Chasing The Dream: The Vinnie Catricala Story and Interview
Vinnie Catricala: Quick Stats
Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 220 lb. Born: October 31, 1988 in Sacramento, California, US
Drafted: Seattle Mariners in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft
Favorite Player: Barry Bonds/Omar Vizquel
Chasing The Dream: The Vinnie Catricala Story
Vinnie Catricala has rose quickly through the Mariners system going from an under the radar prospect to the Mariners 2011 minor league player of the year. With spring training right around the corner, Catricala is prepared to enter his second major league camp. With a strong showing, 2013 could be the year Catricala makes his debut in the major leagues. In this installment of Chasing The Dream, we take a look at Catricala’s rise from a 50th rounder to being on the cusp of his big league debut.
After being selected by the Cleveland Indians with one of the final picks in the 2006 draft, (50th round) Catricala knew now wasn’t the time to start his professional career. The Jesuit High School slugger instead opted to go to college and walked on joining the University of Hawaii baseball team. As a member of the Rainbows baseball team, Catricala was a starter for almost his entire career at either 3rd base, 1st base, or designated hitter. In his junior campaign, Catricala hit for an impressive .349 batting average and slugged 13 home runs over the fences. Catricala’s 13 home runs were good for fourth-most in a season in the history of the program. His junior season performance set the stage for the 2009 draft. The once 50th round draft selection was drafted this time around in the 10th round by the Seattle Mariners.
Catricala quickly signed with the Mariners and saw plenty of action at 3rd base for the Pulaski Mariners of the Appalachian League. On the defensive side, the third baseman struggled on his transition from college, to the fields of the Appalachian League committing 12 errors in 125 chances. In 59 games with Pulaski, Catricala kept up his hot hitting finishing the year with a .301 average over the course of 219 at bats. The right-handed hitter showed some power, hitting 8 home runs while driving in 40 runners.
After a strong season with the bat in his first taste of professional baseball the Mariners promoted Catricala up to their Midwest League club, the Clinton Lumberkings. At Clinton, Catricala continued to impress with his bat. In his first full season of professional baseball, the right-handed slugger hit 17 home runs and drove in 79 runners. Besides home runs, Catricala also showed more potential to be an offensive weapon, hitting 41 doubles on the season and finishing with an OPS of .874. In the field the Mariners used Catricala in an array of positions. While he still saw time at 3rd base, the Mariners also moved him across the diamond to 1st base for 54 games. He also saw some time at each corner outfield spot. Overall, his fielding improved as he only committed ten errors during the entire season with Clinton.
Once again the Mariners promoted Catricala up a level in 2011, this time to High Desert of the California League. Known as a hitters haven, the California League was just that for Catricala. Playing in 71 games and amassing 282 at bats, Catricala tore the cover off the ball to a tune of a .351 batting average. He also hit 14 home runs and drove in 61 runners. After posting numbers like that, hitters haven or not, Catricala was promoted to AA. Playing the second half of the season in Jackson, Catricala never did cool down. In his 62 games with the Generals, Catricala hit .347 while hitting an additional 11 home runs. Over the course of his full season he hit 25 home runs, drove in 106 runners and had an OPS of 1.021. The Mariners continued to use Catricala all over the corners of the field as he saw a similar amount of time at 3rd, 1st and in left field. Though he did not have a permanent every day home in the field, Catricala’s bat made it a sure thing that he would be finding his name in the line up on an every day basis.
As 2011 wound down the Mariners named the right-handed hitter minor league player of the year. Over the course of 2011 a case could be made that he not only had one of the best offensive seasons in the Mariners system but he had one of the best offensive years in all of minor league baseball. Catricala was no longer an under the radar prospect who played his collegian ball in Hawaii. He was now ranked as one of the top prospects in the entire game of baseball. Entering 2012, The Mariners invited Catricala to take part in major league spring training. This would be Catricala’s first taste of major league camp. He would be able to learn from the professionals at the big league level and get instructions from the major league staff. Catricala would also get to face some of the games best in spring training action.
While 2012 started off great, his 2012 season at Tacoma in the Pacific Coast League will rank as Catricala’s worst statistically. While he continued to see time in the field all over the diamond, Catricala played the majority of his games at 3rd base. He struggled defensively committing 19 errors in 104 games at the hot corner. Normally steady with the bat, Catricala had never hit below .300 in his professional career. In 2012, while getting plenty of at bats (463), Catricala struggled only hitting .229. Though he still hit double digits in home runs with 10 and drove in 60 runners this was the first bump in the road for the rising star.
After the season ended Catricala got back to basics after being invited to play in the Arizona Fall League. The most important basic element Catricala got back to was simply having fun playing the game he has had fun playing since childhood. Catricala brought his batting averages back up to .279 during the fall league season, facing some of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Building off a successful stint in Arizona, Catricala received more good news last November. The Seattle Mariners added him to their 40-man roster and for the second consecutive season he would be a part of Mariners major league spring training.
