A night to remember
Roling in ‘awe’ of honor from the Grand Junction Rockies
He signed autographs, threw out the first pitch and was recognized prior to the third inning of Thursday night’s Grand Junction Rockies game at Suplizio Field.
Kiel Roling always wondered what it would be like to get that kind of recognition and it was more than he imagined.
“I’m in awe,” Roling said after receiving a plaque with his picture and an inscription prior to the game. “You see other people go through a situation like this. You always wonder what it would feel like.
“It almost brings me to tears out there, the support I got from friends and family. People around here can appreciate everything that’s happened. I really appreciate everyone that came out tonight.”
Roling grew up playing Little League and high school baseball in Grand Junction before being drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2008. He played six years in the minor leagues before retiring after last season.
He is back living in Grand Junction with his wife, Stevie (Hughes). Roling is finishing his college degree through Arizona State University online and giving hitting lessons to young baseball players.
Roling’s wife, parents, brother, grandparents, aunt and cousin came to the game to support him.
“It’s awesome,” said his brother, Brett Roling. “Part of me is glad he’s done, but part of me hates he is done. I only got to watch him one time in (Double A) Tulsa.”
Kiel Roling saw a lot of familiar faces during the pregame autograph session, including former teachers and Little League parents.
Some parents asked Kiel if he could give their son hitting lessons and he gave the parents his phone number.
Roling signed autographs for a young boy and girl. He handed the first one to the girl, then the second one to the boy and told the boy, “Girls first. Treat girls nice.”
Roling visited with the Grand Junction Rockies team earlier Thursday afternoon.
He told them first and foremost to appreciate the opportunity to play baseball and get paid to do it.
“The main thing I can tell you is to enjoy the opportunity you have,” Roling told the team. “I’m sure everybody’s told you that, but it’s the most true thing you’re going to learn. You get to play baseball and you’re getting paid for it. I know it’s not that much, but you’ve got to enjoy it as long as you can.
“I look back on my career. I played six years. I had some success, but I look back and know I could’ve worked harder. I could’ve done more in the offseason. If I could give you guys information ... work as hard as you can.”
He said it is imperative for hitters to learn how to deal with failure, telling the team he hit higher than .300 until he reached professional baseball and thought he wasn’t doing well.
“You’ve got to learn to know you’ve got tomorrow,” Roling said. “You’ve got to do what you can. I had a coach that slapped me in the head and said you’ve got to let it go. You’re going to have crappy days, but you’ve got to strive for those good days.”
He also encouraged the players to speak up and be a leader in the clubhouse.
“Don’t be scared of being a leader out there,” he said. “It’s hard being a leader. You’re trying to make friends in a new environment. Friendships in this game are a dime a dozen. You’ll make new friends each year.
“You’ve got to know if a guy is trying to get a cheap RBI (instead of moving a runner), you need to get on them and let them know. It’s going to get amplified as you go up (in the minor leagues). If you have a guy on second base, your only goal is to get him to third. You’re playing for the team, not for yourself.”
Grand Junction manager Anthony Sanders encouraged the Grand Junction Rockies players to visit with Roling about the difference between different levels of minor league baseball.
Although Roling enjoyed being back in the baseball atmosphere, he is content with his decision to retire.
“You’re never sure (about retiring) because you can’t see the future,” Roling said. “I knew in my heart I was done. I’m ready to start my life and have a more normal life.”