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Big leaguer Colabello works his way back with Bisons

All he wants to do is play baseball.

That’s all he’s ever wanted to do. Chris Colabello remembers believing he would be a major league ballplayer when he was 3 years old.

No one believed him. But he kept playing and after seven years of Independent League ball, he got his shot, first with the Minnesota Twins, then the Toronto Blue Jays.

Then it all came crashing down. And there’s plenty of disbelief to go around.

There are people who don’t believe Colabello when the outfielder and first baseman said he doesn’t know how a performance-enhancing drug known as DHCMT or turinabol got into his system. He tested positive for the anabolic steroid and in April of this year was suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball, with his suspension scheduled to end July 23.

There’s disbelief from Colabello, too. How did this happen? He pulls up his shirt to the media gathered in the Buffalo Bisons dugout Monday afternoon. He describes it as an “old-man body” and goes on to talk about how much he hates lifting weights, how he puts in the minimal time needed in the gym and chooses instead to spend his time in the batting cage, working on his craft, as he calls it.

Colabello is still trying to figure out how he tested positive for turinabol. He vehemently states his innocence and has actively tried to find out what he may have ingested to cause the positive test. He needs to know why and how it happened, to avoid it in the future, and because, well, he just needs to know how his baseball journey ended up in this position.

Of course, Colabello has never had a magically easy baseball journey. His “overnight success” with the Blue Jays in 2015 came after years of toil in Independent League baseball, where his vocation cost him more money than he earned.

He began last season with the Bisons, batting .337 with five home runs and 18 runs batted in during April. Those numbers earned him a promotion to the Blue Jays, where he stayed for the season, batting .321 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs in 101 games.

Then came the positive test and the suspension.

Colabello spent nearly every day going to extended spring training on his own just to be in a game. Heck, he’d troll the streets of Florida looking for a pickup game while trying to move forward with his baseball life.

“Unless that time machine from ‘Back to the Future’ really does exist, you can’t turn the clock back and say ‘OK let me go try to handle that differently,’  ” Colabello joked. “You take a situation and whatever’s put in front of you, you can either fight or fold up.

“For me, I think the exciting part is just to be able to be out on the field and play. That’s all I want to do. There were times when I was like, man, I’d play in a men’s league if they let me. I’d see kids playing on the side of the road when I was driving and I’m like ‘Oh man, I think I can get in that game.’ That’s the nice part about it right now and ultimately what’s in the forefront of my mind.”

Colabello played five games for Class-A Dunedin and was added to the Bisons roster on Monday. He wasted little time making his presence felt, blasting a long home run to left-center field in the first inning of Monday night’s 11-8 loss against Norfolk.

Colabello was told he’d play five games in Buffalo – which would take him through the last day of his suspension. After that, there’s no established plan. It seems unlikely the Blue Jays will recall him, at least immediately. And while Colabello’s goal is to return to the major leagues, he’s happy right now to be back in baseball.

“At the end of the day that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do is at 7:05 be between the lines,” Colabello said. “People don’t believe me when I say that. You can take every dime I’ve ever earned. Take every dime I’m ever gonna earn and I’m still showing up tomorrow.

“I spent 32 years trying to get to where I was last year and establish that Chris Colabello is a Major League Baseball player,” he said. “People didn’t believe me for a long time. That’s OK. I proved them wrong.

“There are certain times I sit there and I’m like, ‘Is the road ever gonna just pave out for me and just let me play?’ I watch guys that have 10-year careers, but everybody’s got their problems, right? And they’re all different. I think that’s the thing that a lot of times individually we overlook. No matter who’s going out on this field tonight, everybody has a challenge. Everybody’s got problems, whether it be family or financial, off the field, on the field, like whatever it is, everybody’s got it.”

email: amoritz@buffnews.com

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