The latest C’s Chat is with 2022 Vancouver Canadians first baseman/third baseman Damiano Palmegiani.
The Toronto Blue Jays really wanted the 22 year-old Venezuelan-born Palmegiani by drafting him not once but twice. Born in Caracas but raised in Surrey, B.C., the Jays selected the slugging infielder in the 35th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft from Vauxhall Academy High School in Alberta. Though he was tempted to join his favourite major league team growing up, Palmegiani decided to hone his game at the college level.
After a summer ball stint in 2018 with the Lethbridge Bulls of the Western Major Baseball League in which he batted .125 in 13 games, Palmegiani attended Cal State-Northridge in 2019. Things did not go his way there as he batted just .157 in 31 games with the Matadors. He joined the West Coast League’s Port Angeles Lefties and hit five home runs in 47 games but hit just .190.
After the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19, Palmegiani hit the reset button and broke out with the bat at the College of Southern Nevada. He had a gargantuan 2021 by putting up an obscene on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.388. The righthanded hitter racked up 42 extra-base hits, 26 of them leaving the yard, and drove in 81 runs. Palmegiani was also successful in 14 of his 18 stolen base attempts with the Coyotes.
The momentum continued into the summer as he joined the State College Spikes of the MLB Draft League and produced a batting line of .304/.409/.482 with two home runs and nine RBI.
Baseball America—which posted a story about Palmegiani during his time with CSN—rated Palmegiani as the 467th best prospect in the 2021 draft.
“The native of British Columbia started his college career at Cal State Northridge in 2020, playing sparingly in the shortened season before transferring to the College of Southern Nevada, where he led the offense for the juco powerhouse. Palmegiani posted video-game numbers, with 26 home runs in 203 at-bats and a batting line of .389/.521/.867. He also walked (36) nearly as many times as he struck out (38), and was hit by a pitch 23 times. The power is his calling card, but some scouts wonder about the swing and miss in his game. Even more concerning is his defense, with his unsightly fielding percentage of .799 coming mostly at third base. A below-average defender with poor footwork and hands, his likely landing spot is in the corner outfield, where his average arm and fringe-average speed will play. Palmegiani may need more hitting instruction in order to better manipulate the barrel, and he didn’t face much premium velocity in junior college, which gives pause as to whether he will be able to handle the premium velocity that he’ll face in pro ball. He’s a risky pick for many reasons, but the raw power, along with good makeup, will be alluring enough to get him taken in the top-10 rounds. Although committed to Arizona, he’s considered to be signable.”
The Blue Jays came calling once again and took the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Palmegiani in the 14th round of the 2021 MLB Draft. This time, he signed on the dotted line with Toronto and received a signing bonus of $157,500.
Palmegiani launched his pro career with the Florida Complex League Blue Jays and picked up his first two hits, including a double, in his third game against the FCL Yankees August 14. His first pro homer was against the GCL Phillies August 25 as part of a 2-for-2 day at the dish. He completed his FCL stint with a .996 OPS in 17 games.
The 2022 season saw Palmegiani begin the year with the Dunedin Blue Jays. He homered in his first game as a D-Jay against Bradenton April 8 and had a pair of three-hit games that included a homer April 13 and April 15 in Tampa. Palmegiani was mired in a 0-for-23 skid before snapping out of it in late April. After hitting .226 and .231 in April and May, he found his mojo in June by hitting .327, raising his Dunedin batting line to .256/.359/.508 with 14 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs and 37 runs batted in.
That led to Palmegiani earning a trip back to his home province as he was promoted to Vancouver June 21. He homered in his first game with the C’s in Hillsboro as his solo blast tied the game at 3-3 in an eventual 4-3 victory over the Hops June 22. His Nat Bailey Stadium debut came June 28 against Spokane where he doubled in his second at-bat on home soil. Palmegiani had a three-game hitting streak in his first homestand and extended his on-base streak with a walk on Canada Day July 1.
After going deep again in Everett July 4 to spark another Canadians victory, Palmegiani hit his first homer at The Nat against Hillsboro July 13. He then delivered a grand slam to help Monty’s Mounties complete a six-game series sweep of the Hops July 17. Palmegiani delivered another four-run home run in front of the hometown faithful in a come-from-behind win over Tri-City August 5.
