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Monday, August 13, 2012

Interview Paul Sorrento, Part 1, Great Feeling

Former major leaguer Paul Sorrento in the Inland Empire 66ers dugout before a game in late July. Sorrento is serving as 66ers hitting coach for 2012. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Great Feeling | Part 2: Those Things | Interview: Bill Haselman | Thoughts on C.J. Cron

SAN BERNARDINO, CA - Paul Sorrento was in his first year in the Twins organization in 1989. He was also in his first year above single-A. He'd taken to the promotion well, hitting 27 home runs for the club in Orlando.

As the year drew to the close, though, the question was whether it was enough to make the jump all the way to Minnesota as a September call-up.

The answer soon came: It was enough.

"Aw, it was awesome," Sorrento recalled to The Greatest 21 Days recently. "I couldn't believe it - kind of surprised.

"I had a good year, but I didn't know if I'd to get called up from AA. And then first game was in Kansas City. It was a beautiful ballpark. It was a great feeling. Great feeling. You know, you finally made it. It was very gratifying."

Sorrento spoke with The Greatest 21 Days in late July at San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino, Ca., where Sorrento serves for 2012 as hitting coach for the high-A Inland Empire 66ers.

Inland Empire's Taylor Lindsey waits for a pitch in a late July contest at San Manuel Stadium. Lindsey's hitting coach is Paul Sorrento. (G21D Photo)
Sorrento spoke about his origins growing up in the Boston area, his route from there to Florida State and then to the pros. In the pros, drafted by the Angels, Sorrento spoke about a slow start, one that was partially self-inflicted, the break that sent him to the Twins and then quickly to the majors and even a World Series.

Sorrento has now returned to the game for 2012, after a hiatus spent with his family. He also returns to the team that initially drafted him, the Angels.

Sorrento grew up in the Boston suburb of Somerville, an origin confirmed listening to him speak. Growing up in the Northease, Sorrento grew up a fan of the hometown Red Sox. He also, though, grew up a fan of hockey.

It was hockey that he first played at the age of six, not baseball. He didn't play baseball until later. That came after realizing the implications of his chosen hockey position, goalie. "I got tired of having pucks shot at me," Sorrento recalled.

Inland Empire 66ers get in batting practice before a late July game at San Manuel Stadium. The hitting coach for the 66ers for 2012 is Paul Sorrento. (G21D Photo)
Soon, Sorrento was playing Little League, then high school ball. When it came time to look for a college, he got help from his next door neighbor, who happened to be former big league ball player Mike Andrews.

"I knew I wanted to play baseball and wanted to get out of the cold weather, and he just so happened to write Florida State and they wrote him back," Sorrento recalled.

They essentially went on Andrews' recommendation, Sorrento recalled, and Sorrento became a Seminole. He started with a half scholarship, then got a full one.

He soon saw upperclassmen get drafted, then realized he could get drafted too. Sorrento also credited his time at Florida State with giving him a chance to grow up. 

"I think now, looking back, from my experience in the minor leagues, I'm really glad I did it. I think it really helped prepare me for the minor leagues mentally. It was good to kind of get away from home, to kind of be able to do stuff on your own and have a little responsibility. I think it really helped me through the minor leagues."

Going into the 1986 draft, Sorrento said he didn't know where he would get drafted. When he got taken by the Angels in the fourth round, he called it a pleasant surprise.

With the Angels, Sorrento started at single-A Quad Cities, moving to single-A Palm Springs by the end of the year.

Bakersfield's Sam Lynn Ballpark in July 2012. Paul Sorrento played at Sam Lynn Ballpark from 1986 to 1988 as a member of the visiting Palm Springs Angels. (G21D Photo)
The move from college ball to pro ball, Sorrento recalled, was difficult. He wasn't used to the schedule. The facilities were also different. Florida State had nice facilities, while some of the parks in the minors weren't so nice.

"It was a tough transition being away from home and stuff like that," Sorrento said. "It was something I wanted to do, you just try to block that out and do the best you can."

From that first year, though, Sorrento returned to Palm Springs for 1987. He also returned to Palm Springs for 1988.

Asked if his three-straight seasons at single-A had him wondering if he would move up, Sorrento said he believes he did wonder.

"I think I was," Sorrento said. "I didn't have my priorities straight that second year in Palm Springs anjd I went home that winter and really dedicated myself and went out and had a good season.

"Really, I caught the first break of my career, I got traded to the Twins."

Soon, he was on a major league roster and in major league camp. Some of the major league coaches then got to see him play. "That just kind of propelled me after that."

Go to Part 2, Those Things

Part 1: Great Feeling | Part 2: Those Things | Interview: Bill Haselman | Thoughts on C.J. Cron

Note: This was the second of 10 interviews picked up by The Greatest 21 Days during my late-July 2012 trip through central and southern California.

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