#Hot Corner

From pitcher to bank robber in three easy steps!

Somehow I missed this story a few years ago:

Vito Frabizio is 23 now. In 2009, when he was 19, the Baltimore Orioles signed him to a $130,000 bonus. “I was the best pitcher in the Orioles’ minor leagues,” he says. “Scotty McGregor (former O’s pitcher) told me I’d win the Cy Young Award one day.” He looks around, and then back at me, adding, “I’d always been in the right place at the right time. Now I’m here, the lowest of the low.”

Vito is sitting behind bars in the visiting room of the Yaphank, Long Island, minimum security prison on a fall day. The visiting room is crowded with men in green prison jumpsuits talking to women, some of them in low-cut blouses, who lean over to remind their men of what waits for them when they get out. The guards have put Vito in the far corner of the room so he can talk to me with a little privacy through the bars. He grips the bars with both hands and says, “The other prisoners can’t believe it. ‘You played baseball and robbed banks? Why?’” Actually, Vito robbed three banks to support his 20-bag, $200-a-day heroin habit.


A glance at his 2009 stats reveals a real prospect now with a potential to become a decent major league pitcher, with hard work and a strong will. Then he showed up at spring training in Sarasota, Fla., in 2010 weighing 205 pounds. His fastball was now clocked at 96 mph, approaching superstar potential. He says the Orioles planned to jump him from the rookie league to Double-A ball that year.

I'm not saying Frabizio wasn't a prospect; his 2009 statistics were impressive, as he struck out four times as many batters as he walked while making a dozen starts in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. But the next winter, Baseball America didn't list Frabizio among Orioles' top 30 prospects. More damningly, he didn't show up on the Orioles' depth chart at all, which runs far deeper; Chorye Spoone was listed as the club's No. 28 prospect, and Frabizio wasn't listed among the 11 right-handed starting pitchers behind Spoon.

All of which makes me wonder if Frabizio really got $130,000 from the Orioles, and if he was really throwing 96 miles an hour, and if he was really the best pitcher in the Orioles' minor leagues. He was an Appalachian League All-Star; that much is definitely true (according to this page).

Anyway, Frabizio's particular baseball talent isn't really the point of the thing. He supposedly hurt his shoulder during spring training in 2010, was quickly released by the Orioles and -- having been introduced to the pleasures of abusing painkillers by a teammate who's now in the major leagues -- he wound up getting hooked on heroin, and serving as the getaway driver in a series of bank robberies to support his habit. He eventually got caught, spent some time in jail, and has now been free for a few months.

It's a pretty interesting story, mostly because Pat Jordan wrote it. It's highly unlikely that Vito Frabizio will ever play baseball again; probably the best that can happen is he winds up with a steady job and stays off the drugs.

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