‘Dream come true’
Longtime Rockies fan Norton now a part of organization
Cole Norton was at the very first game the Colorado Rockies played in Denver.
“I was about 2 years old,” he said.
Twenty years later, Norton is wearing a Rockies jersey for real as an outfielder for the Grand Junction Rockies.
“It’s pretty much a dream come true,” said Norton, whose family moved from Chicago to Aurora when he was only a few months old. He attended Regis Jesuit High School and played for Walt Weiss his senior year.
“It’s weird how it all falls in place,” said Norton, who was the Rockies’ 39th-round draft pick out of St. Mary’s (Calif.) College. He graduated in late May, came home to Denver and hoped he’d see his name pop up during the three-day draft.
“I knew I wasn’t a top-15-rounder or anything like that, so I went to a workout that morning and saw some of my buddies from school got drafted, so I wished them congratulations,” Norton said. “I went to my house and fell asleep and actually missed my name in the draft.
“I woke up when I heard my dad start screaming. I thought something was wrong, so I woke up, and he said, ‘Go look at the computer, go look at the computer!’ “
Then came the phone calls, first from the Rockies and then from family and friends.
“After that it was two hours of phone calls and a lot of people wishing me the best,” he said. “That part of it for me was almost worth the experience in general, so many people wishing me success and the best of luck.”
And now the best part is he’s close enough to home that his family and friends can watch him play, especially since they missed a lot of games when he was attending college in California.
“The first couple of weeks getting used to it, knowing you’re closer to home and have people pulling for you makes the whole transition easier,” he said.
He’s one of two Colorado players on Grand Junction’s roster, joining Jeff Popick, a Colorado Mesa University graduate who grew up in Lakewood. The two played on a summer baseball team together when they were in high school.
“Being here with him is the whole circle thing again,” Norton said. “It’s kind of cool catching up with him because it’s been four years.”
The week after the draft is a bit of a blur, but he was happy when he found out he was being assigned to Rookie ball in Grand Junction.
“I found out, and it was a quick drive over the mountains. It was nice how that worked out,” he said. “I know my way around a little bit. I’ve been through here a couple of times.”
Norton has been part of the Rockies’ outfield rotation, playing all three positions. Through Friday, he’s played in 14 games, hitting .302 with five doubles, one triple and one home run.
He has blazing speed on the bases and is aggressive, not hesitating on balls in the dirt or challenging outfielders’ arms in taking an extra base.
In the outfield, Norton is a fan of the left-field wall at Suplizio, but he could do without the blinding sun as it sets behind the stadium.
“The wall is nice. It’s kind of like a fourth outfielder,” he said. “I kind of shade over to the gap a little bit.
“I’m not a fan of the sun in left so much, especially when it comes over the giant wall (of the Lincoln Park Tower) and it’s right there. You just hope (the ball isn’t) hit in the sun. Over or under it, you can deal with it.
“Sunglasses are a must out in left. If you play it right, it’s a nice home-field advantage.”
Like all first-year players, Norton is learning about the grind of playing every day.
“For me the hardest part was the amount of hours you’re out here,” he said. “In college you prepare two hours a day for a three-game series on the weekend. Here, it’s eight hours a day for a two-hour game and you get one day off a week if you’re lucky.
“You learn how to prepare your body. That’s the biggest adjustment to me, making sure I’m ready to go but not overexerting myself before I go out there.”
The thought of being in the same organization as the players he grew up idolizing still has Norton pinching himself.
“I remember Dante Bichette and Larry Walker, Todd Helton. It’s kind of cool to see how they’re still doing,” Norton said.
“It’s awesome, it’s surreal, really, a storybook being drafted by your hometown team you’ve rooted for your whole life. I’m definitely going to try to make the most of it and work hard, and whatever happens, happens.”