By Matt Noonan
WORCESTER, MA – Worcester Tornadoes catcher Chris Torres loves the game of baseball.
The 29-year-old Florida native, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, (2005) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2001) in the MLB Amateur Draft, is focused on doing whatever it takes to earn a spot on a big league roster.
Torres has appeared in six games this season and has recorded five hits, two home runs, and three RBIs. He’s hopeful that he’ll play in a majority of games this season, too, but again, is just focused on improving every single day.
Here is our conversation with the veteran catcher on the season thus far.
For the third consecutive year you’re playing for a Massachusetts independent baseball team. How’s it feel to be back in the Bay State, and how’s the season going thus far?
“It feels good. It’s a good organization; they’re doing things right, everything’s going in the right direction, and [it’s] a great group of guys. I couldn’t ask for a better position to be in, [but hopefully I’ll] get more playing time and I think it’ll work out itself as I keep doing better.”
This past Wednesday against Newark, you hit a walk-off home run to conclude a suspended contest. What’d you see on that particular pitch?
“I saw a 91 mph fastball and I said, ‘I’m going to hit it because I like them’ and it happened to go out [of the ballpark]. It’s just hard work pays off.”
From a veteran perspective, how have you helped some of the younger players progress over these past few weeks?
“We’ve got a young guy named J.B. Brown, a good guy and good hitter. [I’m helping him] work on his swings just a little bit, and just how he relates to the other guys. [These young guys] come out of college or right out of pro ball, and you figure out that we’re all in this together and there’s no need for [showboating]. Then you’ve got Tony Patane, who’s a great dude, great kid, working hard. I think [these young guys] just kind of latch to us [veterans], hang out and they learn stuff. They’re all good kids, good guys.”
What’s your relationship like with manager Chip Plante? How has he helped you or the team thus far?
“Chip’s awesome. Chip is a good manager. He gets into it just like he’s a player and I like that. He’s got a fire in him, he wants to win, he’s out there to win, he gets fired up, and I love when he gets fired up [because] we’re all here to win. At the end of the day, we all want to get a championship here in Worcester, and get some rings.”
Are there any parallels between this team and the Pittsfield Colonials?
“That was a special team, [and] it was a great group of guys. It’s good because the same chemistry is here with the Tornadoes, and we’ve just got to put that product that we believe in on the field. It’s going to come [because] I’ve never seen a team that started out in the beginning of the year blowing people up and ending the year blowing people up in the World Series. It’s usually that team that gets hot at the right time, so I think we’re going to figure it out, and we’re going to be a dangerous team.”
Excluding some of the rookies and younger players, which you mentioned above, who’re some other players to watch as the season progresses?
“Johnny Welch, who’s about to heat up. You’ve got Brandon Kelliher; he’s going to heat it up. Obviously, Nick Salotti, who started off a little slow, but that homer on Thursday is going to get him going. Alex Trezza, he always hits .300 and 15 homers [per season], and you can write it down because it’s going to happen, so once guys figure it out, we’re going to be rolling.”
What’s an average game day like for an independent baseball player? What’re things you do to prepare yourself for a game?
“Wake up at about 1PM, get some lunch, come to the field, bust out really hard work, we work hard, and we’re here from 2PM to 11PM, and people don’t realize that it’s not like we’re here for [a short period of time]. We take ground balls, I hit in the cage, then we hit again, we do our routine, and we shower, then we do our routine again, and we get ready for the game and then it’s an intense battle for two-to-three hours, even more sometimes, and then we wake up and do it again the next day, so it’s pretty intense.”
What’s it like playing with Jose Canseco? How has his MLB experiences helped you as a player?
“He’s got a lot of knowledge, and he gets a bad rap. Seeing him, hanging out with him every day, and listening to him, he’s like a gentle giant. He comes up; he talks to us about things and things he’s been through. He buys us [food], so he’s a really good guy, and he’s been helping. We’d like to see him hit a little bit more, but whatever he does, he’s good, he’s good [company].”
I have to ask you, what’s the deal with this new look? Are we ever going to see the Chris Torres from Pittsfield with a shaved head or Mohawk?
“I don’t know. We’re going to keep this [look] going because we’re hitting, but if the team doesn’t or if I feel like we need something to bring us together like we had the Mohawks in Pittsfield then we’re going to do it. Whatever it takes to bring us together to win, but yeah, I grew it out at home in Florida.”
Finally, what is the future for Chris Torres?
“Obviously, everyone on this field is playing to get back to organized ball in the big leagues, and if they’re telling you something else they’re lying, and that’s why I work hard and that’s why they all work hard because there’s still that in the back of my mind that is [my dream] kind of out of the loop, probably, but you never know [and] that’s why you put on a baseball uniform. [Excluding playing in the majors], I want to be around the game, and I either want to coach, work in the front office or [do] player development stuff or something. I’ll be around the game because I love it and can’t get away from it.”