Chris Colabello has always been able to hit, from his days on the Milford Post 59 squad that advanced to the American Legion World Series in 2001, to his four seasons at Assumption College, where he finished with a .359 career batting average.
Or the last seven seasons in the independent Can-Am League, including last summer with the Worcester Tornadoes, when the 6-foot-4, 225-pound first baseman earned league Player of the Year honors after he finished second in average (.348), home runs (20), and RBIs (79) while playing all 92 games.
At 28, Colabello has earned an invitation to spring training with the Minnesota Twins, with an opportunity to play at the Double A level.
“They need a Double A first baseman and I hope I can be that guy,’’ said Colabello, who was also honored last season by Baseball America as the Independent League Player of the Year.
He was referred to player agent Brian Charles, president of the New York City-based Big League Management Company, by a mutual friend, Harvard assistant coach John Birtwell.
“I was fortunate to have Brian take me on,’’ said Colabello, who recently worked out for a Twins’ scout at the Milford Sports Center. He has worked youth clinics at the facility for Rich Gedman, his former manager for the Tornadoes who is now a hitting instructor in the Red Sox organization.
Two days later, on Feb. 2, the Twins invited Colabello to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.
“He keeps putting up good numbers every year and he has a shot to do really well,’’ said Charles, who specializes in representing players projected as free agents or late-round draft picks.
Colabello said he has received great support throughout his journey from a number of individuals, from his father, Lou, who pitched for the only University of Massachusetts team to make the College World Series, to Gedman, current Tornadoes manager Chip LaPlante, and Bob Tewksbary, who has a training facility in New Hampshire.
A third baseman at Milford High, Colabello said the key to survival as a professional is to “show up every day and be the best player you can and have that same attitude every day after that.
“Getting a shot at my age is an interesting perspective: I may be considered old at the minor league level, but a 28-year-old major leaguer is usually hitting his prime. I like to think I’m starting to peak at the right time.’’
In 2006, Colabello was a late cut in spring training by the Detroit Tigers. He concedes that at the time, he was a bit naive, and not quite ready for the experience.
He rejoined the Tornadoes and has never hit below .300 in the Can-Am League, whose teams are not affiliated with Major League franchises.
What separates Colabello from other independent leaguers making the jump to affiliated baseball is that most have had AA or AAA experience and are somewhat of a known commodity.
“So I’m a bit unusual, but very grateful,’’ said Colabello, who played on Can-Am championship teams in Nashua and with the Tornadoes.
Colabello said his father has been a great role model.
“He says give him a month to get in shape and he can still get me out,’’ said his son. “Dad taught me to be a pro before I became a pro. He told me to let my ability speak for itself.’’
Colabello, who bats and throws righthanded, will leave for Fort Myers Feb. 26 and report officially on March 5.
And if his tryout is successful, Colabello could play close to home - with the Twins AA affiliate in New Britain, Conn.
Thomas, Staley sweep for Stonehill
Stonehill College’s 1-2 high-jumping tandem of junior All-American Corey Thomas of Brookline and freshman Nicholas Staley of Medway swept the Northeast-10 Conference’s weekly field honors after last weekend’s Charley Torpey Memorial Invitational at the University of Rhode Island. Thomas automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships for the third straight year with his first-place leap of 7-feet, 0.25-inches. Staley captured NE-10 Rookie of the Week honors by placing second (6-10.25). Both are BC High graduates.
Skating teams reach nationals
Nine of 11 teams representing Lexington’s Hayden Recreation Centre earned medals at the 2012 Eastern Sectional Synchronized Skating Championships in Hershey, Pa., late last month. Seven will compete in the US Synchronized Skating National Championships in Worcester next month. The Star Mates, Hayden’s newest team, ranging in age from 14 to 17, won the gold medal in the intermediate division.
Team members include Stacey Gouker, Claudia Wittenberg, Hannah Kristin, Katie Melsky, and Rachel Sokolov of Lexington, Amanda Wang of Newton, Amanda Lombard of Needham, Eliana Marostica of Wellesley, Irene Lang of Weston, and Jilly Hughes of Brookline. A nationals send-off show will be held at the Hayden Recreation Centre Feb. 26 from 6-7:30 p.m. Admission is free.