April 2012 Prospect Profile: Dante Bichette, Jr.
But to Yankees manager Joe Girardi, prospect Dante Bichette, Jr. is more than a ballplayer – he’s a “nephew” as well.
“I’ve known him as long as I can remember. He would take care of me when I was a little kid,” the younger Bichette said of Girardi in an interview with the New York Post last year.
Girardi and Bichette’s father, Dante Sr., are close friends, and the two were teammates on the inaugural Colorado Rockies squad in 1993 – a team that began play just six months after Dante Jr. was born. So, when Bichette Jr. got the call telling him he had been drafted in 2011, he was blown away that the team that took him was the one managed by his “Uncle Joe.”
But “family” aside, there was good reason for the organization to think that the third baseman could be a future cornerstone in the Bronx.
After that experience representing Maitland, Florida in the LLWS, Bichette Jr. became a star at Orangewood Christian High in that sleepy Orlando suburb. Twice named the Central Florida Player of the Year while at OCHS, Bichette Jr. batted .640 with 10 home runs in his senior year – showing flashes of the same power that made his father a dangerous out for more than a decade.
So, when the Yankees’ turn came up with the 51st pick of the 2011 MLB Draft, it was clearly more than just a long-standing personal relationship with the skipper that convinced them to make the 18-year-old their top overall selection of the draft.
Quickly, Bichette Jr. proved the organization made a wise choice. In his pro debut last summer, Dante hit .342 with three home runs in limited action with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees. He was named the MVP of the GCL, and his homer in the deciding Game 3 helped those baby Bombers bring home the Gulf Coast League Championship.
Before the confetti finished hitting the field, Dante was off for a quick stop in the Short-Season A New York-Penn League, where was again part (albeit for only a few games) of a championship squad in Staten Island.
Bichette Jr. got to experience Big-League Camp with the Yankees this spring before beginning his 2012 season at Class-A Charleston – where, playing alongside fellow super-prospects Mason Williams, Cito Culver, and Gary Sanchez, Dante has a good chance to win a championship at his third consecutive level.
Whether or not that quartet can come together and bring a championship or five to the big Bombers like another “Core Four” did is a debate for another day; for now, Bichette Jr.’s main focus is on doing whatever he has to do to make it to the Bronx and play for his “Uncle Joe” sooner rather than later.
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