Now up to bat in this episode of C’s Chat is 2019 Vancouver Canadians outfielder Dom Abbadessa.
The Toronto Blue Jays selected Abbadessa out of high school in his hometown of Huntington Beach, California with their 23rd round selection of the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft. That was not the only big thing going on with Abbadessa that day.
“I was actually at my house. I had high school graduation in a couple of hours so it was kind of cool. My family was all there. We just kind of had the computer up tracking. My advisor texted me and told me that I got picked and then my Dad had the computer pulled up and we kind of just went from there. I just saw my name picked and it was pretty cool.”
Getting drafted out of high school was not something Abbadessa had expected at first.
“I was like not really a highly-recruited guy out of high school so I didn’t really think that there was a possibility of me playing professional baseball that early until about my senior year, I’d say. At the end of the season, a lot of scouts started talking to me. It was a pretty exciting time. I wasn’t really anxious because I thought I was in a pretty good situation wherever I ended up.”
Even though he reached a verbal commitment to join Long Beach State, Abbadessa chose to turn pro instead after receiving a $150,000 signing bonus.
“It was obviously two really big decisions, two great opportunities. My parents were really supportive and they just kind of wanted what’s best for me. They said they would support whatever decision I’d make. I’m glad I made this decision for sure.”
Huntington Highs, No Lows
The road to the pros began to take shape for Abbadessa at Huntington Beach High School. He says the Oilers coaching staff helped develop him as a player.
“My high school coach Benji Medure. He really taught me, Hagen Danner and Jake Brodt—all three of us are in the Blue Jays system. We all played in high school together. All the coaches there, they definitely taught us how to play the game the right way. Without them, I don’t think we’d really be where we are today. I’d say a lot of my game, I developed a lot there to play the game the right way.”
Abbadessa’s junior season in 2015 was one to remember as he helped the Oilers win the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship. He earned the Orange County Register’s first team All-Sunset League and second team All-County honours.
“That was pretty cool. That was a special team, 2015, that was one of the best things I’ve ever been on. It was just a great group of guys. The talent, chemistry, everything was there and everything you could ask for in a team. I’d say just that whole season but to break it down, when we won the state championship, definitely that.”
One of the big reasons why Huntington Beach High School made it to the state championship was a highlight-reel catch by Abbadessa in the semi-final.
“That was the semi-finals actually of that same year. There was just a ball that was hit over my head. I made the catch kind of like in a crucial part of the game. I just threw it in, we doubled the guy off and it was a really huge momentum swing. That was definitely something we all rallied around.”
The Willie-Mays style catch by Abbadessa in that game remains his best play with the leather to date.
“Yeah, I would say like the moment of the game, everything, the situation. I would say yeah, that’s probably the coolest play I ever made.”
2016 – Turning Pro
After signing his first pro contract July 18, Abbadessa reported to Dunedin and made it into 14 games with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in 2016. The right-handed hitting Abbadessa singled in his first ever at-bat against the GCL Tigers West July 27. He played 14 games in the GCL and batted .192 over 26 at-bats. That first exposure to pro ball was an eye-opening experience.
“It was really different. When I signed, I didn’t really think that I’d be playing everyday honestly. I had no idea that’s what pro ball was all about. I was young. It was a big jump for me but I think I handled it well.
Just kind of getting my body ready to play everyday was the biggest thing, I would say, because you’re going from high school and playing three games a week, about 30 game seasons to where you’re starting to what, a full season of 140 games, you know what I mean? It’s just a big jump of knowing that you got to bring the same intensity every single day.”
2017 – Gulf Coast League
Things clicked for Abbadessa when he returned to the GCL in 2017. He was named the league’s player of the month for July. One thing that boosted his confidence and his spirits was getting to play with one of his former high school teammates.
“Yeah, absolutely. We had a good team that year in 2017. Starting with Hagen (Danner) who got drafted (in the second round). It was cool playing with a buddy with through my whole life so I was super comfortable. I feel like I finally got to show what I could do. It was cool that I won that award.”
After hitting .333 over the first seven games with the G-Jays, Abbadessa got a surprise promotion to Dunedin.
“We made a trade. We traded Lane Thomas who was here. They needed help. They needed someone just to go fill in and I got called into my manager’s office. Obviously it’s a bus ride away with the complex right next to each other. They just said to go fill in and do I what I do and just come back here.
It was fun. It was a good time. We played in Lakeland, it was the fourth of July, packed. It was really cool. My first kind of game of playing with a bunch of fans obviously from like being in the GCL. I went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts but (laughs) other than that, it was a good experience. A good group of guys up there too.”
The higher level of play from the Gulf Coast League to the Florida State League was noticeable for Abbadessa.
“At the end of the day, it’s just the same game. Everything’s obviously a little bit more refined as you move up the levels. The pitching is going to be a lot better, there’s going to be a lot more control, a lot more stuff—everything just gets better whereas in the GCL, everyone is so raw, still trying to find their control, their command pitching-wise.”
The remainder of 2017 saw Abbadessa hit .340 on the season with a .402 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases.
