Sinisi, Stansberry find form in Portland

There is no doubt that Kevin Towers and the Padres Organization were expecting big things from Vincent Sinisi and Craig Stansberry when they made the ex-Rice Owls teammates again on the Portland Beavers roster. After all, the two players have come from a winning tradition that isn't seen often in the game.

The last time Stansberry and Sinisi were playing together, they were batting two and three on the Rice Owls' 2003 squad that won a College World Series. Prior to that, Vincent Sinisi had won a Texas high school championship, and Craig Stansberry had won a NJCAA national championship in 2001 while playing for North Central Texas junior college. The two, raised in Texas, have performed at that winning level through the first two and a half months of this season and aim to win another championship together soon at the next level.

Sinisi, who was traded to the Padres last year, hadn't put up the numbers they saw in his potential since he was stricken with life threatening infections following arm surgeries in ----2004. But, Grady Fuson, vice president of scouting and player development for the Padres, was with Texas when the team made him a second-round selection in 2003, and was aware of his ability. The injury kept him out of the game for nearly a year, as he went through rigorous rehabilitations to bring his arm back to strength and his game back to par. Stansberry was picked up on waivers in the off-season after spending his first three seasons in professional baseball with the Pirates organization, where he hadn't hit over .260 since moving up from single-A ball.

Playing together for the first time since the two assisted each other in making the final out in the World Series clincher, the two are each putting up arguably the best numbers of their professional careers and have ranked among the best in the Pacific Coast League in many offensive categories. Sinisi's 86 hits rank in the top five in the PCL and his .320 batting average ranks in the top ten. Stansberry, hitting over .300, has kept his on base percentage around .400 all season and his 23 doubles is one shy of the league lead.

After their 2003 college season, both got drafted. The Pirates in the fifth round drafted Stansberry, and the Rangers chose Sinisi. After going their separate ways, the two stayed in touch and would get together when their respected teams were playing nearby. Sinisi, who played 102 games last season in Double-A Mobile with the Padres organization, called Stansberry as soon as he learned the Padres had picked him up.

"I was very excited when I heard that he came over," said Sinisi. "I gave him a call and in spring training we hooked up and reunited. And from there, when we figured out where we were going, we decided we were going to be roommates."

"It's good," said Sinisi, in regards to playing with an old teammate and friend. "It's always good to play on teams with guys you know and [have] played with before. You know how they play and their antics, that kind of stuff. For him, coming to a new organization, I did that last year, and going into it knowing that you know a few players and guys you've played with before makes it a lot easier."

"Yeah, that's always nice," said Stansberry, about having a familiar face on his new team. "To have known somebody that you played with for a full year in college and know that well." Stansberry has also attributed much of his success to his consistent approach at the plate and not becoming distracted.

The organization change has been smooth for Stansberry, to say the least. After batting a career low .223 in Triple-A last season for Indianapolis, Stansberry has been a dominating force in the Beavers lineup since the start. He's batting close to .400 with runners in scoring position, including a .750 average with the bases loaded.

Sinisi has come into true form this season as well. He finished last season strong, as his strength came back and his pure, lefty swing found its path. Sinisi has been a consistent threat to opposing teams day after day. Along with his 86 hits, Sinisi has smacked nine home runs this season, already a personal best in his professional career.

"When you got guys hitting around you like Stansberry it makes it a little easier to see some good pitches and get good pitches to hit," said Sinisi.

"They just go about their business and they do their individual things that they need to get ready," said manager Rick Renteria. "Then they just go out and play."

Sinisi and Stansberry have quietly asserted themselves as leaders on the field for the Beavers, leading the team in hits, RBIs, extra-base hits, total bases and runs scored this season. Stansberry also leads the team in walks.

"They've had some success," Renteria said, about their current and past successes in the game. "So that confidence that they carry with them is a big part of units that have done well and gives them a sense of being able to go out there with some purpose and have an idea of what they want to do, and to continue to have goals that they try to attain."

Both, Sinisi and Stansberry attribute much of their success to the players around them and the team as a whole. Saying that success at any level comes when each player contributes to the team as a whole.

Renteria agrees: "What it boils down to is some players go out and prepare to do what they need to do, and they try to play the game the right way. They become a component of the whole club and their individual performances are co-mingled with the performances of everybody else because the reality is that one player can't win it for you. You need a whole lot of guys and a whole lot of things coming together for championships or success to have a chance because there is no guarantee. It's just about being able to go out there, playing together as a club, picking each other up. Chemistry has a lot to do with it; personalities have a lot to do with it."

It's tough to say if there is an innate ability in some players to win championships, but there is no doubt that team chemistry and personality is a big part of developing that extra drive to win it all. Look at the New York Yankees teams of late, with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, and now, Johnny Damon. One can argue that those players are among the best baseball players in the Majors, yet, as teammates, they can't win a championship.

The reason could be a lack of gelling and team personality. Sinisi and Stansberry, both good friends, also have said how they get together with their ex-Owl teammates whenever possible. "We were a real close team, we were all friends," Stansberry said.

It could be players like Sinisi and Stansberry that make up that essential part of a winning team, the way they go about their business and do the necessary things to win ball games; getting those clutch hits or runs on the field, and gelling with their teammates in the clubhouse.

Keeping a light-hearted atmosphere in the clubhouse, Stansberry admitted to a healthy competition between Sinisi and himself. "There hasn't been any banter back and forth yet, but, there might be some later on as the season comes to a close, if we're close to each other in average or something like that. It'll probably get to a point where we'll have some fun with it."

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