Milford Native Chris Colabello Living his Dream in MLB

Colabello going deep in Game 5 of the ALCS

Joe Clark

Chris Colabello is living his dream. The 31 year old corner infielder and outfielder from Milford, Massachusetts just wanted to be a baseball player. It didn’t matter where, be it playing for teams no one ever heard of in the Can-Am League. The Worcester Tornadoes. The Nashua Pride. It was baseball. That’s all he cared about.

Colabello was undrafted in 2005 out of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He was doubted by everyone, from MLB front office personnel, to a random girl he had never met at Assumption, who came up to him and told him that he won’t make it to the majors. 40 rounds passed. Despite getting a tryout with the Boston Red Sox, where he hit and held his own against HS studs (and current Major Leaguers) Pedro Alvarez and Justin Smoak, he went undrafted. Over 1,280 players found out they were drafted. An overwhelming majority of them would never play in the MLB.

Only a select few would make it to the MLB. Chris Colabello wasn’t good enough in the eyes of MLB teams to be one of the 1,280 plus players. After the draft, no MLB team wanted to sign him, and just give him a chance. But he wanted to play baseball. So he went the route of Independent Baseball. Independent Baseball, or “Indy Ball” is full of guys like Colabello: Guys who just weren’t good enough to crack the bigs, guys who flamed out in the minors, or guys that played in the majors but simply got old and couldn’t hang anymore (Jose Canseco is a notable name). After 8 games playing for the Worcester Tornadoes, managed by ex-Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, he was released. Why? Because the Tornadoes had to sign another catcher because one of their rostered players didn’t have his visa and couldn’t make a road trip to Canada. The Tornadoes picked him up again, and he showed them he was much more valuable than backup catcher, hitting .303 with 8 HR, 31 RBI, and 29 walks to only 31 strikeouts in 172 AB on the way to a championship. His second HR that season is against a 45 year old Oil Can Boyd.

In the offseason, he lived with his parents and substitute teaches to make some extra money. In 2006, Colabello, an Italian-American, was cut from the Italian national team, where his father, Lou, was a star pitcher, before the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He was later cut by Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers in Spring Training of that year. Colabello spends the next seven years in Independent Ball, playing for the Tornadoes and the Nashua Pride, also of the Can-Am League. He never batted below .300. At the peak of his career, he makes $2,200 a month. After he is named the 2011 Independent League Player of the Year, Chris e-mailed all 30 MLB teams seeking a minor league contract. 27 say no thanks. 2 don’t even bother to reply. That left the Minnesota Twins. The Twins needed a 1B for their AA team, the New Britain Rock Cats, located in New Britain, CT. Twins New England scout John Wilson checked him out. Two days later, the Twins paid the Worcester Tornadoes $1,000 for the rights to sign him.

Colabello started his AA career 1-26. But, he ends up breaking out of it. Big time. He finishes the year at .284/.358/.478 with 19 homers and 98 RBIs. It was his first professional season in which he doesn’t bat .300. Most guys can’t even bat .300 in a slow pitch softball league. Later that year, he tried out for Team Italy for the 2012 World Baseball Classic. He made the team, joining MLB players Jason Grilli, now of the Braves, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, Nick Punto, who was playing for the Dodgers at the time and was once a mainstay in the Twins infield, and Chris Denorfia, who played for the Padres at the time. After winning their first game over the heavily favored Mexico, 6-5, Colabello went 4-5 for with a three run homer and 4 RBI’s as the Italian’s beat a Canadian team that featured Joey Votto and Justin Morneau. However, Italy loses by one run in each of their second round games, first to the Dominican Republic, who went on to win the title, and then to Puerto Rico. Colabello homered one more time, off Dominican starter Edinson Volquez. The next season, Colabello was killing AAA pitching, hitting .358 with 12 HR’s for Minnesota’s AAA affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. On May 22nd, on the back of the team bus, Rochester manager Gene Glynn comes up to Colabello and tells him he’s going to the bigs.

In 2013, Colabello hit  .194/.287/.344 with 7 HR and 17 RBI in 55 games. Despite his struggles, he got another chance with the Twins in 2014, hitting .229/.282/.380 with 6 HR and 39 RBI 59 games. After the season, he was designated for assignment and claimed by Toronto. After spending the start of the season with the Buffalo Bison, their AAA affiliate, Colabello gets called up, and to say he impresses would be an understatement. In 101 games, he bats .321/.367/.520 with 15 HR and 54 RBI. Now, as a starter for the Blue Jays in the playoffs, Colabello has mashed 2 HR’s for the Jays in the postseason. Colabello’s story still isn’t finished, but one thing is for sure: He is living his dream.