2018 – Bluefield
The good times continued for Abbadessa in 2018 when he continued his short-season tour in Bluefield. He batted .311 and collected his first two professional home runs, the first coming June 22 against Burlington. That helped him reach the century mark in total bases and he also stole 18 bases. As is the case with many players who have gone through Bluefield, Abbadessa thrived under the leadership of its venerable manager.
“That was another special team. Dennis Holmberg, who was the manager there. That was actually his last year managing (in Bluefield, now managing the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays). He’s just a super special guy. He had a good group of kids already to play for him and then adding his presence that he has as a manager, I think that just really helped us all play together. We all enjoyed it and had a great time there because he made it so much fun. It was great to go out and play for him everyday there.”
Last year’s Bluefield roster made coming to the ballpark fun for Abbadessa.
“It’s just a really special team. There was Cal Stevenson, Alejandro Kirk, Hagen Danner, D.J. Neal, D.J. Daniels. A great group of guys. We’re all really good friends. It makes the transition a lot easier for guys who are just coming into pro ball, guys who have been there. You know what I mean? It was a really good time.”
2019 – Lansing
The 2019 campaign saw Abbadessa receive his first extended action of full-season baseball with the Lansing Lugnuts. He got aboard on an infield single in his first at-bat with the Lugnuts April 4 and got his batting average as high as .239 in late April. A 1-for-23 skid in May cut that average by 50 points and resulted in a return trip to extended spring training.
“I tried to go out there and I kind of played my same game but you know, sometimes things don’t work out. It was another good team, a good group of guys as well. As you move up, the game just speeds up. You got to really make sure you’re on top of what you need to get done each and every day.
I had a great time there. All the coaching staff there is really good. The guys are really good up there. You know, (Lansing broadcaster) Jesse (Goldberg-Strassler) up there, he’s awesome. It’s really cold obviously during the first half. It’s a little tough to hit in but I’ll be fine.”
Looking back on his time in Lansing, he felt he did not stick with what got him there.
“I think a lot of it was me putting pressure on myself because the pitching here, even I can say in the next spring training, all the pitching you face is pretty much the same as up in Lansing. It’s more of me just kind of getting out of my approach, my plan. You know, I was pretty excited that I got to break with a full-season (team) after going through two extended spring trainings. I think of lot of it was just me needing to slow myself down obviously and kind of just do what I did that got myself there, you know what I mean?”
Despite having to return to short-season ball, Abbadessa is using it as motivation to return to the full-season level.
“It sparked some energy in me for sure. It’s frustrating obviously. I’ve been up there, I know I can play there and I can play up beyond there. I had to come back here, go back to extended, reassess myself. I feel like I had to take a look at myself in the mirror and kind of figure like what I need to do to get better. I had to take full ownership for sure of me getting sent down. I’m just kind of playing with that fire, that spark that I feel like I have, that I could change a game, you know.”
2019 – Vancouver
Before arriving in Vancouver, Abbadessa heard plenty about the city from his high school teammate Brodt—a member of the 2018 C’s—and other players who called YVR home over the previous two seasons.
“I talked to Brodt a lot. We were actually roommates up in Lansing. All those guys from the team last year like Nick Podkul, (Griffin) Conine, (Tanner) Kirwer, Marcus Reyes. Great group. Those are my really good friends. They always had stories about Vancouver. Even Reggie Pruitt, Brayden Bouchey.
Since I’ve been in this organization, everyone said like, ‘You need to go to Vancouver.’ When I broke (camp) for Lansing and when I skipped Vancouver, they were like ‘Congrats but like you’re missing out on Vancouver!’ It’s just a really cool atmosphere to play here, a beautiful city.”
Abbadessa had the first hit of the season for Vancouver in his first Northwest League at-bat during the June 14 home opener at Nat Bailey Stadium. That was among two hits on opening night but he suffered a setback in late June when a collision with Spokane catcher Scott Kapers at first base at the Nat landed him on the injured list. The focus now for Abbadessa—who turns 22 on December 8—is to finish the season strong.
“I’m not trying to look too far into what my batting average is and all that. I’m just trying to go out there and play hard every day, be the best for my teammates, for my coaches. That’s all I can control. I’m feeling good though. I’m definitely feeling confident.”
When asked to describe himself as a player, he has the attributes of a gamer.
“A little guy with a lot of energy, changes the game. Runs around, runs hard, plays hard, plays the game the right way and does anything for his teammates.”
A Dodgers fan growing up, there was one player he enjoyed watching.
“My favourite player growing up, Dee Gordon, which is pretty funny. I feel like a lot of people don’t share that player. I saw him at a Padre game one time. I saw this little guy taking ground balls at first and I thought it was the coach’s son and it was actually his first year up in the league. They’re like, ‘No, that’s Dee Gordon.’ I saw him play shortstop leading off. I love the way he plays. He’s just a speed guy, just trying to get on base. Super fast though.
Now though, my favourite player (is) Kike Hernandez and I like (Fernando) Tatis Jr. I love the way they play the game. I like how Kike Hernandez wears his pants.”
Thanks a million to Dom Abbadessa for participating in this latest chapter of C’s Chat. You can find him on Twitter @AyyDom. Another tip of the cap to C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham for putting the meeting together.