Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chris Colabello continues his fairy tale

One of the best stories in the Twins organization in 2013 was the tale of a 28-year old man that got his first taste of baseball with an affiliated club. Chris Colabello had molded himself into one of the best hitters in the Canadian-American Association before the Twins signed him to deal. He spent all of last season being the elder statesman of the Eastern League while showing off his skills at the plate.

The story of Colabello could get even better this year if he was able to make his MLB debut. He would be a 29-year old rookie and the thought of him being in the Twins line-up isn't too hard to imagine. Let's look back at what got him to this point and look ahead to what could bring him to the Twin Cities.

After growing up and attending college in Massachusetts, Colabello wanted to continue his professional baseball career. No major league organization drafted him out of college so he found a team in the independent leagues. For six seasons, he played in the Canadian-American Association and he developed himself into one of the best hitters in this league.

From 2005-2011, Colabello hit over .300 in every season. Those seven seasons saw him hit .317/.390/.514 with an average of 14 home runs a year. He showed the ability to play both corner infield positions and even a little outfield. The skills were there but no MLB teams came calling.

Before the 2006 season, Colabello got to try out for the Italian World Baseball Classic team. He didn't make the squad but the Tigers took notice and invited him to spring training. His spring was good but he didn't make the club and he went back to the CAA. His persistence would finally pay off but not for another half of a decade.

The 2011 season would be an eye-opening year for Colabello because he would put together the best season of his career. He hit .348/.410/.600 with 20 home runs and 32 doubles. He finished second in the league in home runs, batting average, RBI, and hits. He led the league in doubles and slugging percentage. At the end of the season, he would be named the Independent Leagues Player of the Year by Baseball America.

Minnesota would offer him a chance for the start of the 2012 season. There weren't any promises made by the Twins and he didn't get a signing bonus but he was getting an opportunity. If he made a minor league team, he would be making less money then he had in the CAA but sometimes it's not about the money.

Colabello would be sent to New Britain for the entirety of the 2012 season. He would hit .284/.358/.478 over 134 games. His numbers would be good enough to lead the Eastern League in doubles and he finished second in RBI, fourth in runs, and fourth in home runs. Darin Ruf would walk-away with the Eastern League MVP but Colabello would have strong runner up finish.

He was finally living his dream and that dream has only gotten better so far this spring.

The Twins wanted Colabello back in the organization and his performance last year was good enough for Team Italy to add him to their roster for the 2013 WBC. Italy would make a surprise trip to the second round of the WBC and Colabello was a key figure for their team. He hit .333/.368/.667 and he lead the team in home runs (2) and RBI (7).

His strong showing this spring combined with his performance in the WBC could leave him knocking on the door to the big leagues. Ron Gardenhire has said he wants more pop on his bench this season. Colabello could have an opportunity to provide that pop while he lives out his dream of being a MLB player.

The fairy tale ending for Colabello will be when he steps onto the field for his first big league game. It has been quite the journey but he has earned this opportunity. He might not be a prospect to build around but his story is one of the best.

Spring training is full of hope and Colabello embodies the true definition of hope.

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