C’s Plus Baseball chatted with Palmegiani during the team’s homestand against Hillsboro in July. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
C’s Plus Baseball – You were drafted twice by the Blue Jays back in 2018 and 2021. What were those draft experiences like for you?
Damiano Palmegiani – I’d say they both had a lot of similarities but they were both wildly different, you know. When I was a high school player in 2018, I knew I had some attention from pro scouts. I knew that it was a possibility I would get drafted and the Blue Jays were one of the teams that were kind of always involved. So 2018 comes around, I knew I’d be probably a later pick and it ended up happening that way and it was the Blue Jays.My expectations weren’t super high so I was pretty psyched about it, pretty excited and definitely was considering it. I was very signable that year but after long talks with my parents and all that, I opted to go to college instead, mature a little more, get a little more prepared to not only be in a better spot in three years when I can get drafted again but also make sure that once I’m in the system to just start the uphill grind right away, instead of having to focus too much on development and all that. So, that was 2018 and then fast forward three years, kind of a roller coaster with my career, ultimately leading to everything coming together perfectly in 2021 playing for College of Southern Nevada. I found a home there. I’m really blessed to be able to say I was a Coyote for a year. Great staff, great team, everything developed. I knew after that year, the attention was definitely much stronger than when it was in high school. Again, there’s a bunch of teams in the mix so I wasn’t really sure who it would be. I just wanted it to work out, you know, where I’d be in the best position for myself to make a great decision. Ultimately it ended up being the Blue Jays who picked me again. That one was a little more unexpected because I had to come to a couple agreements with some teams and just kind of waiting for their pick to come up. And the Blue Jays just picked me out of nowhere. And by no means I was in any way upset. I was actually really glad it worked out that way. I was really psyched about that.
CPB – So you were a Blue Jays fan growing up?
DP – Yep. Blue Jays fan growing up, even since they were wearing the black and blue since Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, all those names, Scott Rolen. Just a bunch of classics, Ricky Romero. But yeah, I’ve been a Blue Jays fan my whole life. I think I credit Sportsnet to that because the Blue Jays coverage is nonstop. I appreciate that.
CPB – Who was your signing scout?
DP – My signing scout was Joey Aversa. Great guy, still in contact with him. I love talking with him. Actually. I love talking baseball, sending him pictures of where I’m at. He’s a great guy. I’m glad he came around.
CPB – You were in Alberta for high school ball. What was your experience like there?
DP – I had played my whole baseball career and grew up my whole life in BC here in Surrey and then it was in the 10th grade that I got the offer to go down and play in Vauxhall for the academy program with players from all over Canada. I jumped on it beacuse it sounded like a great opportunity to not only get better, to play baseball every day to have fun, but also to set myself up for the next level by doing that. I really started to figure out how the process works, playing showcases with other academy teams going down to the States, playing with them, getting in front of scouts and then ultimately getting seen and recruited to Team Canada, the national team. So I’d say my experience was great down there, lots of learning. That’s where I really started to understand what the process of getting to the next level looked like and where I really started to trust myself. The fact that I could do that and that I did think I was good enough and could stack up with whoever and all that so I think that was huge for me and I’m glad I did that.
CPB – You were at Cal State Northridge, you had some summer college stints as well and then COVID happened. How did you get through that period of time?
DP – That was a tough period of time for me just because I still had the same work ethic and the same drive. That has never really has faded with me but I just didn’t really have the “how” too great. And I think maturity-wise in my head, I wasn’t really sure of how to deal with failure and how to bounce back and stuff. It was a roller coaster mentally so going through those years, coming into Northridge for my freshman year thinking I could just show up and dominate, and not really experiencing failure before, all that worked against me and rightfully so. So just kind of getting through that and understanding that, ‘Okay, this happened. It’s not the end of the world. How can I bounce back? What do I do right? What do I do wrong?’ And COVID, that time off, no summer ball that year, the year got canceled. I basically was doing nothing, just working and staying in shape and all that. That gave me a lot of time to reflect on every aspect of my ability and mentally and everything. Just what boxes do I need to check off? What do I need to put more emphasis on and all that kind of working together? When I found a new home in Southern Nevada so I could be draft eligible that year. I really saw that as my opportunity to like, ‘Let’s put it all together. Let’s give it one last (chance), like put it all out there.’ I know I still got a lot left to give. I know I can be really good. As that year went on, just seeing almost like coming to a realization of how much I’ve grown, not even just skill-wise, just mentally, that really kind of lit the fire entirely and really got the ball rolling for me. So that’s where I’m at now in my life.
