Durham Bulls infielder Vince Belnome has been proving people wrong throughout his career.
As a 28th-round pick in the 2009 MLB draft, Belnome has faced an uphill climb. Some 833 players were selected before him, and many are out of baseball.
However, Belnome has fought his way to Class AAA and has put together a career year in Durham, leading the team in hitting (.348). But just like the rest of his career, Belnome worked hard and earned a spot on the Bulls roster that manager Charlie Montoyo originally didnt expect Belnome to earn.
He was going to go to Double-A at the beginning of the year, but then Shelley Duncan got called up to the big leagues, Montoyo said. That opened a spot for Vince. And thats not because we didnt think Vince could play here, there was just no room. Now its all worked out, and hes been our MVP so far this year.
Belnome, 25, has been a spark for the first-place Bulls. He was named the starting third baseman for the International League All-Star team, and he is among league leaders in average, on-base percentage, runs, hits, doubles and walks.
Since being drafted out of West Virginia University, Belnome has bounced around the minor leagues, playing for eight ballclubs in five seasons.
The Rays organization saw something in his versatility and traded for Belnome in December 2012.
Being here has kind of given me new life, Belnome said. If a team trades for you, obviously they see something in you, or the scouts like you or something. Its new life, and it feels like a new beginning for me.
Belnome said he doesnt have a chip on his shoulder for being a 28th-round pick and has remained focused on his lifetime goal of making a major league roster.
Its everything you dream for, Belnome said. You try and stay positive and everything through your ups and downs because things can be a lot worse. We get paid to come out here and do something we love every single day. I like to look at myself as a good team player and just do anything to help my team win.
Duncan, whos back at first base for the Bulls, said Belnomes positive attitude has rubbed off on the rest of the team. Duncan has spent parts of the past seven seasons in the majors playing for the Yankees, Indians and most recently the Rays. Duncan calls Belnome one of the 10 best teammates has been around.
Hes always upbeat, Duncan said. This game is a grind and its so tough, and with a few negative personalities it can become contagious. To have a positive, uplifting, encouraging personality like Vince makes everyone around him better.
The past two years Belnome has struggled with injuries, forcing him to fight his way back up through the minors. Belnome missed time in 2011 with a pulled groin and was sidelined for two months in 2012 with a separated shoulder. Belnome now finds himself one step from the major leagues.
Its fun to see the kid play, Montoyo said. He runs every ball out, and actually he plays good defense, too. Whether its at first, second or third, hes played very well. Better than I thought he would. Again, I hadnt seen him before this year, but I didnt think he would be that good.
In Montoyos defense, not many did.