Friday, April 20, 2012

Flashback Friday: Frank Catalanotto's Six Hit Game

By
Image courtesy of NBC Sports
There was something in the air in the south side Chicago the evening on May 1st 2004. Maybe not everyone in the city felt it, but there was one person who definitely did: Frank Catalanotto of the Toronto Blue Jays.

For this week's Flashback Friday, we take a look back at the day history was made; the day when Frank Catalanotto set a Blue Jays franchise record for recording six hits in a single game on May 1st 2004.

Catalanotto must have eaten a big bowl of Wheaties for breakfast for that day, because on the tail-end of a double header against the Chicago White Sox, he went 6 for 6 with five singles and a double.

The man himself Frank Catalanotto was gracious enough to answer some questions about one of the best games at the plate ever for a Blue Jays hitter.

My first question ... do you remember what you ate for your pre-game meal? Was it anything different from your normal routine?
My pre-game meal was exactly what I ate every single day before a game. I had grilled chicken, fruit salad, some carrots, a bottle of water, and a bunch of almonds. I was a little superstitious when it came to that ... and I ate that every single game.
Pitchers are definitely creatures of habit when it comes to their game day routines. As a hitter, was there anything you did different before the game that might have attributed to the results?
I didn’t do anything different … it was just like any other day. I remember taking batting practice and I was hitting the ball good and seeing the ball well. After my first at bat, that’s when I realized I was really seeing the ball well out of the pitcher’s hand and I knew it was going to be a good day.
As the game progressed, were you aware that you were going for a franchise record?
I didn't realize that until after I had five hits. I remember I was in the dugout and I was just about ready to go on deck, and Vernon Wells and a couple of others said to me “Hey Cat, don’t screw it up!”.

Usually guys would keep something like that hush-hush, but guys like Vernon and Reed Johnson encouraged me not to screw it up.
I think the fact that your teammates alerted you to the record, and then you went out and picked up your sixth hit anyway makes it even more impressive.
I guess so! I will say this though, I didn’t feel any pressure whatsoever. I honestly knew that I was going to get a hit. I felt so good and it was like there was nobody on the planet who could get me out. Those days are very few and far between, so I was happy to have that day.
I've heard some players say that when they're locked in, it feels as though the baseball looks like the size of a beach ball. Did the same happen to you during that game?
Absolutely, when the ball came in it looked like it was going in slow motion and it looked like a beach ball. Again, you don’t have many of those days so you can take them when you can get them, but that’s exactly how it felt.
Once you get the ball rolling and pick up your first hit, does that change the approach at the plate at all? 
For the most part it’s the same plan. My first at bat I would always take a pitch to get a feel for what the guy’s ball might be doing; how it’s breaking, how fast it’s coming in.

My second at bat especially after I got a hit, I’d say “I’ll be aggressive here” and get after this first fastball because they might try to get ahead of me with strike one.

But other than that, I always tried to drive the ball to the opposite field, and for the most part my approach didn’t change that much.
This is more so a general question about hitting, but it also pertains to your 6 for 6 game. When you went into the batter's box, was there a specific pitch you were looking for? Fastball, breaking ball, etc?
I think the whole day I was basically looking fastball. I was able to react to anything; I got a hit on a curveball and a hit on a changeup, and I think the other four were on fastballs. When you’re seeing the ball that good, you don’t have to look for anything else because you can make the adjustments.
Your six-hit game was during the second game of a double header, and for whatever reason it seems like those games always lead to high scoring affairs.That game in Chicago, there were 16 runs and 29 total hits that game. What is it exactly about those double header games that lead to so much offense?
That’s a great question … but now that you mention it, it’s true. Maybe it’s because the pitcher that’s there for the second game is there for the whole day. It’s a long day for him, he’s waiting around to pitch, and maybe he’s fatigued or maybe he’s not on the same schedule as he would be if it wasn’t a double header.
How did you celebrate after the game? Did any of your teammates buy you a congratulatory steak or anything like that?
The game ended very late and the next day we had a day game, so we had to be at the ballpark at 8:30 the next morning. But I had interviews lined up until about 1:30 in the morning . I didn’t even leave the ballpark until after midnight.

Then when I got back to my hotel room I had three or four radio stations that wanted me to go on and talk about the record-setting day. After all that, I had to get up for a day game the next day but I didn’t really get to celebrate with my teammates.
Where would you say that six-hit game against the White Sox ranks among your personal career highlights?
It's right up there … I’d have to say one of my other biggest career highlights is my first hit ever. It was special to me because I really worked hard to get to the Major Leagues. As a Minor League player, you can’t wait for that first hit to say that you got there.

I got a hit against Rick Helling of the Texas Rangers when I was with the Detroit Tigers in 1997, and it was an RBI single to right field. That’s one I’ll always remember, but the 6 for 6 game is a very close second. It was definitely the best day I ever had.
Lastly, will readers find any details about the six-hit game in your new book "Heart & Hustle"?
I actually do detail it in the book. It was a special day for me and a day where I was felt like I was in the zone. In one of the chapters I detail being in the zone and the six hit game does come up.
If you want to hear more about Frank Catalanotto's epic 6 for 6 game and many more of his career highlights, be sure to pick up a copy of Frank's new book "Heart & Hustle: An Unlikely Journey from Little Leaguer to Big Leaguer".

If you order Heart & Hustle from his website, Frank will kindly autograph your copy and even write a personalized message for you! And Frank is also one of the most active Blue Jays alumni on Twitter, so be sure to give him a follow: @FCat27.

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