On a roll
Central grad off to a solid start with Drillers
Kiel Roling got the 2013 season off to a memorable start.
The Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers first baseman hit a walk-off home run in the 13th inning in the Drillers’ 2-1 victory over the San Antonio (Texas) Missions on Friday night in San Antonio.
“It’s one of those times I had a rough game, but late in the game I got a good hit,” Roling told The Daily Sentinel. “I thought it had no chance of going out. The wind was blowing in and I hit it to left-center. It’s one of those fields the ball doesn’t fly well.”
He was 1 for 6 with three strikeouts in the game.
This is Roling’s sixth season in professional baseball and third in Tulsa, the Colorado Rockies’ Double-A affiliate.
“I’m happy about it,” the Central High School graduate said. “Last year was tough splitting (playing) time. This year, it looks like I’ll play more and get more consistent at-bats.
“At any point, I’m one call away (from the major leagues).”
For some players, a sixth season in the minor leagues could be a make-or-break season. Roling, 26, doesn’t look at it that way.
“I’m trying to have as much fun as I can,” Roling said. “I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself the past couple years. It’s a blessing to play this game. I told myself when I started, I’m going to play until they tell me I can’t play anymore.”
He is expecting to get more playing time at first base this season.
With six of the eight teams in the Texas League affiliated with American League teams, there will be more designated hitter opportunities. Whenever there is an American League team, a DH can be used regardless of which affiliated team hosts the game.
Roling is completely healthy this season after playing most of his professional career with a broken metacarpal bone in his left hand.
“I broke it some time with the knob of the bat,” he said. “It was broken for years, I guess.”
Roling played the entire 2012 season at Tulsa, where he hit .261 with 15 doubles, 13 home runs and 48 RBI in 84 games. He split time between first base and designated hitter.
Roling was selected by the Rockies in the sixth round of the 2008 draft out of Arizona State University.
He began his professional career with the Advanced Rookie team in Casper, now Grand Junction, in 2008. There, he hit .344 with seven doubles, four home runs and 17 RBI in 18 games.
In 2009, Roling had his best year in Class-A Asheville (N.C.), where he hit .331 with 26 doubles, 20 home runs and 66 RBI in 94 games, earning him the Colorado Rockies minor league hitter of the year award.
Roling was promoted to Tulsa in 2010, but struggled through an injury-plagued season. He made three separate appearances on the disabled list in 2010. Roling hit .225 with 17 doubles, 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 93 games.
Roling started working out in the offseason earlier and it paid off. He played in 2011 at Class-A Modesto (Calif.), where he hit .252 with 24 doubles, 16 home runs and 58 RBI in 105 games.
Wilson hangs up the spikes
Delta High School graduate Chris Wilson decided he was ready to end his baseball career and retired in the offseason, but he has no regrets.
“I enjoyed it,” Wilson told the Sentinel. “I could’ve done without the injuries. I’m happy to go out on my own instead of being forced out because of injuries.”
Wilson, 26, said he spent a lot of time thinking about his future after last season. He’s looking at returning to college and going into law enforcement.
“There was nothing said or done,” Wilson said. “It was a decision I thought about a majority of the offseason. I’m at peace with it. The Giants were supportive of my decision.”
Wilson reached Double A last year in the San Francisco Giants organization. He was 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA and pitched 20 1/3 innings in 12 appearances with the Richmond (Va.) Flying Squirrels.
“(Double A) is faster paced,” Wilson said. “It’s more competitive, but I felt like I did well.
“I had a good (last) year. I enjoyed all my time in (professional) baseball.”
He started the 2012 season at Class A Advanced San Jose (Calif.), where he was 3-2 with a 3.27 ERA and three saves. He pitched 41 1/3 innings in 36 appearances.
Wilson attended Trinidad State Junior College after high school.
He was drafted in 2006 by the Tampa Bay Rays, but didn’t sign. He was drafted by the Giants in the 38th round (1,137 overall) in 2008.
He began his professional career with the Giants’ Rookie League affiliate in Arizona, but was quickly promoted to the Class-A, short-season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA and six saves between the two clubs that season.
The next year, Wilson was promoted to Class-A Augusta (Ga.), where he was 5-5 with a 3.83 ERA and nine saves.
In 2010, a partially torn elbow ligament injury limited him to 22 2/3 innings between the Arizona Rookie League and Augusta.
In 2011, the right-handed relief pitcher threw 15 1/3 innings in San Jose when a blood clot formed between his right-pitching arm and his neck in May. He had surgery to remove the blood clot, then had another surgery a month later to remove a rib that pinched the vein, causing the blood clot. He missed the rest of the season.