Vinny DiFazio is having a season representative of the entire St. Paul Saints organization. The 2009 12th- round pick of the Texas Rangers entered Saturday leading the American Association with a .363 average, while he was tied for first with 82 RBI and tied for second with 17 home runs. As the Saints (72-25) surge toward the playoffs, DiFazio, a catcher, chatted with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand:
Q This has been a monster year for you personally, one season after you hit .242. Where did this season come from?
A In the offseason I did a lot of work. I've always had the work ethic when it comes to physical activity — always been in the cage, catching bullpens, getting in the weight room. But I think the real change for me is that I'm really into spirituality and the power of positivity and staying positive. Sometimes when you're in this game as a professional, you lose the fun of it. It's a game of failure, and you're going to fail. Dealing with that failure is one of the most important parts of being a baseball player. … This offseason I really had a lot of alone time to contemplate some things. I wanted to look at my life and how I could make changes. One of the biggest things is I was too hard on myself. Once I started trying to relax and meditating, living in the moment, things changed. … The other thing is that it's a lot easier to have a great year when you're surrounded by teammates like this.
Q You guys are winning basically three of every four games. I can't imagine you've been around a team like that before. What has that been like?
A Never with this kind of chemistry. From Day 1, we knew we had something special. We all bonded together and have a great work ethic. We all want to win, and everyone is pulling for each other.
Q You got to St. Paul last year so you got a taste of Midway Stadium and now the new CHS Field. How do you compare and contrast those experiences?
A Atmosphere-wise, I liked Midway, too. That's been great both places. But really there's no comparison. The playing surface, the batting cages, the locker rooms here, it's on the Major League level. It's a true blessing to be able to play here. I love the city of St. Paul, and being right in the city is a great feel. Just walking around getting to know people here, it's been unbelievable.
Q You had a bunch of stops in the minor leagues. What's your quintessential minor league story?
A We used to have this thing called Just In Case, JIC. During spring training, they take a couple of guys who aren't in the big league camp and bring them over for a game and have that experience. If everyone on the field gets hurt, you'll have to go in the game — that's why you're the Just In Case guys. Really it's an honor because it's a day off. This was in my very first year with the Rangers organization, right out of college. You get to hang out with the big league club, take the big league bus ride, get the big league food spread. All the sudden I'm warming up the pitcher in a big league [spring] game, sitting next to Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre, they're telling jokes just like I tell jokes. It was an amazing experience I'll never forget.