P.J. Pilittere: The Transition Begins


P.J. Pilittere hit .261 in two and a half seasons with Trenton, backstopping the club to back-to-back championships in 2007 and 2008.

SCRANTON, PA. — At age 29, Scranton Yankees catcher P.J. Pilittere can see the writing on the wall.

Pilittere, an extremely popular catcher who caught 203 games for the Trenton Thunder from 2007-09, has spent the past two seasons in Triple-A Scranton, where he’s had a penchant for getting hurt. 

But not really.

Pilittere has been placed on what’s known as the “Phantom DL” countless times over the past several seasons, always finding a way to be the odd man out when a roster spot was needed.  It’s been a tough way for the playing career of the 6-foot, 215 pounder to come to an end.  But, odd as it may seem for someone not walking in his shoes, it also provides a certain comfort level and has provided invaluable experience as Pilittere transitions to the next step in his baseball career.

“Basically, I try to fill any role that I’m needed in from our coaching staff as a player,” he said. 

“It’s hard to explain, I’ve joked that I have around 14 different jobs here; whether it’s help with the scouting reports or put the pitchers attack plan together, help Butch out, help the hitters out, manage the bullpen guys, do my best to help the starting pitchers between starts and talk to them about things.  Just trying to get a feel for all areas.  I feel very comfortable with our coaching staff here where I trust these guys, they’re really good instructors and mentors who I can learn some things from to hopefully maybe transition into the next avenue of my career, which is coaching.”

Drafted in the 13th round out of Cal State Fullerton in 2004 by the Yankees, Pilittere had been in the organization for seven seasons before leaving to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to this season.  But things didn’t work out, and many wondered why Pilittere would choose to return to an organization that could only find 56 at-bats for him all of last season.  It all comes back to coaching.

“To tell you the truth, I was a volunteer coach at my alma mater this fall, and I was loving it,” Pilittere said.

“But I’ve got to be realistic and I’ve got to progress towards a career.  It’s funny, there’s times where I feel like I’m ready for that next phase of my career, being a coach.  But you’ll get in the lineup, and you’ll play and it’ll all come back to you, why you’re here and why you work every day.  It’s tough, too.  Deep down, you know that you can still play.  I think the last few years were a lot harder than this year, because you kind of come into it knowing what you’re going to get and how things are going to be.”

However, for as resigned to the fact that his playing days are going to be over after this season as Pilittere sounds, don’t be so sure.  He didn’t rule out coming back for a ninth season in 2012, either.

“Right now is the time where I need to consider what I want to do,” he said.

“I know I can have a job with the Yankees whenever I want one, so it’s just kind of figuring out if I want to jump right into coaching now or if I want to continue to play.  It’s hard to really say right now, which is tough.”

With all the talk of a certain catcher’s possible promotion from Scranton to the big leagues, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about that for Pilittere as well.  Even if not in an official capacity, Pilittere deserves the opportunity to spend some time in a big league clubhouse before his career is over.  Yes, you don’t always get what you deserve…but he’s been a good soldier for the organization and has done everything that’s been asked of him.  A well-liked and respected player in the clubhouse and with the media, there are many who would like nothing more than for Pilittere to have a locker in the Yankee Stadium clubhouse in September.

Realistic?  Probably not.  Well-deserved?  No doubt about it.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

16 Responses to “P.J. Pilittere: The Transition Begins”

  1. cec Says:

    You really captured the spirit of the thing. A lot of bus miles in the minors but he can never say he didn’t give it his all to try and get there.

  2. Peter Lacock Says:

    The sum of his parts was always better than he got credit for.
    He’ll be a good coach.

  3. whiteycat Says:

    PJ is one of the finest young men ever to wear a Thunder uniform. I wish him nothing but the best. He is an outstanding human being.

    Mike, thanks for recognizing him in this excellent story.

  4. Two walk-off wins on the farm | River Avenue Blues Says:

    […] sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Also make sure you check out Mike Ashmore‘s piece on long-time organizational catcher P.J. Pilittere, who spoke about his plans for […]

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Mike – As always you’ve outdone yourself with this article. As many have commented above you will be hard pressed to find a finer person that PJ. Anyone who sat close and followed him closely, saw what a team leader he was, He was/is a coach on the field even when he started his career in 2004 at Staten Island. I believe if he was in any other organization that PJ would have had at least a cup of coffee in the bigs. That being said I hope PJ when they rip that jersey off of him does become a coach in the Yankees system. I only see GREAT things ahead for him. And yes Mike it would be great if he got a shot in Sept with the Yanks. I wrote Selig a letter last season about players like PJ, minor league guys that never got a shot. I was hoping that Selig could give every team one exemption (a player in the system for at least 6yrs) and wouldn’t have to be placed on the 40 man roster to get the call up. It seems like a good thing to do. PJ made my daughter a baseball fan by being a great guy to her, I only wish him much success in anything he does.

    Dave Sistaro Staten Island

  6. David McD Says:

    Yeah. One of those guys who’s got successful coach or manager written all over him. If Joe Girardi can do it, why not PJ?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I couldn’t have said it any better there is a guy who would have gotten a cup of coffee with any other team but the Yankees I hope it is true that they are talking to him about a coaching job how about even the bull pen cather at the bigs

  8. mbn Says:

    I thought that after the 2006 season he had in Tampa that he was on the rise.to a prominent role in the organization, and had a future. In the next 2 seasons, mostly with Trenton, he seemed to regress a bit, as his OBP dropped 40 points from 2006, and his slugging also fell below .400 each season. I always thought he was a bright guy, and I do hope he gets a shot in the Yankee organization as a catching instructor somewhere.

    He was very nice to my Family in 2005 in Staten Island. He posed for pictures, and even stayed with us a bit longer than we hoped, as one of the cameras died for a short while. But PJ waited around and was as polite as can be. A really good guy.

  9. Off day notes and links: Jeter jersey on display | The Lohud Yankees Blog Says:

    […] • P.J. Pilittere is starting to think about life beyond his playing days. Good stuff from Mike Ashmore, writing about one of the truly good guys in the Yankees system. […]

  10. YankeesVine » Blog Archive » Off day notes and links: Jeter jersey on display Says:

    […] • P.J. Pilittere is starting to think about life beyond his playing days. Good stuff from Mike Ashmore, writing about one of the truly good guys in the Yankees system. […]

  11. Anonymous Says:

    How about PJ comming to the Thunder to manage or coach he difiantly knows his way around

  12. Minors Links: Mattingly, Pilittere, Paniagua, More | River Avenue Blues Says:

    […] Level Gulf Coast League Yankees this year. The move isn’t much of a surprise if you read Mike Ashmore’s piece on Pilittere last […]

  13. Minors Links: Mattingly, Pilittere, Paniagua, More – - SportNewsX - Sport News AggregatorSportNewsX – Sport News Aggregator Says:

    […] Rookie Level Gulf Coast League Yankees this year. The move isn’t much of a surprise if you read Mike Ashmore’s piece on Pilittere last […]

  14. Paul peterson Says:

    How did PJ do this season have you heard from him

  15. thunderbaseball Says:

    Was a coach in the Yankees organization.

  16. Paul peterson Says:

    Maybe he needed Cevelli’s and Montero’s PED supplier

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