling a little bit better about yourself and the team.
CF - You played left field for the first time in a couple of years the other night. Was there a reason for that?
Iím not really sure. I played a lot of outfield in college, a lot of outfield in Indy ball. Gene (Glynn), had asked me in Spring Training if I felt comfortable enough to do it, just to mix things up a little, also to try to get other guys into the lineup. It was fun though, I enjoyed it.
CF - Any problem out there, or was it just like riding a bike?
I donít know if itís like riding a bike. (laughs) When you get used to playing a certain position for a while it sort of becomes second nature, so you donít have to worry about situations and where youíre going to go with the ball. In left field, I was always double-checking to make sure I knew what to do with the baseball if it got hit to me before the play, things like that. Thankfully I was able to make a pretty good play on a line drive that saved us a couple of runs. My heart was racing a little bit on that one (chuckles).
CF - Having played 8 seasons in Indy ball, what would you compare the level of play to in affiliated baseball? AA, AAA?
On any given night it really depends on the guy on the mound. In the Indy leagues you could face a guy who pitched in the big leagues, AAA, AA. A guy who has plus stuff who may be coming off of an injury, trying to reinvent himself or whatever it might be. I think the difference between Indy ball and a level like this is, you have a bigger disparity of the kind of guy youíre going to get. You might have a 36-year-old guy who played 10 years in the big leagues, or you might have a guy whoís right out of college.
In affiliated ball you really donít see that as much because there is a development process. I think thatís the single biggest thing. In affiliated ball you see why guys are here, whether its tools-oriented, or theyíve been around the game for a while or whatever it may be. I think it terms of top to bottom on a roster there is a little bit more consistency in the type of player youíre going to get.
CF - What was it like being on the Italian World Baseball Classic Roster?
It was unbelievable. It was a tremendous experience, definitely something that Iíll never forget. I couldnít be more thankful to the organization and the Italian Federation for giving me the opportunity to do it. Obviously being able to move on to the second round too, something not a lot of people expected us to do. I think everyone that was watching saw how much fun we were having as a group. It was really neat to get together with a bunch of guys, who for the most part didnít know each other. I was fortunate enough to play with a bunch of the Italian guys, whether it was growing up or at the European Cup last year. But to have guys come in from big league camp, from minor league camp that really didnít know each other all that well and have us come together like we did was great.
CF - Iím not terribly familiar with the process of being selected to the WBC, how did you get selected and how did you find out that you were on the team?
Iíve known the Italian manager for quite a while. I grew up in Italy; my father had played on the International team for quite a few years. Last year, when we were about half way through the season, the manager had emailed me to see if Iíd be interested in playing in the European Cup in the fall. I was really excited to be able to do, if the opportunity allowed itself with the regular season and playoffs in New Britain. Unfortunately we didnít make the playoffs in New Britain last year, we missed out by a game. We had discussed it out there, talked about it a little bit the year before, we were just going to wait to see how the roster shook itself out. He stayed in touch with me all winter, I did okay during the European Cup, and so he was excited to potentially have me on the roster. We kept talking throughout the first few months of the year, fortunately things were able to work out, the Twins green-lighted it and it was an awesome experience.
CF - You had a pretty good Spring Training campaign; did you expect to get sent down to Rochester? Or was there a part of you that thought you may stick with the Twins coming out of camp.
Honestly, as a player, as an individual my goal is to go out everyday and control the things that I can control. I donít think there was ever an expectation to make the big league club out of camp. They have a pretty good first baseman up there, heís been to a few All-Star games, done some really nice things, won an MVP. I didnít really know what the protocol would be, but I talked to some people who had mentioned Rochester being the most likely scenario. I worked as hard as I could to show the staff up there what I was capable of; again I try to control the things that I can control.
Whether it is in Rochester, New Britain, Minnesota, Iím just thankful to put on the uniform every day and play the game that I love. I know there are a lot of people that would trade places with me, if the opportunity comes to do it in a Twins uniform, that would be unbelievable. Right now Iím worried about being a Rochester Red Wing, and being the best Rochester Red Wing I can be, and try to help this team win some games.
CF - How surprised are you that it took 8 seasons in Indy ball before getting picked up by a Major League organization?
I mean, at the end of the day I donít worry about what other people think. There were a bunch of things that I had heard, whether it was ďI couldnít run fast enoughĒ or ďI didnít hit for enough powerĒ or even ďIím only a first baseman." Iíve been very lucky to have people at a young age that told me to ďcontrol you." I went out and tried to play to the best of my ability every day. If someone saw enough they liked to give me an opportunity, I would be more thankful then anyone could ever imagine.
For some reason it took 8 years for someone to give me that chance, but in a lot of ways it was almost a blessing in disguise in terms of me being able to develop as player maturity-wise. It allowed me to be able to deal with failure, and deal with things that the game brings out. When youíre young, you donít really know how to cope with things. For whatever reason it happened the way that it did, and I couldnít be more thankful to be here today, and have a pretty good grasp on myself as an individual and to be able to take that with me when I go to the field.
CF -What are your goals for the rest of the season, not only for yourself but for the team as well?
I would have to say consistency more than anything else in terms of how you approach the game. Results are very difficult to create, process is something as a player, as a team you take care of every day. Whether it means fundamentals, preparation, whatever you do as a player to get yourself in a routine, is what you need to do to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. I told coaches in Spring Training my biggest goal was to bring mental consistency to the field everyday, to stay positive mentally no matter whatís going on around you.
As a team thatís the goal every day to be consistent and to give yourself the best chance to win every night. Thereís no real secret formula to say this is what you have to do, you just gotta keep grinding. Thereís going to be upswings and downswings in baseball, and when the downswings happen early, people have a tendency to key in on them. If you go through a 0-10 stretch in July or youíre 2-30 in July, people just say, ďIt is what it isĒ and tend not to notice it at much. It comes down to being able to find mental consistency as an individual and as a team, and then see where the road takes you.