Alphonse Dante Bichette
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 225 lb.
- School Palm Beach Community College
- High School Jupiter High School
- Debut September 5, 1988
- Final Game October 6, 2001
- Born November 18, 1963 in West Palm Beach, FL USA
Dante Bichette was one of the most-feared hitters of the 1990s and a key component of the "Blake Street Bombers", the big bats of the 1995 Colorado Rockies lineup that also included Andres Galarraga, Vinny Castilla and Hall of Famer Larry Walker who led the team to the NL Wild Card. Bichette's production relied heavily on the influence of Coors Field and Mile High Stadium and his park-adjusted statistics are not as impressive as his reputation. The park factor in Colorado during Bichette's days varied from 116 to 129. His namesake, Dante Bichette, Jr., was a first-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft and his younger son, Bo Bichette, was a rookie sensation with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019.
Struggling in the minors
Bichette was initially signed by the California Angels and scout Preston Douglas as a 17th round pick in the 1984 amateur draft, the 424th overall pick. Assigned to the Salem Angels, he only hit .232/~.256/.332 with six walks and 53 strikeouts in 250 at bats. Moving up to the Quad City Angels, he batted .265/~.287/.391 with 25 stolen bases and a Midwest League-leading 13 game-winning RBI.
Developing into a prospect
Advancing to the Palm Springs Angels in 1986, the 22-year-old hit .272/~.322/.428 as he continued to develop. He drove in 73 runs in 68 games and was promoted to the Midland Angels, where he put up a .284/~.333/.514 line. He struck out 102 times that year, but hit 22 home runs and drove in 109 runs. Amazingly, his line had improved with each level, going from overwhelmed in short-season Class A to a fairly productive player in AA. In 1987, Dante was with the AAA Edmonton Trappers and produced a .300/~.347/.481 campaign. While he hit only 13 home runs, he also cut his strikeout total to 68 and tied for 9th in the Pacific Coast League in batting average.
The next year, Bichette batted .267/~.301/.446 for Edmonton. While he reached double digits in every extra-base-hit category (29 doubles, 10 triples, 14 home runs) and tied for the PCL lead in triples, an OPS around 747 was underwhelming in the offense-oriented PCL. He led the league with 22 outfield assists. He hit only .261/.240/.304 in a September call-up to the Angels with a pitiful 54 OPS+ for a corner outfielder. That earned him a return ticket to Edmonton in '89, where his production remained unimpressive at just .243/~.316/.455. He continued to fare poorly with the big club (.210/.240/.326 in 48 games).
A regular in MLB
Given a regular job in 1990, Bichette batted .255/.292/.433. He hit 15 homers and recorded 12 outfield assists (two of which were double plays). His 102 OPS+ was okay, but not great for a corner outfielder, and he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for fading slugger Dave Parker, who would retire after the season. Bichette lasted two seasons in Milwaukee, with production similar or worse than his 1990 campaign - .238/.272/.393 (a 84 OPS+) and .287/.318/.406 (104 OPS+). In 1991, he won a game, 6-5, with a two-run triple against the Minnesota Twins. That season, he hit his first career grand slam against the Oakland Athletics.
Finding his way in Colorado
Dante was shipped to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Kevin Reimer, who never returned to the majors after that season, on November 17, 1992. It was in the thin air that Bichette made his mark, hitting at least 21 home runs each of his six seasons there. He was a consistent All-Star, making the All-Star team from 1994-1996 and 1998, and won a 1995 Silver Slugger Award while finishing second in the NL MVP race. Despite routinely finishing among the league leaders in key offensive statistics, his OPS+ was generally below-average or average for his position, except for 1995. That year, he set a franchise record with a 23-game hitting streak, a record which stood until 2013 when Michael Cuddyer had a streak of 27 games. He also set a record for the highest homer-to-walk ratio for anyone hitting 40 or more homers: he hit 40 homers while walking just 22 times, for a ratio of 1.82 to 1. His road OPS was often under 700, indicating Colorado's environment was dramatically inflating his statistics.
He hit the first home run in Rockies history. It came in the 7th inning of the team's second game, on April 7, 1993, against Bret Saberhagen of the New York Mets. It was also the first run and RBI in team history, as the Rockies had been shut out, 3-0, in their first ever game on April 5th, and lost the second game, 6-1. Those scoring woes were soon forgotten as they scored 11 runs in their home opener at Mile High Stadium two days later and the legend of the "Blake Street Bombers" was born.
Bichette was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1999, then the Boston Red Sox in 2000. The Red Sox let him go after the 2001 season, and he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2002 season. In the middle of spring training he announced his retirement  to spend more time with his family.
After a two-year lay-off, Bichette returned to baseball in 2004 to play with the Nashua Pride of the independent Atlantic League. Bichette proved he still could hit, tearing up the league with 18 home runs and 54 RBI in 49 games, along with a line of .312/.370/.653. Still blessed with a strong arm, he even took a try pitching, posting a 0-1 record and 12.00 ERA in 3 games (1 start) in 6 innings of work. He was featured in Sports Illustrated for this feat. Bichette did not make the league All-Star team or finish among the leaders in key offensive categories even at this low level of competition. When asked why he returned to baseball, he said he could not get it out of his blood but had no intention of returning to the majors.
Post playing career
After his retirement as a player, Bichette focussed on coaching his son Dante Jr., who was selected in the supplemental first round of the 2011 amateur draft. He coached his son's team to an appearance in the Little League World Series in 2005 and later with Orangewood Christian High School. His younger son, Bo Bichette, was also a promising high school player thanks to his father's tutelage. After being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the in the 2nd round of the 2016 Amateur Draft, he made his big league debut in 2019.
Dante enjoyed the coaching experience so much that he accepted to return to the major leagues as hitting coach of the Rockies after his former teammate Walt Weiss was hired as the team's manager in 2013. Weiss's last job had also been as a coach in the high school ranks. He stayed only for that year however. In 2020, he was invited to spring training by the Blue Jays as a special instructor. The team brass liked his work so much that they offered him an official job with the team as assistant hitting coach before the season began. In 2021, with MLB having limited the number of coaches teams could have, he was simply listed as a special assistant.
- 4-time NL All-Star (1994-1996 & 1998)
- NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (1995)
- NL Slugging Percentage Leader (1995)
- NL At Bats Leader (1994)
- 2-time NL Hits Leader (1995 & 1998)
- NL Total Bases Leader (1995)
- NL Home Runs Leader (1995)
- NL RBI Leader (1995)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 8 (1993-2000)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 3 (1995, 1996 & 1999)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1995)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 5 (1995-1999)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 3 (1995, 1996 & 1999)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (1998)