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12 Questions With... Chris Colabello

Welcome to 2013!!! As we start getting excited about the Twins and their minor league 2013 seasons, we have a 12 Questions interview with the player that could arguably called the best story in the Twins farm system in 2012. When I asked for who readers would like to see an interview with, the name Chris Colabello came up frequently. After not getting drafted and then spending seven seasons playing in an independent league, the Twins gave him a chance to play some first base in AA in 2012, and he responded very well.
[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]In 134 games for New Britain, he hit .284/.358/.478 (.836) with 37 doubles, 19
home runs and 98 RBI while being touted as a terrific defensive first baseman. Following the season, he went to play winter ball in Mexico and put on a show. In 57 games, he hit .332/.399/.644 (1.043) with 13 doubles, 17 home runs and 44 RBI. His efforts were certainly noticed by the Twins as he was extended an invitation to big league spring training.

Before the holidays, Colabello returned from Mexico, and last week, he was willing to take the time to answer 12 Questions for us. I have been doing Q&As with Twins players for a half-dozen years, and in all honestly, this one is one of my favorites. I think you will enjoy it too. Feel free to comment or ask questions in the Comments.

Attached Image: Chris Colabello 4.jpg

12 QUESTIONS WITH… Chris Colabello


Twins Daily (TD):
Growing up in Framingham, Massachusetts, should we pretty easily assume who your favorite team was? Who were some of your favorite players?

Chris Colabello (CC):
As a kid I definitely liked the Red Sox, but I think more than anything else I was a fan of the game. I really loved the Mariners because I got to watch Ken Griffey Jr. bring a whole new type of youthful energy to the game. In '95 watching them beat the Yankees and seeing him have such a huge impact on the series made me really understand how special he was. I also had a huge amount of respect for Cal Ripken because of his ability to go out and compete each and every day for so many years.
Attached Image: Chris Colabello.jpg TD: Tell us about your high school career (baseball and/or other extra-curriculars).

CC:
Playing baseball at Milford High School, and getting to play Milford Legion baseball was a special thing in Massachusetts. The town has a very rich baseball tradition and I was just thankful to be a part of such good teams and a deep rooted passion for the game. I was a year ahead school-wise, because I started school in Italy when I was little, so physically, I think I was behind a lot of the kids I was playing with and against. It definitely helped me mature a whole lot quicker. I don't think I really got myself on the map until my second year of legion baseball after my senior season when my team went all the way to the American Legion World Series and really came into my own as a hitter.

TD: Tell us about your collegiate days at Division II Assumption College. (Coaches, highlights, I believe it was near your hometown, etc)

CC:
At Assumption, I was blessed with the opportunity to go in and be an everyday player right away, and also to play very close to my family. My first year I was definitely impressed with how many good players there were at the Division II level and it took some time to get adjusted to the level of competition. My sophomore year, our conference went to wooden bats which I think helped me grow as a hitter. My junior year I got the opportunity to play in the New England All Star game at Fenway Park and later that summer in the NECBL with and against guys like Andrew Bailey and Kevin Slowey.

TD: Despite an impressive four-year career at Assumption, you went undrafted. Did you think you’d be selected? Had you talked to scouts?

CC:
After my senior year, I thought I would be drafted, especially after the summer I had the year before in the NECBL. I had heard from a bunch of different teams, but unfortunately, draft day came and went without hearing my name called.

TD: You then spent seven seasons playing for the Worcester Tornadoes where you continued to rake each and every year. What kept you playing in the independent league, and were you getting any feelers from affiliated ball any time?

CC:
Independent baseball taught me a lot about myself. I was blessed to play for Rich Gedman who taught me so much about the game, and most importantly that as long as I had a uniform on, that there was a chance someone would see me. Every year it seemed like there was a team or two who had some interest, but nothing ever came to fruition other than in '06 when I went to camp with the Tigers. I promised myself that as long as I felt like I was having fun playing the game, that it was feasible for me financially, and that I was getting better, I would continue playing.

Attached Image: Chris Colabello 3.jpg TD: When did the Twins talk to you and what was the process of getting signed like for you? It was just a minor league deal and no invite, but that had to be something you were excited about.

CC:
I first heard from the Twins in January of 2011, when my agent Brian Charles (who was more of just a friend with a kind heart at the time) told me they were interested. After about two weeks I eventually worked out for the John Wilson who I believe covers the Northeast Region, and two days later I was signing a contract. I was ecstatic to be able to get the opportunity to go into camp and compete for a job.

TD:
How would you compare the Can-Am League to what you saw in AA New Britain in 2012? What were your goals coming into last spring and the season, and in general, how did you feel about the season?

