WITH BASEBALL’S spring training set to begin, Saint RAY’S PRODUCT Chris Iannetta READIES FOR HIS 14th season in THE BIG LEAGUES.
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.
Iannetta will seek to build upon a 13-year
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”
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.
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.