Q&A with Rangers 12th Round Pick Vin DiFazio

The Texas Rangers took Alabama catcher Vin DiFazio with their 12th round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft. DiFazio has already begun his professional career, batting .320 for the short-season Spokane Indians. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 23-year-old for a Q&A.

The Texas Rangers selected catcher Vin DiFazio with their 12th round pick in the 2009 MLB Draft.

A native of New Jersey, DiFazio spent one season at the University of Connecticut, one at Indian River Community College, and three at the University of Alabama.

DiFazio had an injury plagued career with the Tide that limited him to just a handful of appearances in his first two season. But the backstop finally became healthy in 2009, and he was Alabama's starting catcher. DiFazio batted .329 with 14 doubles and seven home runs in 140 at-bats.

The 23-year-old has already begun his professional career, playing with the short-season Spokane Indians. In his first 25 at-bats, DiFazio has eight hits, including two doubles and two round-trippers.

Lone Star Dugout chatted with the 6-foot-0, 215-pound DiFazio about the draft.

Jason Cole: First off, just tell me what it was like to be drafted by the Rangers.

Vin DiFazio: I knew I had a shot. I had talked to a bunch of teams. But the scout from Texas—Jeff—was talking to me a lot. I knew I had a chance to go pretty early with them. I was just hoping for the best. As a senior, you can just wish for an opportunity because you don't have much leverage room.

When my name showed up on the screen, I went crazy. It was just me and my mom, and as soon as it flashed up—I have a really tight Italian family—within about five minutes, they were all in my driveway celebrating. It was pretty exciting.

Cole: How much did you talk to Jeff Wood, your area scout, during your college season this year?

DiFazio: I think only twice. But my assistant coach, Dax Norris, he knows Jeff pretty well. They sent me a couple of questionnaires. They told me that the Rangers were pretty high up on me. I was excited.

They're an American League team. I can remember when the Ballpark in Arlington was built, I said, "Man, what I would give to play there one day." And now I'm going to have the opportunity to maybe make it come true.

Cole: You played with Tommy Hunter for a bit at Alabama. Are you friends with him?

DiFazio: Yes. I actually lost his number. I've got to get his number. But Tommy is a good friend of mine. When I came to Alabama, I got to know Tommy pretty well. He's a stud baseball player. Unfortunately I didn't get to catch him that year because I went through an injury, but I knew he was a future big leaguer.

It was funny because I remember specifically, him telling me right before he left, he said, "When you get healthy enough, watch. One day you're going to be catching me in the bigs." I started laughing and now that dream is a little closer to becoming true.

Cole: What's it like to already know somebody in the system going into it?

DiFazio: It's really exciting. It's always a little uncomfortable when you're going into a new situation and you've got to meet new people. But luckily I've been blessed with pretty good communication skills and people skills, so I've never had a problem making friends. Especially with teammates. This just eases it a little bit more.

I know Tommy and Austin Hyatt, a pitcher from my Alabama team, his brother is in Double-A with Texas right now. So if I get to that level, I'll know him as well. I'm pretty excited. It's always good to know people when you get somewhere. It helps you fit in.

Cole: Were you picked about where you were expecting to go in the draft?

DiFazio: It's a business. Baseball is a business. And with my injury past and being a senior and only really playing this year—coming back from the injury, scouts knew that I was healthy enough to play. I was just hoping and praying to God that they saw my potential.

I had a pretty good year. But the big thing was that I'm still trying to catch up with at-bats. I've only been playing completely healthy for about a year now. And I was just hoping that they'd see that. I really didn't know if I was going to go early. I really had no idea about it.

I had been drafted coming out of junior college, but I didn't know what to expect. I was just trusting in God and saying whatever happens, happens. Luckily God blessed me and my name came up on that screen and I flipped out.

Cole: You mentioned the injuries. You missed all of 2007 and almost all of 2008, right?

DiFazio: Right. I suffered a tear of the lateral meniscus in my right knee. It wasn't that big of a deal, but then, through that, I developed a really rare nerve reaction in my upper body that pretty much limited some mobility for a couple of months.

Then the big thing was, because it was rare, doctors didn't really know what it was at first. But then, when they finally diagnosed it as a form of neuritis, they realized that if I had the commitment and I was willing to focus on the rehab, I could make a comeback. You don't have to tell me twice. I busted my butt and God blessed me enough with the health to be able to come back and play again.

Cole: Did you have any injury troubles this year or were you finally 100 percent?

DiFazio: No injury problems this year. Last spring was when I got back to about 80 percent health. Then over the summer I became about 100. When I came to Alabama this past fall, I was ready to go. I was back to full health and I knew I had a shot. I played real well in the fall, I got the opportunity to start, and I made the most of my opportunity. Now I'm playing healthy and it's just an awesome experience. I'm just so excited that Texas picked me.

Cole: Tell me about your game as a hitter. Can you talk about your approach at the plate and what you're trying to do when you're up there?

DiFazio: In wood bat leagues, I've always been blessed with the ability to go the other way pretty well. I always try to stay inside the baseball and look for a good pitch to hit. Ted Williams, one of the greatest hitters of all time, always said you're only going to see one good pitch to hit per at-bat if it's a good pitcher. You can't miss it. So I try to find that pitch.

I think being a catcher helps me in a way because I'm pretty good at knowing pitchers' patterns. I just look for that pitch to drive and I don't try to do too much. When you start trying to hit home runs is when you start struggling. You hit line drives up the middle and sometimes they go out. You get a little out in front of one and get it on the good part of the bat, sometimes you're a little late on the ball, and you drive it over the right-center field wall.

I think with a wood bat, it's a different approach. Metal bats, I really wish that college would switch to wood. I really think it makes a lot of hitters think they can do more than they can. You get a jamshot with a metal bat and you can get a double out of it. If you get jammed with a wood bat, it's a broken bat and a dribbler to the pitcher. So the wood bat really humbles you and you have to stay within yourself and be as short as possible to do the ball with your swing and find that good pitch to hit.

Cole: I was reading through your bio at Alabama and it said you played your first game there in Frisco. I'm assuming that was at Dr Pepper Ballpark?

DiFazio: I believe it was, yes. That was last spring. As I said before, I was about 80 percent healthy. I wasn't really there strength-wise, and I really hadn't had as many at-bats because I had the surgery before that. That was a pretty sweet ballpark to play in. I was excited.

But it just gave me hope. I knew that if I could hit at that level, going through what I went through, I knew that if I worked hard and kept going that I'd be good enough to play on a consistent basis every day. I came in the next year, I worked out really hard, and I did it. I got the opportunity to come back and play and I think I took advantage of my opportunity.


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