By Joe Southern
and Cole McNanna
for the fort bend star
Playing independent league baseball is nothing new for Chris Colabello, who played seven seasons at that level before getting the call to join the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays from 2013-15.
This season he has continued his professional career back in independent ball with the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters.
Colabello joined the team in May and, through his first 22 games, was batting .195 with one home run and six RBIs.
In between came an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance, followed by stints in the affiliated minor leagues and a season playing in Italy.
At the height of his career, Colabello played on the 2015 Toronto team that went to the American League Championship Series, where he belted a solo home run in Game 5 against the Kansas City Royals.
“If you’re convincing your brain you’re good, you’re good,” Colabello said. “If you’re convincing your brain you’re manure, then you’re manure.”
Colabello came to Sugar Land because of his relationship with Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia, who was a minor league coach for the Detroit Tigers when Colabello participated in spring training with the club in 2006.
Colabello said their background as Italians added to their connection. A friendship with soon-to-be Skeeters teammate Cody Stanley also enticed Colabello to Texas.
Colabello, originally from Milford, Massachusetts, began his trip to the majors by first playing with the Worcester Tornadoes and Nashua Pride of the Canadian-American Association. The Twins picked him up in 2012, when he played in their farm system.
Between 2013-14, Colabello played 114 games on the big stage with the Twins. He was released by the Twins at the end of the season and picked up by the Blue Jays in 2015.
Going into the 2016 season, following a postseason in which Colabello batted .282 in 10 games, he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug that resulted in an 80-game suspension.
He said then and now that he still doesn’t understand how the test came back positive. Nonetheless, it marked the end of his time in the majors.
Colabello remained at the Triple-A level the next three seasons with the Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers. Last season he played in Italy, where he grew up and his father played for their Olympic team in 1984. He was last in the Mexican League before getting Incaviglia’s call to join the Skeeters.
“My biggest thing was that I was not going to be ready for the first game of the season so I told him, ‘If you can tolerate me coming May 24, I think I can do it,’” Colabello said of his conversation with Incaviglia. “Ended up meeting the team in Long Island and we were off to the races.”
From there, the 35-year-old first baseman and outfielder said he’s fit in well with both older and younger teammates, an aspect he’s grown used to over his 14-year career.
“I think one of the things I enjoy the most about the game is being able to pass along messages that really helped me,” Colabello said. “I don’t feel like I should know more or less. You see people going through things and you want to help because that allows you to help alleviate some of the original stressors and rigors that you go through yourself. That’s always been consistent whether I’m 25 or 35.”
Colabello plans to join the Italian national team, with which he competed at the World Baseball Classic last year because of the citizenship he gained when he went to elementary school there. That’s where his parents are at the moment.
“I think everybody’s just happy I’m still playing because they know how much I still have left for the game and I say that wholeheartedly from the position of I can still hit,” Colabello said. “My numbers might not say it right now, but I know I can hit. I know, given the time and the opportunity, I’ll figure it out. I always have, I always will, and that goes back to fighting the right battles every day and things open themselves up. I think anybody that knows me knows I belong on a baseball field.”
The Skeeters signed free agent right-handed pitchers Ricardo Gomez, Carlos Pimentel and Christian Bergman. Mark Lowe was placed on the seven-day injured list retroactive to June 7.
Right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino had his contract purchased by the Houston Astros Monday night.
The Skeeters begin regular game against the New Britain Bees to end a weeklong homestand. The yplay a three-game series at the York Revolution beginning Tuesday and on Friday start a three-game series at New Britain. They return home June 25 for six games against the High Point Rockers, a new team making their first visit to Constellation Field.
As of Sunday, the Skeeters’ magic number to clinch the first-half championship and a playoff spot was 14. They had a nine-game lead in the Freedom Division.
Skeeter of the Week
Pitcher Dallas Beeler threw seven shutout innings to pick up a 4-0 win Saturday against the New Britain Bees. He matched the longest outing from a Skeeters pitcher this season.
Atlantic League standings
Wins – Losses – Games back
Sugar Land Skeeters 29-21-0
York Revolution 21-31-9
Lancaster Barnstormers 18-29-9.5
S. Maryland Blue Crabs 16-35-13.5
Long Island Ducks 31-18-0
Somerset Patriots 30-19-1
High Point Rockers 29-23-3.5
New Britain Bees 25-23-5.5
Skeeters 6, Barnstormers 5
Skeeters 8, Barnstormers 4
Barnstormers 12, Skeeters 5
Barnstormers 8, Skeeters 2
Bees 4, Skeeters 1
Skeeters 4, Bees 0