Former Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello is trying to mount a comeback with the Cleveland Indians after serving an 80-game PED suspension.
Every major league player’s road to the show is unique, but Chris Colabello has had one of the more interesting rides in recent memory.
A former Division II player, he went undrafted out of college. Unwilling to give up on his dream, he played independent baseball for the Worcester Tornadoes of the Can-Am League for seven years.
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Finally, in 2012, at the age of 28, he signed with a major league team, the Minnesota Twins, and was assigned to AA. He impressed in his first season, hitting .284 with 19 HR and 98 RBI for the New Britain Rock Cats, and was even better the next year at AAA.
Soon enough he got the call to the big club, realizing a dream nearly a decade in the making.
In 2014 he made the Opening Day starting lineup for the Twins and would reward them by collecting 27 RBI in his first 23 games, breaking the franchise record for most RBI in the month of April set by Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.
It looked as though Colabello had finally made it, but a thumb injury put his big break on hold. Finally in the majors, and doing well, he refused to sit out, and his numbers suffered drastically as a result, finishing the season with a .229 average.
What appeared to be Colabello’s big break at the start of 2014, however, would turn out to be merely a glimpse of his true break, which would take place the following season with the Toronto Blue Jays.
After posting a slash line of .337/.421/.554 in 23 games with AAA Buffalo, Colabello got another crack at the big leagues, and he wouldn’t let it slip away this time. In 101 games, he hit .321 with 15 HR and 54 RBI, helping Toronto win the AL East title for the first time in over two decades.
But in 2016, Colabello’s roller coaster ride in professional baseball hit another dip—one that he has yet to ascend from.
On April 22, just weeks into his second season with the Jays, it was announced that he had tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance called dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, also known as Oral Turinabol, an androgenic-anabolic steroid more commonly associated with East German Olympians, now supposedly making a comeback in American sports (rookie Phillies pitcher Daniel Stumpf also tested positive for the substance, as did UFC fighter Frank Mir).
Since day one, Colabello has firmly denied taking the drug, making himself as unambiguous as possible in an interview with Jamie Campbell of Sportsnet: “I would never, have never, will never compromise the integrity of baseball — ever — in my life… I don’t do it. I haven’t done it. I won’t do it.”
Whether he did it or not is beside the point now. Colabello vowed to find answers as to how he could have tested positive, but the damage has already been done. He sat out 80 games, was sent down to the minors, and is now back to where he was a few years ago: fighting for a spot on a major league team.
It won’t be easy, either. He’s now 33 years old and coming off a rough season. After serving his suspension, Colabello struggled in the minors, hitting just .180 in 40 games at AAA. Before his suspension, he went 2-for-29 with the Jays.
But the ride’s not over just yet. On December 20, he signed a minor league deal, which includes an invitation to Spring Training, with the Cleveland Indians. The odds are against him, no doubt, but then again they have been for most of his career.
But before he attempts to make his MLB comeback, Colabello will play in the World Baseball Classic in March. Having spent part of his childhood in Rimini, Italy while his father played in the Italian Baseball League, Chris will be representing the Azzurri.
This marks his second trip to the WBC. In 2013, he led Italy in hitting, going 6-for-18 with a pair of home runs and seven runs batted in.