Colabello wins it for Jays, wakes up his pop

By Bob Elliott

The hard-working father awoke Friday morn at 4 AM and was off teach classes.

He only has three weeks until retirement and there’s no slacking now. Not ever and not in the home stretch.

He worked around the house when he returned home, waited through an hour rain delay, watched his son’s first at bat (a ground ball for the final out of the first) on Friday night and headed to bed. 

He told his wife Silvana and his sister Elizabeth he’d seen his son have 100s of at-bats. He’d watch the replay Saturday morn when he woke.

And then around midnight ...

“My wife and sister started screaming, I thought that the house was on fire.” said Lou Colabello on the phone Saturday afternoon from Milford, Mass. 

Lou was wide awake and made it to the TV just in time to see the replay of his son’s game-winning, two-run homer off Minnesota Twins closer Glenn Perkins in the top of the ninth. 

Chris Colabello’s drive had landed into the bullpen beyond the left-centre field fence when the “Go Jays Go!” chant started from the Jays fans from Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Then Twins fans began to boo.

Christopher Colabello does not know booing like his father knows booing.

Lou pitched in Italy for Derbigum Rimini from 1977-84 winning the Italian Series A title three times and losing in the final three times. He graduating from the University of Massachusetts, where he was two years ahead of former Blue Jay Mike Flanagan. (“We played American Legion ball against Mike’s New Hampshire team, Mike would pitch left-handed one day and play centre the next as a right-hander. He taught himself to throw right-handed so he could be an every day player,” said Lou.)

First time Rimini visited Nettuno, Lou looked out the bus to see shards of glass atop the outfield fence (higher than an outfielder could jump) so no would could climb up over it. “Neither team liked each other,” Lou explained. 

Nettuno fans once put a fake body clad in an orange and black Rimini jersey with the No. 26 on a pole, raised it during the game burned the image of catcher, a former Nettuno player, in effigy during the game.

“One night in there and this chant started how they were going to kill me, our owner pulled me in the seventh, I went into the clubhouse and they had seven policemen with guns surrounding the clubhouse,” said Lou.

He recalled another night he was in the middle of his wind up when a whisky bottle whizzed past him. Just a bit outside.

And then there was his trip to Dodger Stadium pitching for Italy in the 1984 Olympics and facing Team USA with the giant Diamond Vision board showing:

Luigi (Lou) Colabello
Born: Milford, Mass.

“Oh they booed me, all 55,000, they were calling me Benedict Arnold for not pitching for my country,” Lou said, who wasn’t asked by his own country. So, he climbed atop the mound to face the likes of future Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, plus future big leaguers Will Clark, Shane Mack, Oddibe McDowell, Mark McGwire, Cory Snyder and B. J. Surhoff.

Which is the tougher crowd Stadio Steno Borghese in Nettuno or Dodger Stadium?

“The 55,000 at Dodger Stadium were nosier, but the 5,000 in Nettuno was more dangerous,” he said. 

Now, Lou’d old team goes by the name of Telemarket Rimini ... ah there’s a chance that they might get booed this summer too. 

Lou officiates women’s college hoops in order to “run off his wife’s good cooking,” and mentioned he had pitched in the Olympics to another ref. The guy didn’t believe him, but found the box score on the inter net.

“He said at first glance he thought my ERA was 2.43 ... but really it was 243.00, they scored nine on me in the first,” said Lou, who retired only one man.

Russell Martin had walked to open the ninth bringing up Lou’s son Chris with the game tied. The book says bunt him over. Manager John Gibbons told Colabello to undo the top button of his jersey. He did.

“I was in Toronto and Chris said was hoping not to get caught up in emotions of going back to Minnesota,” Lou said. After seven years surviving in independent ball, Colabello was signed by the Twins in 2012. He played at double-A New Britain and triple-A Rochester with current Twins Aaron Hicks, Chris Herrmann, Eduardo Escobar and Kyle Gibson, Saturday afternoon’s starter.

“Chris bears no ill will towards Terry Ryan (general manager) and the Twins, but at the same time you want to feel good about yourself facing your old team,” said Lou. “He said to me last week ‘Dad I have five multi-millionaires ahead of me ... and dad, they’re all pulling for me.”

“I love the way the (Gibbons) backs up his players talking to the press.”

Lou Colabello, 65, has been around the block. He’s pitched. He’s coached (baseball, soccer and softball). He knows how difficult a game baseball is.

“I know he’s not going to hit .379 for the rest of the year, but one big contract ... that would be great. I’ll only take the first million,” he says with a laugh.

And what happens in three weeks when he retires and his teaching days are done as a career educator?

“Who knows what the future may be, but my plan is to hunker down in Toronto,” said proud papa Lou.

And watch his son hit the ball so far that it would be out of Dodger Stadium or Nettuno ... or the Rogers Centre. 

“My father wanted me to pitch in the majors, I know he’s looking down smiling,” said Lou. “I’ll be there for Father’s Day.”