Charleston RiverDogs’ Dante Bichette ready for breakout season
Every baseball player who dreams of reaching the majors knows he will likely spend at least a season in the minor leagues.
Who: Augusta GreenJackets vs. Charleston RiverDogsWhen: Today, 7:05 p.m.Where: Riley ParkTickets: 577-3647
Even if the player’s father is a former big league star.
Roster & Promotions
PITCHERSNo. Player Age Bats Throws 2012 Club16 Daniel Camerna 20 L L Gulf Coast34 Jose Campos 20 R R RiverDogs37 Raphael DePaula 22 R R Dominican Yankees18 Gabe Encinas 21 R R Staten Island11 Taylor Garrison 22 R R Staten Island30 Brett Gerritse 22 R R RiverDogs7 Ben Paullus 23 R R RiverDogs20 Evan Rutckyj 21 R L R’Dogs/Sta. Island29 Charles Short 24 R R R’Dogs/Sta. Island26 Alex Smith 23 R R Sta. Island/Tampa27 Cesar Vargas 21 R R Gulf Coast/S. Island41 Derek Varnadore 22 R R Staten Island36 Phil Wetherell 23 R R RiverDogsCATCHERSNo. Player Age Bats Throws 2012 Club12 Nick McCoy 26 R R RiverDogs9 Peter O’Brien 22 R R Gulf Coast/S. Island5 Wes Wilson 23 R R Staten IslandInfieldersNo. Player Age Bats Throws 2012 Club19 Dante Bichette, Jr. 20 R R RiverDogs32 Gregory Bird 20 L R Gulf Coast/S. Island33 Saxon Butler 22 L L S. Island/Gulf Coast23 Cito Culver 20 R R RiverDogs4 Claudio Custodio 22 R R Staten Island17 Fu Lin Kuo 22 R R Staten Island15 Rob Refsnyder 22 R R RiverDogsOutfieldersNo. Player Age Bats Throws 2012 Club25 Yeicok Calderdon 21 L L Gulf Coast35 Kelvin De Leon 22 R R RiverDogs/Tampa3 Taylor Dugas 23 L L Staten Island8 Danny Oh 23 L L Staten Island
Dante Bichette can attest to that. His father, Dante Bichette, Sr., spent 14 years in the major leagues. The baseball veteran warned his son about what would happen during his first full season of professional baseball. But like every prospect fighting his way to the major leagues, the younger Bichette had to experience it for himself.
A second-round draft pick of the New York Yankees in the 2011 baseball draft, Bichette came to the Lowcountry last season with high expectations.
Bichette, who was 19 when he arrived in Charleston, played high school and travel ball but had never experienced a 140-plus game schedule until last summer. Like most rookies, the grind of coming to the ballpark every day eventually took its toll on Bichette, both mentally and physically.
“My dad knew it was going to be a long season for me,” he said. “Before I got here, we talked a lot about what that first season was going to be like and what to expect and to look out for. But until you go through it, there’s really nothing that can prepare you for it. You just have to go through it.”
Bichette hit a respectable .248 with three home runs and 44 runs batted in during his first season with the RiverDogs.
“I thought overall it was a good year, but there were times when I struggled,” Bichette said. “I let it get to my head a little bit last year. I want to more professional about my approach this season, be more consistent. I think on the field I was fine, it was pretty much from the neck up. I’m not going to let it get to me this season.”
Bichette said he won’t make major changes to his approach at the plate. He’ll tweak some minor things, but those will be based on what the pitchers do.
“I’m not going to make any huge mechanical changes,” Bichette said. “The main thing I’m going to do is to keep my approach to every at-bat the same. That’s where the professionalism comes in.”
Some baseball scouts questioned Bichette’s defensive skills at third base prior to the draft. Bichette quieted his critics last summer as he led all South Atlantic League third basemen in chances (336), putouts (85) and assists (230).
“I came into the draft not being known as a defensive guy and I thought I had a really good season in the field,” Bichette said. “I think I’ve turned a lot of heads in that area. I learned a lot from a lot of different people. Playing next to a guy like Cito Culver (RiverDogs shortstop) obviously helped out a lot.”
Bichette had mixed emotions about returning to the RiverDogs for his second professional season. While he enjoyed playing in Charleston, he wants to move up in the Yankees farm system.
His goal this year is to at least reach Tampa, a high Class A affiliate of the Yankees. Through seven games this season, Bichette has two home runs and 11 RBI.
“I understand it’s a process and there are things that I have to get done before I move up,” Bichette said. “You see with players in the past that are young that as soon as they figure it out, they’re off to the races. The only thing you can do is strive to be the best player you can be.”
The RiverDogs play their first home game of the season tonight against Augusta. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Riley Park.