CC:
I would say that in AA everyone for the most part everyone is on their way up the ranks, and has a tool or set of tools that distinguishes them. In Indy ball you are dealing with a wide variety of players, from guys who have been with an organization as high as AAA or even the big leagues, to guys who are just coming out of college. I would say that in terms of pitching, there are a lot more power arms on every roster, where in Indy ball you might only have one guy like that on every team. Most guys in Indy ball are trying to reinvent themselves, come back from an injury, or have somebody notice them, in hopes of getting another opportunity.

In terms of how my season went, I would say there was definitely a learning curve in adjusting to affiliated baseball. My first two months had a lot of ups and downs, but I think that was part of the process of adjusting and forgetting about trying to impress people each and every day. Once we got into June, I think I started feeling comfortable in my own skin and became much more consistent, the more I trusted in myself. My biggest goal going into every season is to be able to make adjustments and be in the moment to the best of my ability. I think even though that took some time, I was able to do that, and it turned out to be a pretty good year. That being said, I still think there is a lot of room to improve in terms of putting together a complete season from start to finish.

TD:
You’ve been one of the best hitters in the Mexican League this winter. Have you played winter ball in previous offseasons, and what does playing winter ball do for you as a player?

CC:
Winter ball has been a great experience. This was my first time playing during the off-season, and I think there has been a lot more growing and maturing that has happened here as well. Anytime you go to a new place, there is pressure to be successful and to try and impress people around you, and this winter has been the same. I think the transition happened a lot quicker down here. You are competing against guys that are anywhere from up and coming prospects to guys that have been playing for 15 to 20 years, so I guess in that regard it's a lot like Independent ball. There are certainly a lot of talented players in the winter leagues, and I think the experience will continue to help me improve.

TD:
The Twins invited you to big league spring training. The invite alone has to be amazing, but what are you most looking forward to in spring training? (Side question: Are you playing for Italy in the WBC?)

CC:
I am definitely honored and grateful that the Twins have invited me to camp. I can't thank the Twins enough for just signing me in the first place, but to get an invite to camp this year is truly an honor. There are so many things I am looking forward to that I don't even know where to start, but I guess the biggest thing is the opportunity to go out and compete with guys that have been playing at the highest level, and watch the way they go about their business. In terms of the WBC, I think that would be a tremendous experience but my first priority is to the Twins. If the Italian team asks me to be on their final roster, I will discuss it with the powers that be, and do whatever they think is best.

TD: Looking to 2013, what are some of your goals? Are there certain statistics or numbers that you look at the judge yourself?

CC:
As I said before, I think going into the year, my biggest goal is to be able to adjust and be in the moment to the best of my ability. Hitting is so much more about process than it is about results. If you can make a commitment to taking care of the process, the results will take care of themselves. Having had the experience now of 2012, I want to be able to go out every day, continue to work hard, and be as consistent as possible. If I can do that day in and day out, I think the numbers will end up pretty close to where they should be.

Attached Image: Chris Colabello 2.jpg

TD:
I played in college (D3) with Chris Coste, who went on to become The 33-year-old rookie and played with the Phillies when they won the World Series. What would it mean for you to get a big league call-up?

CC:
My dream for as long as I can remember has been to play in the Major Leagues. As long as I have had a uniform on, that is the one constant that has driven me each and every day. Watching guys like Chris Coste, and John Lindsey (who I got to play against in the Can-Am League, and down here in Mexico) realize that dream, has been added inspiration throughout the journey. John and I had lunch together a few weeks ago, and told me that we were part of a fraternity. To be able to represent myself, my family, the Twins, and the guys who have taken that route to the Major Leagues would truly be an honor.

TD:
Who are some of the people who have helped you get to this point in your career as a baseball player?

CC:
First and foremost, my dad. He has been there through everything with me in my life, not only as a player, but as a person. He has helped mold me into the man I am today. Rich Gedman, is right up there in that category and has become like family to me. He has taught me so much about the game and about myself that I can't even begin to describe how much of an impact he has had on me. Lastly, my good friend Bobby Tewksbary who played independent baseball with me for a couple years and now owns an indoor facility up in Nashua, NH. I can't tell you how many late nights we have spent together talking about the game and being accountable for your swing, and how many buckets of flips and BP he has thrown me.

TD: How would you describe yourself as a hitter? If you were a scout, what would the report be?

CC: That's a pretty tough question to answer without sounding too conceited... haha. I guess first and foremost, since I was a kid, I have always wanted to be viewed as a complete hitter. From when I was very little, I was very aware of what it meant to hit .300, so I think that played a big part in me wanting to be a guy who was a threat to do that every year. I also wanted to be able to do that, without sacrificing the ability to drive the ball gap to gap, and drive the ball out of the park. I guess my biggest strengths would be my ability to drive the ball from gap to gap, and handle the bat with two strikes.

TD: Favorite baseball movie?

CC:
I guess I would say either Bull Durham or The Rookie. Mainly I think because I can relate to both characters in terms of how my baseball career has progressed


Thank you Chris for the time you took to respond to our questions! Best wishes in the New Year, and at big league camp and whatever the 2013 season brings you!


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