MLB vet

WITH BASE­BALL’S spring train­ing set to be­gin, Saint RAY’S PROD­UCT Chris Ian­netta READ­IES FOR HIS 14th sea­son in THE BIG LEAGUES.

Woonsocket Call - - FRONT PAGE - By BREN­DAN McGAIR bm­c­[email protected]­tuck­et­

WAR­WICK — The fi­nal hit­ting ses­sion of the off­sea­son was in the books this past Fri­day morn­ing when Chris Ian­netta was handed a copy of the 2006 Base­ball Amer­ica Prospect Hand­book.

The point was to re­mind Ian­netta just how far he has come from the days when those in the al­leged know tabbed him as the sixth-best prospect in the en­tire Colorado Rock­ies or­ga­ni­za­tion. A 2001 grad­u­ate of St. Raphael Academy, Ian­netta looked over what had in­dus­try types buzzing about him, back when he was still climb­ing the mi­nor-league es­ca­la­tor.

In 2019,

Ian­netta will seek to build upon a 13-year

Ma­jor League

Base­ball ca­reer that’s seen him rack up plenty of fre­quent flyer miles and block count­less slid­ers and curve­balls in the dirt. He’s in his sec­ond stint with the Rock­ies, the same team that drafted him back in 2004 and with whom he broke into the ma­jors with as a 23-year-old.

Ian­netta doesn’t hide from the fact that he’s much closer to the fin­ish line than the be­gin­ning. In the same breath, he’s quick to note that he’s not even close ready to put a cap­per on his pro ball ride. He feels that still has plenty more to give be­yond 2019.

Still, to make it through 13 sea­sons, you can’t help but mar­vel at Ian­netta’s stay­ing power and un­bri­dled de­sire to keep on pulling along. In terms of Rhode Is­land na­tives and those who reached ma­jors in the post-World War II era, Davey Lopes en­joyed a play­ing ca­reer that spanned 16 sea­sons.

Maybe Ian­netta will end up match­ing Lopes. Maybe the for­mer SRA stand­out will sur­pass Lopes. Ei­ther way, some ap­pre­ci­a­tion ap­pears to be in order as Ian­netta pre­pares to tack another sea­son’s worth of sta­tis­tics to the back of his base­ball card.

“Any time you can play another base­ball sea­son, a Ma­jor League Base­ball sea­son, it’s re­ward­ing. I never thought it would be pos­si­ble to play this long,” said Ian­netta, who once again opted to keep his hit­ting and catch­ing skills sharp dur­ing the win­ter months at the Rhode Is­land Base­ball In­sti­tute. “It’s tough to leave fam­ily and friends, but it’s def­i­nitely one of those things that you don’t have the op­por­tu­nity to do for very long. You’ve got to take ad­van­tage of it and I’m look­ing for­ward to get­ting back with my team­mates and com­pet­ing.”

“Any time you play another base­ball sea­son, a Ma­jor League base­ball sea­son, it’s re­ward­ing. I never thought it would be pos­si­ble to play this long.” — Chris Ian­netta

In an ef­fort to em­pha­size the longevity that’s gone hand-in-hand with Ian­netta – with 1,145 ca­reer games en­ter­ing this sea­son, he should sur­pass 1,200 ca­reer games at some point – let’s ex­am­ine the MLB ca­reer of Ian Ste­wart, Base­ball Amer­ica’s 2006 choice as Colorado’s top prospect. Ste­wart lasted seven sea­sons, the fi­nal one in 2014.

Granted, Ian­netta’s pri­mary po­si­tion is more cov­eted within base­ball cir­cles, for catch­ers don’t ex­actly grow on trees. If you hap­pen to be one and demon­strate a trust­wor­thy qual­ity over an ex­ten­sive pe­riod of time, the odds are fa­vor­able when it comes to se­cur­ing work as you move through your 30s

“I’m just thank­ful that I keep on hav­ing the abil­ity to con­trib­ute to a ma­jor-league team and bring some­thing to the ta­ble,” he said.

Ian­netta turns 36 in April. On Mon­day, he’ll head to Scotts­dale, Ariz., the spring train­ing home of the Rock­ies. Even­tu­ally, there will come a mo­ment of deep in­tro­spec­tion where Ian­netta sits back and re­flects on what’s he’s ac­com­plished. Even with all the MLB ser­vice time un­der his belt, Ian­netta in 2019 is all about what lies ahead.

