May 27, 2016

Former Italian / American Mets Backup Catcher: Mike Difelice (2005-2007)

Michael William Difelice was born on May 28, 1969 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The six foot two catcher, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, getting drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the eleventh round of the 1991 draft.

He didn’t hit for power or average but was always a fine defensive catcher. He threw out over 45% of would be base runners from 1994-1996 earning a quick cup of coffee with the ’96 Cardinals.

In 1997 he saw action in 93 games, sharing time with Tom Lampkin, batting .238 with 4 HRs & a career high 30 RBIs.

In 1998 he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the expansion draft becoming an original Devil Ray. He would spend three and a half seasons with Tampa throwing out over 40% of base stealers twice, batting a career high .307 in 1999 (179 at bats). That season he also hit a career high six HRs, & repeated that the following season.

photo by centerfieldmaz- Spring Training 2007
On July 31st 2001, he was traded to the Arizona Diamond backs, but in August he was arrested in Pittsburgh after allegedly slugging a female, as well as a parking attendant at the Area 51 nightclub. He would get released from Arizona in early September as they went on to win the World Series two months later.

DeFelice would play with four more teams; the St. Louis Cardinals (70 games in 2002) the Kansas City Royals (62 games in 2003), the Detroit Tigers (13 games) & Chicago Cubs (4 games) in 2004, as well as spending some more times in the minor leagues before getting signed by the New York Mets in 2005.

By this time he was 35 years old, in New York he was used as a third string catcher, bullpen catcher & spring training mentor. He mostly helped out the club during times when the other main catchers were injured. 

He would spend three seasons with the Mets playing 42 games at the major league level, batting .171 (14-82) with six RBIs, three doubles & a triple. The aging catcher threw out just three of the fourteen base runners attempting to steal on him.

Trivia: As he walked up to the plate, he chose Judas Priest "You Got Another Thing Comin” as his song. DiFelice was certainly a gamer, a stand up guy, who certainly stood up for his teammates.

On the next to last day of the 2007 season as John Maine flirted with a no hitter, there was a bench clearing brawl when the Marlins threw two close pitches at the Mets’ Luis Castillo. As the benches emptied, Difelice boldly ran into a pack of Marlins players, going after catcher Miguel Olivo. The brave DiFelice was surrounded by nothing but Florida visiting jerseys, but he held his own.

In 2008 he returned to Tampa & played in seven brief games before requesting to be released. He became just the second player to wear all three Tampa franchise uniforms.

In a thirteen year career, he played in 554 lifetime games with 368 hits a .236 average, 28 HRs 83 doubles & 167 RBIs. Behind the plate he had a .988 fielding percentage & threw out 36% of would be base stealers. 
 
Retirement: In 2009 he was named manager of the Rookie level, Kingsport Mets located in Kingsport, Tennessee in the Appalachian League. He held that position for two years finishing a best 6th in '09.

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