Back in 1991, the KC Royals selected Joe Vitiello out of the University of Alabama. Coming out of high school, he played three sports and received scholarship offers for all three, though baseball was his best option. He was also drafted in the 31st round of the draft in 1988 by the NY Yankees.
Vitiello went on to Alabama to star as an outfielder, a first baseman, and a pitcher for three years. He won the Crimson Tide’s Triple Crown in his final two seasons (1990 and 1991). He was a first team All-American in his junior season, hitting .395 with 15 home runs and 67 RBIs while leading the Crimson Tide to the NCAA Tournament. That led to the Royals selecting him seventh overall in 1991.
Vitiello started quickly in the Royals farm system, beginning his professional career with Double-A Memphis. Though he hit for a high average in the minors (.279 or better over five straight seasons), the power was a bit slower to develop. He hit 15 home runs in 1993 with Memphis and then hit double-digits in homers over the next two seasons.
He made his Major League debut on April 29, 1995 and struck out as a pinch-hitter against the now great Andy Pettitte. He played in 54 games during his rookie season, but then bounced around between Triple-A Omaha and the big leagues through 1999.
Following free agency, Vitiello moved on to San Diego in 2000, where he hit .250 in 39 games. In 2001, he went to play for Orix in Japan, but started slowly and was not offered a contract for the following season. He moved on to Montreal in 2002 (Triple-A and hit .329) and in 2003, where he hit .342 with 13 RBIs, mainly as a pinch-hitter for the Expos.
2004 found him back in Triple-A, this time with Toledo (Detroit). That was his final season, as he retired at the age of 34 with 693 total big league at-bats.
In a 2011 article in his hometown paper (Stoneham Sun, Massachusetts), Vitiello admitted he had a hard time adjusting to life after baseball, especially with a family. He believes today’s athletes need to start preparing earlier for life after baseball. He thought about coaching, but needed a full-time job to support his family.
He currently lives in San Diego with his wife and four daughters. He is a mortgage consultant with HomePlus Mortgage. Vitiello believes that when his daughters get older, he would like to get back into baseball as a coach.