With a year under his belt at the AAA level, Catricala has a lot to prove this year but if he keeps it simple and keeps having fun, it will be only a matter of time before he is on the field making his debut for the Mariners at SafeCo. Field. We will be sure to follow Catricala every step of the way, from spring training games to the last pitch of the regular season. Follow Vinnie on twitter @VinnieCatricala and follow-up for updates on all our featured players at @CTD_Sypien.
Seven Questions with Vinnie Catricala
1. You were drafted twice, what was it like being drafted each time? Where were you when you found out?
The first time I got drafted was more of a surprise, I didn’t expect it. I was on my senior trip and I thought it was a joke at first. I knew I wasn’t going to sign but what it did is helped open some doors for me and helped me get a spot walking on playing college baseball in Hawaii.
The second time was a bit more expected but I had a feeling that I would get selected. I was ready to play professional baseball and it was just a matter of who would give me the opportunity. I was actually at home listening to the draft on the radio while I was playing some video games. My mom also had the draft on her radio. I was pretty into the video game I was playing until I heard her scream! I stopped what I was doing and my mom was yelling (Oh My God! Oh My God!) My video game ended up being too loud to hear my name being called so she was the one who ended up letting me know.
2. You played your college baseball in Hawaii, What was that experience like? What kind of following does baseball have on the Island?
It was a really good experience, I was able to grow up when I was in college. I was on my own and in a place where I just couldn’t come home for the weekend if I wanted to. I became independent. Playing baseball was a blast, we had an awesome fan base. The fans really support what is on the island. Football, Basketball, and Baseball are really big college sports on the Island. Hawaiians are very prideful and really get behind the teams and players on the island.
3. What has been your most memorable moments of your career so far?
My 2011 season was a great season, it was the season that I put myself on the map and showed people what I am capable of. Going to fan fest with the Mariners will be something I also will never forget. They paraded me and a couple other young guys around Safeco Field. I had never been there so seeing it for the first time was really unbelievable. I didn’t realize how big it actually was.
4. You had an opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League, What was that experience like for you?
It was a lot of fun. It was really beneficial for me. I just came off a tough year and due to that did not have a whole lot of fun. I struggled so I went into the fall league to have fun. I felt like a kid again, it was a really good experience. I noticed I had a smile on my face. Baseball should be about having fun and enjoying what you’re doing.
5. In November you were added to the 40 man roster. How did you get the news and how did you feel?
I was in a classroom taking my hunters safety test. I wanted to get my hunting license. It’s one of those things they don’t tell you if and when its going to happen. You just kinda know when the last day is for them to make the moves. So I was taking my test and my phone started to vibrate and it kept vibrating. After a point I didn’t care about the test any longer I just needed to know. So I started filling in the answers as fast as I could. When I finally checked my phone it was a huge relief. One of my buddies who I played with texted me, he lives in Philly so I found out from him first and then the texts started pouring in.
6. Last season you were invited to Spring Training with the Mariners, what did you take away from that experience as you prepare for this upcoming season?
I was excited to go into spring training last year and get the opportunity to play with some of the big leaguers. I wanted to go in with the attitude of don’t get in anyones way and learn as much as I can. I wanted to be able to watch the guys who have been here, like Ichiro and watch the way they carry themselves on the good days and the bad days.
7. The last few seasons you have played a bit all over the diamond. What position is the most comfortable for you?
I’ve been playing third base since high school and I am most comfortable over there since I have the most experience over there. I am also pretty comfortable over at first base. They have a lot of similarities. You have more time at first and I’ve made some good plays over there.
A Few For Fun
1. Favorite baseball player growing up?
Barry Bonds, being from Northern California. It seemed that whenever Barry Bonds would be at the plate our whole family would just stop what they are doing and watch, first pitch to last pitch.
Omar Vizquel, I played shortstop growing up and I don’t think there was a guy that made great play after great play like he did.
2. Favorite non baseball athlete?
I’m a big football fan, huge 49’ers fan. I watch all the 49’ers game. I really like watching Patrick Willis and Frank Gore play. They have been really exciting to watch the last few years.
3. Any ideas what your at bat song will be in 2013?
I was actually thinking about that a couple of weeks ago. I was thinking about switching it up. I’ve had the same at bat song for a couple of years (Mark Morrison – Return of the Mac). If I don’t use it again I will always have the one still in the bag.
4. Who is the better bow hunter? (you or Tacoma teammate Steven Hensley?)
OH!!! He definitely has the experience on me! We had a few competitions up in Tacoma last year. I really got into it this past year. I’d have to go with him although I did make some really good shots and gave him a run for his money.
A special thanks to Vinnie Catricala for taking some time out of his day during the off-season to answer some questions. We look forward to following him all season long and into the future as he works his way towards his professional debut with the Mariners. Please give Vinnie a follow on twitter @VinnieCatricala and like us on Facebook and follow us on twitter @CTD_Sypien as we continue to feature and follow all of our featured players as they chase their way to the major leagues.
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