Rainiers’ infielder Vinnie Catricala was drafted by the Mariners in 2009. He has risen through Seattle’s minor league system quickly, making his Triple-A debut this spring. As of June 11 he has played in all but five games, all at third base, and is tied for second on the team with 13 doubles. He sat down recently with Tacoma Weekly baseball writer Karen Westeen to talk about his professional career and his plans for the future.
TW: You were born in Sacramento. Do you still live there?
VC: My girlfriend and I live in Orangevale, just north of Sacramento.
TW: After you graduated from high school in 2006 you attended the University of Hawai’i for three years. What was your major?
VC: Speech and communications.
TW: You were drafted in 2009, before you finished college. How close are you to finishing and would you go back to the U of H?
VC: I have about one semester to complete. My schooling is paid for in Hawai’i, but there is a higher cost of living there, so maybe I could do some online or transfer credits to Sacramento State. Then I’d have to see what won’t transfer and what I might have to retake.
TW: Where were you on draft day?
VC: I was at home in my room relaxing and wondering what round I’d go in. I knew it wouldn’t be on the first day so I watched to see if I knew anybody who was picked then. On the second day, my heart’s beating a little bit but I tried to not listen, then my mom screamed first. I didn’t think about it until it happened. I had no inkling it would be the Mariners.
TW: Had you travelled much around the country before you signed?
VC: Pretty much on the West Coast, sometimes to Arizona. We had a tourney in Minnesota one year, and Louisiana Tech was in our conference so we played there every other year.
TW: Where did you start playing professionally?
VC: First year I went to Pulaski, Virginia, then in 2010 to Clinton, Iowa. Last year I played in High Desert, California and Jackson, Tennessee.
TW: Since coming here at the start of the season you have played just third base, but you have played other infield positions and some outfield. What is your natural position?
VC: Third base. This is the first time I’ve played nothing else since I started pro ball. I was a shortstop growing up, and it’s been a while since I’ve been on third. I can see I’m getting better here.
TW: This year you are working with a new hitting coach, Jeff Pentland. What has he taught you?
VC: He’s taught me a lot about my hitting mechanics, and what goes into a big-league swing. He’s here to make us into big-league hitters, and to help us understand the game. He’s definitely got the resume. I’m having to learn to adjust, since so far my hitting is not going my way, so I have to learn from my failures.
TW: Is there someone who works with you on your fielding?
VC: (Manager) Daren Brown hits us ground balls, and we have roving fielding coaches who come through. The emphasis is on me to get my work done so I can get better.
TW: How much time does it take to incorporate their suggestions into how you play?
VC: It all depends. If I feel it’s useful to me I’ll implement it but you can’t expect results right away. You have to take everything with a grain of salt, some things work for you, when I try them out. Those that don’t I store away because they may work later. I’m soaking it all in and applying whatever I need to the given situation.
TW: How long does it take you to get used to playing with the guys next to you at shortstop?
VC: I played with Carlos Triunfel last year. I know where he is, he communicates with his positioning pre-pitch. Luis Rodriguez is a veteran who has been there his entire life so I kind of go off what he does. Right now I’m learning. Later I’ll be the one who makes adjustments to a younger guy.
TW: How does this stadium fit your style of hitting and fielding?
VC: This is a great ballpark (for hitting). It’s short down the lines and big in center. I have no complaints about fielding here.
TW: Do you think you contribute more to the team with your offense or your defense?
VC: I’ve always been an offensive player, defense came second. Now I’m defensively better than I am offensively but hitting will come back. If I’m not hitting I like to take away as many hits from the opposition as I can. (As of June 11, Catricala was hitting .215. His career average is .322).
TW: What have been the highlights of your career so far?
VC: Having the opportunity to play at the U of H, getting drafted, and last year was a really good year for me. I was promoted to Double-A and won the Mariners’ minor league player of the year (.349 BA, 48 doubles, 106 RBI), which was one of the bigger moments in my career, but it’s not the end, or the last moment. Each experience has opened new doors for my career.
TW: How do you stay in shape during the offseason?
VC: I have one guy who has been training baseball and basketball players his entire life. I’ve been with him for two years now. When I’m in town he goes to games, we text, he follows me during the season to be sure I’m staying strong.
TW: When you have free time what do you like to do?
VC: Like most guys my age I play video games, and I don’t like being cooped up. This offseason I’m going to pick up bow hunting. I want to start practicing with it in the next couple of weeks. And of course I spend time working out, trying to get better, recharge the batteries.
TW: Did you have a player that was a role model for you when you were growing up?
VC: Growing up in the Bay Area I was an Oakland As’ fan. I loved watching Eric Chavez play at third base.
TW: Has your family been here to see you play?
VC: It’s expensive to come here so there’s no point, since they can see me in Reno, Fresno and Sacramento. My girlfriend might come up at the end of the season and drive back with me.
TW: Any thoughts as to what you might do once your playing days are over?
VC: Maybe broadcasting. I can’t see myself sitting behind a desk. I’ve got to be out doing something, like a firefighter where every day’s an adventure. Here every day is an adventure. I’ve been doing this my entire life since I started playing with a big Fischer Price bat when I was 5. I’ll see where this all takes me. Once it’s all said and done then it’s time to make some decisions.
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