CPB – You wind up at Southern Nevada where Bryce Harper made that program really famous. How did you wind up there?
DP – With Vauxhall, one of the big tournaments in the spring that we look forward to train for is the Vegas tournament, the Bishop Gorman high school tournament. So one of the main stops on that trip is to play in Southern Nevada at their stadium, work out there and then play a couple games in front of them. Just kind of have the connection through there. Coach Garritano (Nick Garritano), the head coach. He saw me when I was 16-years old, 17 and 18 because I went back three times. By that time I was committed to Northridge but he was still kind of twisting my ear a little bit, trying to get me to make that decision. When there was that time with COVID and I was looking for a new place to go, that was definitely the number one place on my list. That was my priority. And just having that connection with him, it was a pretty easy process to kind of hook up and make it happen. So it was already kind of the seed was already planted after playing there.
CPB – You get your feet wet at the professional level with the Florida Complex League Blue Jay and you continue on in 2022 with (the Dunedin Blue Jays). What were those experiences like?
DP – It was pretty cool. In Nevada, when I started to play, the pieces of my growth really started to showcase and all that. And I could say the exact same thing about starting my pro career. I’m still learning. There’s a lot of stuff I’m still by no means I have everything figured out. I’m very far from it but just the ability to understand what I need to do and what allows me to be great. What allows me to be most importantly consistent. So going through that, playing every single day, that’s something I haven’t done before (for a) full season. So just understanding it’s a process. I did have a slump earlier this year. That was pretty bad. You got to understand it’s not the end of the world. How (are you) going to come out of it? What resources do you have? I think every year is going to be a different challenge, I think, in a good way, a different challenge to learn. And I think everyday I’m learning here. Even if it’s the same game, practice, a game every day, I’m still learning. I think that’s what’s the best about pro (ball) is that you’re faced with challenges, but you’re also faced with the answers every day. So just keep your mind open and keep working hard. I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.
CPB – You get the word you’re coming to Vancouver. How did you find out about it?
DP – We were in Jupiter, we were on the road and I played three games and just was going back to the field to play one more. And I walk in and I see my name is not in the lineup. So I thought that’s a little weird, but I mean, whatever, it’s an off-day, awesome! But immediately I take like two steps in the clubhouse, the coach grabs me and takes me into the coach’s office. And he started joking around with me a little bit saying that they thought I was hurt. Like you look a little slow. I was like, ‘What are you talking about? (laughs) I’m fine.’ And then he said, ‘Oh, okay. Well, in that case, we’re going to just send you to Vancouver instead so we don’t want to deal with you anymore.’ (laughs). And so I thought they were still joking but no, that was awesome.
CPB – Was that (Dunedin manager and 2021 Vancouver manager) Donnie Murphy?
DP – That was Donnie Murphy, yeah. That’s all Donnie. He loves doing that. He’s getting old but he loves doing it. (laughs) No, but I really appreciated that. And you know, I was in a little bit of like that moment of just goosebumps and wow, this is going to be awesome. I get to go home. I’ve been looking forward to this for a while. Once I left the office, got on the phone, called my mom, called my dad, just let them know. And they were all excited and yeah, I just was looking forward to this.
CPB – Your first game with the Canadians in Hillsboro, you get a home run. How big was that to be able to get on the board like that right away?
DP – Yeah. I mean, with travel and a few days off, my body felt great. I haven’t had a few days off like that in a while and just being in a position that I’ve always wanted to be in just with the Canadians uniform on, you know, everything that’s happening. I’ve ran it through in my head before. Even since I was a kid, I’ve just seen this all play out in my head, imagined what it would be like. So just stepping in that box, with the uniform on, tough pitcher on the mound. I just felt comfortable in that setting and I felt no pressure. I was just having fun, swinging hard and hoping the approach played out. I think because of all that preparation helped me just do what I want to do and help the team win.