“When I’m done, I’ll think more about it,” he said, “but I feel very for­tu­nate to have one day of Ma­jor League Base­ball un­der my belt, let alone this be­ing my 14th sea­son. I’m very thank­ful.”

Ian­netta was asked if he’s thought about life af­ter base­ball, a fair ques­tion be­hoov­ing his MLB vet­eran sta­tus. As the co-founder of a Napa, Calif.-based win­ery, he has an out­side in­ter­est that keeps him plenty busy.

“I know I’ll con­tinue to try and make the wine thing work and keep work­ing to build that busi­ness,” Ian­netta said. “As for base­ball, we’ll see what op­por­tu­ni­ties present them­selves at the time, then I’ll be able to make an in­formed de­ci­sion. Right now, I’m fo­cused on play­ing, but there’s no way I can stay stag­nant for more than a while. I’ll def­i­nitely take a lit­tle time off to just kind of chill, but I’ll be heav­ily in­volved in some­thing, what­ever that may be.”

Jack Win­ery is the name of Ian­netta’s wine ad­ven­ture that’s done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ver­non Wells, a team­mate of Ian­netta’s while the pair spent two sea­sons to­gether with the Los An­ge­les An­gels.

“We’re still a young brand but we’re get­ting a lot of trac­tion and brand recog­ni­tion around (Napa Val­ley),” Ian­netta said. “Our re­views have been spec­tac­u­lar. One mag­a­zine gave us a 96-point rat­ing on our Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon. We’re ex­cited about that.”

At this stage of Ian­netta’s ca­reer, the off­sea­son rep­re­sents a fine balance be­tween get­ting the nec­es­sary work in but also lis­ten­ing to what your body tells you. What worked when he was 23 or 24 doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily trans­late now that he’s at 35.

“When you’re younger, you can throw a lot more stuff at your body. Now, it’s a lot more soft tis­sue and chi­ro­prac­tic work,” he said. “You work just as hard as you did when you’re younger. Now it’s about work­ing smarter.”

With just about ev­ery key pitcher back from a Colorado ball­club that in 2018 won the Na­tional League Wild Card Game be­fore fall­ing to the Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers in the Di­vi­sion Se­ries, Ian­netta won’t have to sweat out too much dur­ing spring train­ing.

“I’m not 23 and try­ing to make the team. It’s not like it’s my first bigleague camp. Now, it’s about do­ing X, Y and Z to get ready for the sea­son. That way when Open­ing Day rolls around, I’m ready to con­trib­ute right away,” Ian­netta said.

The Rock­ies hold a team op­tion for Ian­netta for the 2020 sea­son. As some­one with a seat on the ex­ec­u­tive sub­com­mit­tee of Ma­jor League Base­ball’s Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, he says it’s un­for­tu­nate that many of this off­sea­son’s top free agents re­main on the mar­ket as spring train­ing ap­proaches.

“There are teams out there that can com­pete by adding free agent tal­ent. To think that they’re not is kind of a dis­ser­vice to fans and the game,” Ian­netta said. “The play­ers are very united in look­ing to main­tain the com­pet­i­tive balance and in­tegrity of the game. We’re al­ways look­ing for ways to im­prove it.”

Ian­netta has two daugh­ters. One is eight while the youngest is age five. If there’s a down­side to de­part­ing for spring train­ing, it’s that the role of dayto-day fa­ther­hood gets tem­po­rar­ily placed on the back­burner.

“It’s get­ting harder and harder to leave, but you keep re­mind­ing your­self that this a very short win­dow and you’re do­ing this to sup­port them and their fu­ture,” Ian­netta said. “I’ll never com­plain about be­ing away but you def­i­nitely miss your kids. Thank good­ness for FaceTime”

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

The 2019 Ma­jor League Base­ball sea­son will mark Chris Ian­netta’s 14th sea­son at the game’s high­est level. A grad­u­ate of St. Raphael Acdemy, Ian­netta on Mon­day will be head­ing to Scotts­dale, Ariz., the spring train­ing home of the Colorado Rock­ies.

Photo by Ernest A. Brown

St. Raphael alum and 13-year Ma­jor League Base­ball vet­eran Chris Ian­netta is set to trade in New Eng­land’s win­try weather for some Ari­zona sun­shine.

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