Vinicio Joins Leafs After Decorated Minor League Career

TORONTO -- As the sun drops on a warm Wednesday evening at Christie Pits, Dominican-born shortstop Jose Vinicio drifts smoothly to his left, collects a sharply-hit groundball and flips it to first base for the out.

Here, with the Toronto Maple Leafs of the Intercounty Baseball League, is where he hopes to begin a monumental climb back to professional baseball.

Vinicio has been out of baseball since 2018; sidelined first by an injury which resulted in his release from the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, then by the global pandemic.

“In 2020 I signed with London, but couldn’t come to Canada because of COVID and all that,” explained Vinicio, who is quick to smile and friendly around the ballpark. “The Leafs have given me an opportunity to come here and put the work in, and show that I’m healthy and ready to compete.”

The native of Santo Domingo entered the Wednesday night tilt against Kitchener with an inconspicuous .171 average, and two of his at-bats — a first-pitch groundout and strikeout — hinted at some rust.

Nonetheless, Vinicio is enjoying his time in Toronto.

“The IBL is a beautiful experience for those of us trying to get back to professional baseball,” he beamed prior to first pitch. “Since I was a little kid, my single passion has been baseball.”

Vinicio plays the game with a flair and silky glove at shortstop that hint to his resume: Multiple seasons in Double-A and Triple-A, the best of which — 2016 with Pawtucket (BOS) — saw him hit .270.

And that rust we mentioned? It seems to be coming off. 

A 5-for-10 performance with 3 RBI over the two-game set with Kitchener vaulted his average to .277, while three stolen bases on Wednesday night could be a sign of things to come for the Dominican with 116 professional stolen bases to his name.

Who doesn’t love a comeback story?

Vinicio and the Leafs are back at it on Sunday when they host the Hamilton Cardinals at 2 pm from Dominico Field at Christie Pits.

Photo: Craig Aikin