Belnome on Path to Majors
- By Grant Dovey
- June 30, 2013 01:37 PM
Former WVU baseball player Vince Belnome completed his collegiate career near the top of most offensive categories and has continued to dominate pitching with his aggressive, yet patient approach, at the professional level.
Belnome is playing for the Durham Bulls, the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, where he has seen much success and is in the middle of arguably his most productive season yet.
After dislocating his left shoulder while diving for a ball last year, Belnome was never 100 percent and missed nearly half of the 2012 season. Following the conclusion of the season he went on to have shoulder surgery and was traded from the San Diego Padres to Tampa Bay.
“I was shocked when it first happened and then I started analyzing the situation and it was a new start for me,” Belnome says. “I looked at it as nothing but positive. A team that trades for you sees something in you and I just ran with it.”
Belnome reported to Tampa Bay’s Spring Training facility in Charlotte County, Fla., and continued to rehab the shoulder, eventually playing in three Major League Baseball Spring Training games. At the end of the spring, he was sent to Durham, where he has remained all season.
With the move back to the East Coast, it enables Belnome’s family and friends to see him on a regular basis. The Coatesville, Pa., native most recently hosted 50 friends and family while Durham was on the road played the Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A team, the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
“It’s basically the same game. Baseball is baseball no matter where you go,” Belnome says. “The main difference is me being closer to my home and my family can come watch me at almost any place I play. It is probably more comfortable for me to play.”
Currently, Belnome is pacing the International League in most offensive categories; ranking No. 1 in on-base percentage (.436), No. 2 in batting average (.344), No. 4 in doubles (24), No. 4 in runs (48), No. 6 in hits (89), No. 6 in walks (45) and No. 7 in slugging percentage (.521).
He is expected to be a Triple-A All-Star and was named the Organizational Player of the Month for May after hitting in a season-high 18 straight games.
“My agent has been in contact with them (Tampa Bay), but I haven’t heard anything personally,” Belnome says. “The only thing I can do is to keep going out and playing. If I get called up, I get called up.”
While competing everyday on the professional circuit, he has made sure to keep up with his alma mater and watch the progression under coach Randy Mazey. Mazey has made it a point to reconnect with the alumni and sent out weekly emails during the season updating the former Mountaineers.
“I kept up with Coach Mazey’s emails and it was a good way to keep track of them. He has taken that program in the right direction,” Belnome says. “They moved into the Big 12 and that’s a heckuva conference. To do what they did during the year and getting a new stadium, it will be huge for recruiting.”
Now, entering the second half of the season, Belnome is looking to join Jedd Gyorko of San Diego and David Carpenter of the Atlanta Braves as the third WVU alumnus to play in the MLB this season, a record for the most WVU players playing the in MLB at the same time.