Like any MLB Draft hopeful, Matt Colantonio patiently followed the coverage online Tuesday afternoon. The San Diego Padres were on the clock in the 22nd round when Matt’s father, Anthony, started yelling. He found out first that the Padres had selected the Brown University senior catcher with their pick.
Colantonio, 22, was a four-year letter winner at Chaminade High School in Mineola. He’s excited to embark on the next phase of his baseball career.
“I’m proud to say that all the work that I put in definitely paid off, and getting drafted is a product of all that work,” Colantonio tells the Press.
At Brown, the six-foot left-handed-hitting catcher from Garden City served as team captain his junior and senior seasons. This spring, he led the Bears with a .301 batting average, a .426 slugging percentage and a .424 on-base percentage.
Offensive-minded, left-handed hitting catchers are a rare commodity in baseball today, so Colantonio may have an edge in advancing through San Diego’s system. Still, he is prepared to keep working hard to fulfill his ultimate goal of playing in the big leagues.
Already possessing the ability to drive the ball into the gaps, Colantonio will look to improve his power numbers and focus on pulling the inside pitch. He understands that professional pitchers are not afraid to pitch inside, so he will have to make the necessary adjustments.
“The biggest thing that will help him is that he’s used to hitting good pitching,” says Brian Murphy, Brown University assistant baseball coach. “We’ve played some great competition, and he’s played a lot of summer ball where he’s faced a lot of good arms as well.”
Colantonio, a 2011 All-Ivy League Second Team selection, believes his draft value increased after two productive summers with the Amsterdam Mohawks in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. While there, he became comfortable hitting with wood bats—a necessity at the next level.
In addition to his hitting, Colantonio takes pride in his defensive abilities behind the dish (he throws right-handed). He threw out half of the attempted base stealers and served as the team’s vocal leader, which convinced professional scouts of his prowess for handling a pitching staff.
“I’m the kind of catcher that plays the game the right way,” says Colantonio. “I know situational baseball, and that’s how I play the game.”
Colantonio developed these tendencies by learning from Brown’s head coach, Marek Drabinski—a former catcher at the University of Connecticut who played two seasons in the Atlanta Braves farm system in the early 1990s. Drabinski gave Colantonio an important piece of advice that will stick with the young catcher for the duration of his career.
“He’s [Drabinski] a real believer that catcher is the most important position on the field,” says Colantonio.
Because he played all four years in college, Colantonio not only received a high-quality education but also gained the experience that should allow him to bypass the culture shock of professional baseball.
“He’s got the best of both worlds: He came here, finished and got a great degree, and he gets the opportunity to play professional baseball,” said Murphy.
“We’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve had three four-year starters at catcher in the last decade,” says Drabinski of Colantonio.
The next step for Colantonio will be heading to Phoenix, Arizona Friday for minicamp before likely being assigned to the Eugene Emeralds—the Padres short-season Single-A affiliate in Oregon.
Murphy left Colantonio with one final piece of advice: “You’ve got a great opportunity. Just make the most of it and play as long as you can.”