Chasing the dream
Chance to play pro ball draws 30 people to GJ Rockies tryout
Scott Larson wanted more out of his baseball team, but his players wanted something from him in return.
The 42-year-old from Loveland answered his team’s challenge Friday morning by participating in the Grand Junction Rockies tryout camp at Suplizio Field.
“As a coach I got tired of outworking the kids,” Larson said. “They told me to put my money where my mouth is. It’s like, ‘You think you can do so well coach, give it a shot.’ “
Larson coaches a 14-under competitive team, which includes his son, Stephen.
“So far, I haven’t got the critique yet,” Larson said. “I’m sure I’ll get that on the way home. How many pushups I’ve got to do, laps.”
Larson has participated in the Colorado Rockies Fantasy Camp and said Friday’s tryout was similar to it.
“I would’ve preferred live pitching, but I think I did OK,” Larson said. “I probably should’ve wore different shoes. The field was wet, so every time I tried to throw I about fell on my butt. I didn’t set any speed records on the bases, that’s for sure.”
Larson was one of 30 people that gave their dream a shot.
A couple of pitchers did well enough to catch the eye of Colorado Rockies Senior Director of Scouting Marc Gustafson.
“There were a couple guys on the mound that were interesting,” Gustafson said. “We saw some arm strength (and) some pitchability. It’s a tough thing to get signed out of a tryout camp. It might be 10 years, five years (that) you don’t see anything. With this one we’ll have some serious conversations about a couple of them.”
The couple of pitchers include Colorado Mesa University pitcher Jared Christensen and Buena Vista native Brady Adamek.
“It wasn’t my best stuff (Friday),” Christensen said. “Even on days you don’t have your best stuff, you have to rise to the occasion. I feel OK about today, not great. It’s kind of hard to show what you’ve got in 20 pitches with no batter up there, especially when you’re like me.
“I’m just asking for a chance. I know I can do it. I just can’t get into that circle.”
Christensen doesn’t have a 90-plus mph fastball, but is smart on the mound and makes the opponents beat him. He was 12-3 with a 3.49 ERA and four complete games this past season for the Mavericks and was selected Region Pitcher of the Year and RMAC Pitcher of the Year.
The left-hander has pitched for a Toronto Blue Jays scout recently and plans to pitch at a Kansas City Royals workout next week in Denver.
Adamek, who pitched the past two years at NCAA Division I Oakland (Mich.) University, reached 95 mph on the radar guns, but he was erratic, throwing some in the dirt and others off the plate.
“You want to get kids that do have some average velocity, which is 90 mph, at the Major League level,” Grand Junction manager Tony Diaz said. “The kid was a little erratic, but if he wasn’t erratic, he’d be signed with somebody.”
Several former local high school players participated in the tryout, including former Central High School standouts Jason Martinez and Yancy Birch.
Birch, 24, recently completed his collegiate career at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
“All you can do is all you can do,” Birch said. “I did everything necessary to perform at a high level. I can’t control what the coaches and scouts think. I did the best I could, and I’m happy with that.”
Donnie Alexander, 40, and Shad Allerheiligen, 38, both of Grand Junction, tried out, but they didn’t intend to get signed. Rather, they were there to support some of the younger local players with professional aspirations.
“I was here for moral support,” Allerheiligen said. “There’s a lot of kids I coached at Palisade High School that are trying out today. I’m trying to keep them calm. Hopefully they have a chance. Everybody out here has a little bit of nerves. I had nerves, and I’m not trying to make this team.”
Alexander pitched at the University of Northern Colorado and played one year for the Ogden Raptors in the Pioneer League, a Grand Junction Rockies opponent.
“This is chasing your dream, going out and having fun,” he said. “Your baseball clock is always running, and it’s running backwards. I tell the kids stay in the game and take advantage of the opportunities God gave you every single day until it’s gone.”
The Grand Junction Rockies roster has reached it’s limit, but Diaz, Gustafson and the Rockies staff said if a spot opens up, they will have at least a couple names to ponder signing down the road.