CPB – So you get here for Canada Day week, you’re in the lineup for Canada Day. What did that mean to you personally?
DP – That was awesome. That was a very special moment being on the field, especially the first game I was out there, you know. Full house, listening to the crowd singing ‘O Canada’ and all that, it was really special. I got goosebumps in those moments. I don’t really get emotional or anything like that but I definitely did feel it there. I felt really proud. I felt really just blessed to be in this position, in this situation. That was a special moment for me. It was just awesome.
CPB – I got to ask you about the home run (against Hillsboro July 13). How did that feel seeing that ball sail over the center field wall?
DP – Just great. I mean, the pitcher (Luke Albright) on the mound was pretty tough. He was getting us all night with the same kind of pitches. I was really locked in. There’s two out, runner on third. I was trying to get a real good swing off on a good pitch and I did. And as soon as I hit it, I just knew that I got a real good piece of it. You never know at this field though sometimes, but yeah, as I’m running, I just see it sailing, it goes over the wall and I hear the crowd and everything. And that’s another one of those moments where I’ve seen it in my head before. I’ve imagined it all growing up. So I kind of blacked out in that moment and just enjoyed it for a sec. I did watch the replay again, just to try to like, you know, recap it a little bit since it just kind of happened all so quick but that was a special moment here. I got the ball so I’ll probably give that to my grandma or something.
CPB – It’s got to be pretty different hitting from Everett (from the first week of July) to here. What was it like? If you get a fly ball in the air in Everett, it’s got a chance to go.
DP – Yeah, which can actually kinda work against you sometimes. Because Everett’s got a great pitching staff. So if you’re letting the front shoulder fly out and you’re going away from your approach, you’re going to get pitched pretty well. So I think that’s a good test as a hitter to just keep the same approach for wherever you’re at. I came here and I know I can’t do too much. I just got to take good swings. If I hit it well, I know I can get the ball out but you can’t be squeezing the bat and trying too hard.
CPB – Is there anything you focus on when you’re in the batter’s box? Is there like one or two keys that you gotta remind yourself of when you’re at the plate?
DP – Kind of what I just said to you, it’s a lot more simple than some people maybe think. I’ve been asked before but you have your approach, you have a plan, you know what the pitcher’s throwing. So maybe you can kind of anticipate because of that but what stays consistent every time is I’m looking for a good pitch to hit in my approach and to take a real good swing on it. You want to be on the offensive. You don’t want to be on your heels when you’re in the box. So if you’re to ask me every single at-bat what I’m thinking, it’s always the same. Get a good pitch to hit and take a good swing on it. Be aggressive every time.
CPB – I just want to ask about your defense. – first base, third base. Do you have a preference at all?
DP – I think I have a lot more experience at third base, so maybe I could be a little more cleaner. IQ-wise I’m probably a little higher over there just because I’ve logged so many innings over there. But I feel like every day at first base, I’m just getting more and more comfortable and I just feel super comfortable there now. So personally, I don’t have a preference. You probably have a little more fun playing third, but you know, that’s not really up to me. And as long as I’m hitting, I don’t really care where they put me to be honest. (laughs)
CPB – Final question. Your walkup music (“Turn Out The Lights”), which I think is probably the best on the team right now. Why did you go with that song?
DP – When the beat drops and the music really starts playing, it’s really hard not to bob your head and just kind of smile. I think it goes with the Nat Bailey vibe and the sunny days. And if anyone’s not paying attention, maybe when the song plays and they look up (laughs), that”s kind of the goal, but a lot of a lot of my teammates have had good feedback on it too.
- Uniform Numbers – Wore number 26 at the College of Southern Nevada and number 29 for the Florida Complex League Blue Jays in 2021. Wore number six with Dunedin in 2022.
- Twitter – @damiano_p24
- Instagram – @damiano_p24
- Walk-up Music – “Turn Off The Lights” ft. Alexis Roberts – Chris Lake
Thanks a million to Damiano Palmegiani and C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for joining forces for this latest episode of C’s Chat.