View Full Version : Chris Denorfia article

03-15-2006, 06:04 AM

Local product trying to latch on with Reds
By DAVID BORGES, Journal Register News Service

FORT MYERS, Fla. --- Nothing has ever come easy for Chris Denorfia.

The Bristol native and Southington resident was largely passed over by Division 1 scouts coming out of Choate Rosemary Hall High. He landed at Division 3 Wheaton College, hardly a baseball factory: the former all-womenís school only went co-ed 16 years ago, didnít field a varsity baseball team until 1998 and currently competes in something called the New England Womenís and Menís Athletic Conference.

But Denorfia has always beaten the odds, and as the 25-year-old outfielder finds himself in his first-ever big league camp with the Cincinnati Reds, the odds are actually in his favor.

Denorfia is vying for a spot on the Redsí Opening Day roster, and it seems he has the inside track on making the cut as the teamís fourth or fifth outfielder.

"Thatís what heís fighting for," said Cincy manager Jerry Narron, "but I foresee him getting a lot of time in the big leagues this summer. Heís a good player."

In fact, the hard-nosed Denorfia is said to be a personal favorite of Narronís, making him the leader in the clubhouse to beat out non-roster invitees Dewayne Wise and Quinton McCracken for a roster spot.

"Heís a baseball player," Narron continued. "He plays hard, and he plays all-out every time on the field."

For his part, Denorfia is simply trying to let his game do the talking.

"You have to try to do that," he reasoned. "Thereís so much in this game you have absolutely no control over."

Denorfia has been the "Cal Ripken, Jr. of spring training," according to Narron, playing in as many games (12) and making more long bus trips than any Reds player. The results havenít been awe-inspiring -- .226 (7-for-31) with one extra-base hit and one RBI - but heís displayed his versatility, manning all three outfield spots and providing some highlight-reel defense.

"I think I was pressing a little bit at the beginning," Denorfia said, "but talking to some of the veteran guys, they kind of settled me down a little bit. They told me just to have fun and play the way I know I can play, and not worry about things you canít control."

The Cal Ripken, Jr. reference aside, Narron doesnít like comparing players to other players. But the popular comparison to make with Denorfia is Brady Clark, the former Red whoís now a .300-hitting outfielder for Milwaukee.

"If you can be compared to an everyday big-leaguer," said Denorfia, "thatís a good thing."

Denorfia put together a record-breaking career at Wheaton, amassing 264 hits and a .403 batting average over four seasons in the Lyonsí outfield. He became the schoolís first (and still only) player drafted by the majors in 2002 and quickly began his ascent up the Redsí minor-league chain.

Last season was a whirlwind 8 1/2 months that began in Chattanooga, apexed in Cincinnati with his first-ever trip to "The Show" as a September call-up and finally ended in November in the Arizona Fall League -- some 200 games after it began.

Between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville last year, Denorfia hit .317 with 20 homers, 87 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He earned the "Chief" Bender Award as Redsí Minor League Player of the Year, whose previous recipients include Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns.

Over the winter, Denorfiaís chances of winning a spot on the Opening Day roster got a boost when Sean Casey was traded to the Pirates, opening up first base for Dunn.

"There was a logjam, with four guys that were legitimate everyday players last year," said Denorfia. "With Casey getting traded and Dunn moving to first, that freed up a spot for an outfielder. Coming into this offseason, I knew I was going to have to be ready to play as soon as I got here. I was down in Florida most of the winter working out, trying to get off to a good start."

Itís possible that Dunn could be moved back to the outfield, however, as former Sox Scott Hatteberg has impressed at first this spring. Outfielders Kearns, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Willy Mo Pena are sure shots to crack the roster, though trades could still be made. And with veteran Tony Womack also in camp, Denorfia could start the season back in Louisville.

"There would definitely be a level of disappointment, but I know I still have a lot to learn and still have a lot of games to play," he said. "Iím still fairly young and Iíve got a good road ahead of me, hopefully. As long as I can just keep playing the way I am and keep making good impressions, thatís really all I can ask for right now."

Either way, heís a long way from Wheaton College right now.

"I really was blessed with getting involved with them and getting a chance to play there every day. My career definitely wouldnít be where it is if I had gone somewhere else. The situation worked out perfectly for me."

©The Bristol Press 2006

03-15-2006, 07:48 AM
"Heís a baseball player," Narron continued.

You learn something new everyday. Up until this article I thought Chris Denorfia was a football player.

03-15-2006, 10:25 AM
I thought the only thing that came out of Choate was presidents and bluebloods.

I didn't realize that Denorfia was from Southington. That's a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. Another reason to root for the guy. That and he's "a baseball player".

03-15-2006, 10:32 AM
You learn something new everyday. Up until this article I thought Chris Denorfia was a football player.Jerry must have the handbook for baseball cliches.

03-15-2006, 12:29 PM
It’s possible that Dunn could be moved back to the outfield, however, as former Sox Scott Hatteberg has impressed at first this spring.

Who said "I told you so" when Hatteberg was signed?

This would be a travesty because of the outfield situation, which supposedly was solved with the Sean Casey trade. Again, the vet would get the starting time and two of the young players (Kearns and Pena) would get their time cut in half (less than half with the other OFers on the bench also getting some playing time).

And, if this happens, Adam Dunn will say "that's ok", but deep down is it ok? He gave up playing in the WBC to work on 1B in ST. So far, it appears most of that work has been accomplished with non-game workouts as he's actually played 1B very little so far.

I really really hope this doesn't happen. It creates a domino effect that will only hinder the team. Once again, a plan gone astray... for Pete's sake!

03-15-2006, 12:40 PM
I don't think the reds can be trusted anymore to sign veteran backup players, because once the verteran backup arrives here management suddenly wants to start them.

Aurilia, Womack, Hatteberg--what's the point? What do the reds think they're accomplishing by running those guys out there on a regular basis over an Encarnacion, Loez, Pena or Kearns? Is it simply the name recognition factor? Why not sign Ricky Henderson and Lee Smith while they're at it?

03-15-2006, 02:05 PM
Who said "I told you so" when Hatteberg was signed?


When we traded Casey I wondered if we would go out and get a 1st baseman to replace him and keep the 4 headed OF:bang:

03-15-2006, 02:07 PM
One can't have enough scrappy veterans who know how to play the game. Too bad none of them can hit.

03-15-2006, 02:08 PM
You learn something new everyday. Up until this article I thought Chris Denorfia was a football player.
I was thinking field hockey with that name.

03-15-2006, 03:06 PM
I wouldn't read too much into it... I'm pretty sure the writer covers the Red Sox and probably just pulled the "Dunn back to LF?" out of someone else's article.