This Saturday will mark the beginning of the 32nd year that Chris Colabello has walked on this planet. The first baseman for the Toronto Blue Jays may be celebrating the event in Game 7 of the American League Championship series, if his team wins on Friday. However, if his home team would have picked him up, Colabello would have been guaranteed to be blowing out his birthday candles, well-rested, while out of the postseason picture before it even started.
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Colabello’s emergence has been nothing short of amazing, considering that he was left to dwindle in minor-league purgatory before Toronto decided to pick him off of the Minnesota Twins’ waiver wire in 2014. He signed with the Twins as a free agent in 2012, after years of failure to achieve his dream of being a professional baseball player in the major leagues.
That dream started in Framingham, Massachusetts, making Colabello well aware of the Boston Red Sox. Fenway Park is only 46 minutes away from his hometown if you take the Framingham/Worcester Line, 31 minutes if you drive on the I-90 East. He went to Milford High School before taking his talents to Assumption College, just under an hour away from Yawkey Way in Boston.
Until 2015, nobody in the big leagues paid much attention to Colabello, including the Red Sox. However, once the Blue Jays gave him the opportunity, Colabello made Boston and the rest of Major League Baseball take notice.
Colabello’s slash line for the regular season was .321/.367/.520 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 101 games and 360 plate appearances. It was a heck of a lot better than last season’s .229/.282/.380 in 220 plate appearances for the Twins. The 6’4″, 235-pound righty bat and arm seemed like just another body for the Blue Jays to throw onto the field to cover for their big hitter Edwin Encarnacion at first base.
His bat, on the other hand, spoke volumes of his study of the game.
This Massachusetts man has matured like a fine wine by getting better with age, to the delight of the Blue Jays’ palette. Even in this postseason, Colabello has been an important bat to help Mount Crushmore of Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Encarnacion keep the pressure on opposing pitchers. Colabello, himself, has hit .290 with a homer and two RBIs, helping the Blue Jays stay alive this week against the Kansas City Royals.
Jun 14, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello (15) signs autographs for young fans prior to the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Imagine if the Red Sox would have even sniffed an opportunity to bring one of their own into the fold?
In five career games in Fenway Park, a small sample-size to be sure, Colabello has hit .400/.478/.600 with a home run and six RBIs in 23 plate appearances. In fact, other than the .240 batting average against the Tampa Bay Rays, Colabello has hit every other team in the American League East division above .400.
Not one of the four first basemen for the Red Sox came close to matching him with his bat. Travis Shaw (.274), Hanley Ramirez (.249), Mike Napoli (.207), and Allen Craig (.152) each left significantly less of a mark on the Red Sox as Colabello has for the Blue Jays. Ramirez only moved to the position after the experiment in left field proved to be fool’s gold. Napoli hit so poorly that he was traded to the Texas Rangers. Craig couldn’t find his way back from Triple-A after some incredibly bad play. The only Red Sox player to even come close to Colabello was Shaw, both being paid much less than the rest of this first baseman list.
If Shaw would have been at third base, instead of the bust of Pablo Sandoval, and Colabello did the same for designated hitter David Ortiz in Boston as he currently does for Encarnacion in Toronto, the Red Sox infield may not have been so shaky. Picture it: Colabello at first base, All-Star utility man Brock Holt at second base, the rising star Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, and Shaw at third base would have looked pretty intimidating, both offensively and defensively. A group of sure-handed players who can also hit the baseball well.
Yet, while it’s nice to dream, it’s not to be. Colabello isn’t going to be a free agent for a long time, especially now that the Jays see the talent that he can bring to the team. But sometimes it’s nice to envision our indulgences and think about what could have been. In this case, Red Sox Nation would have thought it nice to see a hometown hero like Colabello wearing the red and white of the Red Sox, instead of the stark blue and white of the Blue Jays. The people of Massachusetts may not want to cheer for a division rival in the playoffs, but they can at least raise a glass or tip their caps to the success of one of their own, even from afar.
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