Colorado connection

Trio of GJ Rockies played prep baseball in state

Max George was one of six players with ties to Colorado high schools who were drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the Major League draft earlier this month. George, who attended Regis Jesuit High School, signed his pro contract, but three other Colorado prep players drafted haven’t yet signed.

Max George was not the first Colorado-grown talent off the board in the 2014 Major League Baseball entry draft, or even the first Colorado high school player taken.

But when the middle infielder was taken in the sixth round by the Colorado Rockies, he became one of the most intriguing.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder attended Regis Jesuit, a private high school in Aurora.

George played for current Colorado Rockies manager Walt Weiss, manning second base opposite the manager’s son, when Weiss coached the Raiders in 2012. In 2014, he was the Gatorade Colorado Baseball Player of the Year after leading the Raiders to an appearance in the Class 5A state championship. He hit .458 with three home runs and scored 31 runs during his senior season.

That success led to him being the third prep player the Colorado Rockies selected in the draft, and George signed with the Rockies despite a scholarship offer from Oregon State.

A chance to play for the hometown team he grew up watching was the main reason he went pro.

“It was a huge part of it,” George said. “The Rockies are obviously a great organization, and I couldn’t be more happy.”

George reported to Grand Junction for his first minor league assignment on June 13, but he wasn’t the only Colorado product at Suplizio Field.

Kyle Freeland, the Rockies’ first-round draft pick at No. 8 overall, is a 2011 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School in southeast Denver. Freeland broke the Colorado high school strikeout record with 145 during his senior season. He reported to Grand Junction for his first assignment, but he won’t begin pitching until mid-July as the Rockies will ease him back into action after he pitched 99 2/3 innings for the University of Evansville (Indiana) this season.

Gavin Glanz, who graduated from Arvada West in 2010, was taken in the 23rd round by the Rockies and is listed as a relief pitcher on the Grand Junction Rockies’ depth chart.

The Colorado Rockies drafted three more Colorado prep players in the late rounds: ThunderRidge shortstop Brody Westmoreland, Pueblo South catcher Cory Voss and Legacy left-hander Lucas Gilbreath. All three have committed to Division I college programs and are unlikely to sign with the Rockies.

All-in-all, 23 players with connections to Colorado high school baseball were drafted, more than a quarter of them by the Rockies.

The high number of Colorado players drafted speaks volumes about the quality of baseball in Colorado, George said.

“I think, especially in the past few years, Colorado baseball has grown a lot,” George said. “We had a lot of players drafted, a lot of D-I commits and D-I signees. High school baseball in Colorado is definitely on the rise.”

Fort Collins High School baseball coach Marc Wagner, who has coached and recruited at multiple Division I colleges, said the quality of the baseball in Colorado has slowly ticked upward.

“I mean, everybody is playing year-round now,” Wagner said. “You can tell the guys you’re coaching that (being drafted) happens, and it can happen to them. The big knock out here — I grew up here— was we don’t get seen, we don’t get looked at. If you’re good, people will find you. I think that’s always been true, to a degree, but it’s even more true these days. There are so many avenues to be seen, and players and coaches have ample opportunity to help players get noticed.”

Grand Junctions Rockies General Manager Tim Ray said, from a business perspective, drafting Colorado players makes sense.

“Having a minor league, rookie league team in Colorado, it gets people excited,” Ray said. “Having the players be able to be a part of this, in Colorado where there are a lot of talented baseball players, it makes sense giving them an opportunity to come here. The (Colorado) Rockies rely on us to make sure things are done right, whether it’s having a positive hand in the development of these kids or with the general direction of the franchise.

“I feel like drafting Colorado kids serves both. I had a fan come up to me and say, ‘We cannot wait for the draft,’ because we’ve developed a history of having high-round draft picks in Grand Junction. Having Colorado kids here adds to that.”


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