Baseball: Colafemina earns spot in Mohawks Hall of Fame
Even as a little kid, Josh Colafemina could field a baseball and throw it, find a way to get on base and run fast.
“Do the little things. That will keep you around for a long time,” said the 31-year-old Schenectady native. “I didn’t have much power, but I got the job done.”
Colafemina performed those little but important tasks at a premier level as a professional, collegiate and high schooler in a career that’s landed him in the Amsterdam Baseball/Mohawks Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I feel blessed that I was able to play pro ball. I feel fortunate. I wish everyone could get that chance,” Colafemina said. “Your job is to work out and play baseball. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Colafemina played seven seasons in the independent Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball (Can-Am League) after a stint in 2005 with the Kansas City Royals’ Idaho Falls rookie team in the Pioneer League. The 5-foot-8, 150-pound middle infielder achieved all-star status at The College of Saint Rose and Schenectady High School before that.
“He was an amazing player. He was the full package,” said former Schenectady varsity coach Jerry Rosen. “He played shortstop for me every game for four years and was my leadoff guy. His offensive stats were unbelievable, and when you saw the ball coming across the field, you’d think it was a 6-foot-4 guy throwing it. What a great arm.”
Colafemina was selected a Big 10 first-team all-star as a junior and senior after helping Schenectady win league championships in each season. As a senior, he also played a key role off the bench for the Patriots’ 28-1 state championship basketball team. Many more individual accolades and team titles came his way as his athletic career progressed.
At Saint Rose, Colafemina was three times tabbed a Northeast-10 Conference all-league selection.
“Last year, I got a call from [Amsterdam Mohawks president and general manager] Brian Spagnola and he said he wanted to induct me. I couldn’t make it because I had a big insurance conference in North Carolina,” said Colafemina, who played on the Mohawks’ title-winning teams in 2003 and 2004. “I’m going this year. I’m excited to go.”
Colafemina thought he was going home for good in the fall of 2012 after a five-year run with Les Capitales de Quebec of the Can-Am circuit.
“I had retired. Two weeks before the season, the Trois-Rivieres manager [Pierre-Luc Laforest] asked me if I wanted to play for his expansion team. I played with him four four years, so he knew my game, and he said they were having trouble finding a second baseman,” Colafemina said. “I told him I was behind and out of shape. After I thought about it, I called him back and said, ‘I’m coming.’ ”
Colafemina batted .236 with 18 stolen bases in 58 games with Trois-Rivieres.
“I missed about 40 games with an oblique injury. I got hurt, came back and got hurt again,” said Colafemina. “It was still a lot of fun. I got to play another year, and in the end, we made a run at the playoffs.”
Colafemina helped Les Capitales de Quebec win four Can-Am championships after a runner-up finish in 2008. He batted .292 in 2008 for his high as a Can-Am player, led the league in 2009 with 33 stolen bases, and had his best extra-base season in 2010 with 17 doubles, three triples and a home run.
“It was an awesome place to live,” Colafemina said of Quebec City. “The fans love their baseball, and I fell in love with the city. I felt very comfortable there.”
“I saw him play a few times in Quebec, and he was a fan favorite up there,” said Rosen. “He hustled, played hard and played the right way. They just loved him.”
Colafemina played the 2007 season with the Atlantic City Grays, a Can-Am traveling team, before hitching on with Les Capitales. He appeared in 502 Can-Am games in his seven seasons and collected 460 hits while batting .257, and finished with 167 stolen bases, 324 runs scored and 173 RBI.
“Best time of my life. I couldn’t ask for anything else,” he said. “I met some great guys along the way and played with some major leaguers.”
Colafemina never got another major league shot after his release from the Royals’ organization, but never stopped dreaming. He was taken in the 24th round of the 2005 amateur draft by Kansas City, and in 49 rookie league games with the Chukars batted .238 with 17 RBI, 30 runs and 12 stolen bases.
“When you’re playing, it’s always a goal. Everyone wants to get that call,” he said. “You hear a team likes you and you hear rumors, but it didn’t happen for me. In our league, they’re looking mostly for pitchers and home run hitters, but I have no regrets.”
Colafemina played at Saint Rose for the late Bob Bellizzi, a local legend, and started for four seasons while serving as a two-year captain. He left the program as its No. 2 all-time hits leader with 213 and No. 1 assist leader with 445. He was also third all-time in stolen bases with 77, tied for third with 39 doubles and fourth with 147 runs upon his departure.
“Bob Bellizzi believed in me,” said Colafemina. “I remember him telling me, ‘My goal is to make sure you get drafted.’ ”
Colafemina and the other Amsterdam Baseball/Mohawks Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, Luke Maile, Louis Noto and Walt Sievert, will be honored Saturday at St. Mary’s Institute in Amsterdam. Former New York Mets second baseman Wally Backman will serve as the keynote speaker.