Riding Off Into the Sunset: 2015 American Association MVP, Saints Catcher Vinny DiFazio RetiresST. PAUL, MN January 31, 2017
The greatest season in St. Paul Saints history included one of the great individual seasons in the franchises 24-year history. Catcher Vinny DiFazio put up mind boggling numbers during the 2015 season that earned him American Association Player of the Year honors. The leader of that historic 74-26 team, DiFazio, is retiring after a seven year career.
The 30-year-old DiFazio was rewarded for his incredible 2015 season by having his contract purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. Battling injury and limited playing time he hit .233 with four RBI in 19 games in 2016. He played 15 games at Double-A Tulsa and four games at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He joined the Saints for the final two weeks of the season last year, and the playoffs, and hit .222 with two RBI in 15 games.
In 2015 DiFazio was one of the most feared hitters in the league with the Saints. He put up Triple Crown type numbers finishing the year hitting .361 with 17 homers and 82 RBI. In 321 at bats he scored 70 runs, slugged 19 doubles, two triples, while posting a .467 on base percentage and .592 slugging percentage. DiFazio led the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The Hampton, New Jersey native’s 82 RBI were tied for first, with his teammate Angelo Songco, and tied for the most all-time in a single season in Saints history (also with Songco). DiFazio’s 17 home runs were tied for third in the league.
“I had such a great run with the organization and it was probably one of the best years of my life,” said DiFazio. “My time in St. Paul was tremendous, not just from a baseball perspective, but from a life perspective.”
DiFazio twice went on 12-game hitting streaks over the course of the season, one from June 10-23, which included 11 multi-hit games in a row, and another stretch from July 31-August 12. Perhaps the most impressive stretch for DiFazio came when he was named the Player of the Month for June after hitting .393 with seven home runs and 27 RBI in 22 games. In 89 at bats he scored 20 runs, roped four doubles, one triple, had an on base percentage of .449, a .697 slugging percentage and a 1.146 OPS over that span.
Behind the plate, DiFazio worked with a Saints pitching staff that was second in the league in ERA and set a franchise record for lowest ERA in its history at 3.24, while having four 10 game winners, becoming the second team to accomplish the feat in league history (Sioux City would also wind up with four 10 game winners becoming the third franchise to do it).
During the 2015 season DiFazio could have filled an entire shelf with the accolades he received. Along with the Player of the Year and June Player of the Month honors he was also named to the Post-Season All-Star Team, at catcher, and received the Player of the Week Award for the week of June 15-21.
DiFazio became the first St. Paul Saint to be named American Association Player of the Year and the second in team history to earn the top honors in any league. Third baseman Vince Castaldo was the last Saint to be awarded top individual honors when he was named the Northern League MVP in 1994.
“I really loved having Vinny with us,” said Saints manager George Tsamis. “He has been a great teammate and he will definitely be missed. He is a great person and definitely somebody you want on your team.”
After spending four seasons in the Texas Rangers farm system, DiFazio joined the Saints at the end of the 2014 season after being granted his release by the Grand Prairie AirHogs in the American Association.
DiFazio was originally selected in the 46th round of the 2006 June First Year Player Draft by the Baltimore Orioles out of Indian River Community College (Fort Pierce, FL), but elected not to sign. He helped his draft status by going to the University of Alabama and was selected in the 12th round by the Texas Rangers in 2009.
In his first season DiFazio was selected to the Northwest League Post-Season All-Star Team while having a solid inaugural campaign hitting .274 with seven homers and 29 RBI with the Spokane Indians. He was promoted and finished the year at Single-A Hickory and hit .290 with five homers and 17 RBI in 18 games.
In 2010 DiFazio dealt with a torn oblique muscle after beginning the season at Hickory. He worked his way back after rehabbing in the Arizona League and eventually reached High-A Bakersfield. Between the three stops he hit .275 with 12 homers and 37 RBI in 59 games.
DiFazio spent both 2011 and 2012 at High-A Myrtle Beach before missing all of 2013.
The 2017 Saints season begins on Thursday, May 18 at CHS Field against the Gary SouthShore Railcats at 7:05 p.m.