First baseman Ferguson settling in at plate, on field with GJ Rockies
It’s normal for a player’s head to be spinning a little bit the first few days of his professional career.
New town, new teammates, new coaches and a new way of looking at the game as a job.
Imagine only six games into your pro career, you’re called in and told you’re joining a new team.
That’s what happened with Collin Ferguson, who was drafted in the 17th round last month by Colorado and assigned to Boise, the club’s short-season Class A affiliate.
Just when Ferguson, a first baseman out of St. Mary’s (California) University felt like he was settling in with the Hawks, he was on a plane from Everett, Washington, bound for Orem, Utah, to meet up with the Grand Junction Rockies.
“It’s just part of the business,” he said Thursday with a grin. “I didn’t worry about it too much. The team and coaches have been very accommodating and very gracious in welcoming me onto the team.”
Ferguson took the roster spot that opened up when the Rockies promoted Roberto Ramos to Class A Asheville. As the only true first baseman on the roster, Ferguson sees the move as a benefit. Chris Keck, a third baseman, and Elvin Paulino, a catcher, also play first.
“I knew Ramos got moved up to Asheville from this team, and when I was told I was getting sent over here, I was just really excited about getting the opportunity to play all the time,” he said. “I hear it’s a great area to hit in, being a high-altitude area.”
He’d been in town two days and hadn’t yet played a game at Suplizio Field because of back-to-back rainouts. Make that three days when Thursday’s doubleheader was washed out.
He played first base in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, going 0 for 1 with two walks, and he was hit by a pitch.
In Boise, Ferguson was sharing playing time with Brian Mundell, Colorado’s seventh-round draft pick. Nate Causey, who played in Grand Junction last season, is also in Boise but is injured and has only played one game.
Ferguson played six games for the Hawks, going 4 for 20 (.200) with one RBI. He struck out seven times.
“I was feeling a lot better in Boise about my swing, honestly, right before I left,” he said. “I like to think it would have happened either place. It’s been a good adjustment down here.”
In his first seven games for Grand Junction, the 6-foot-2, 216-pound lefty hit .310 (9 for 29) with four doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI.
As welcome as Ferguson feels with Grand Junction, the Rockies feel the same way.
“He’s stepped into this lineup here for us in the middle of the lineup and plays some good defense for us as well,” manager Anthony Sanders said. “Obviously some of these young kids look up to him with his approach at the plate.
“You can tell he’s played a little bit more baseball than some of these guys, and he came from a good college program. It’s shown up.”
Ferguson had some time to absorb the change in location on the flight to Utah, with a couple of ways he could look at his new assignment.
“I was disappointed, I made some good friends on the Boise team, so that was kind of the downside of it, but we come here to play, so this was a better opportunity for me,” he said. “I was just excited to get here and meet the guys. All baseball players are pretty similar, we all get along pretty well, so it wasn’t too bad.
“I think everyone at this level can play at a high level. I was just excited for the opportunity to play every day, no matter where I was.”
Ferguson hit .337 his senior year at St. Mary’s, starting in all 55 games for the Gaels. He hit eight home runs and 24 doubles, driving in 39 runs, tied for most on the team. His 24 doubles are a single-season record at St. Mary’s, and he owns the club record for games played, 214. He also has the school career marks for doubles (71) and at-bats (804).
The Rockies coaches and roving instructors don’t try to change a player’s swing when they report to Rookie ball, but instead work with them on their timing and make small tweaks. Ferguson said his swing tends to get a little long at times, but he and Grand Junction hitting coach Lee Stevens have worked on his timing on his swing rather than trying to shorten it.
“I think it’s all timing. I know I do have a tendency to get real long, but I feel when my swing is going well I’m not (long), but I do have a long finish,” Ferguson said. “But I feel that when my swing is going well from the left side, I can be on time with some high velocities and big pitches. Hopefully I can keep that going.”
The three straight days of rainouts kept Ferguson from getting used to his new digs, but he said he tried to make the most of the time off. He got to know his new teammates and coaches a little bit better, and he also tried to get in some extra work, even if the club couldn’t get on the field.
Only a dozen games into his career, he said he hasn’t seen improvement so much as a better comfort level. With three home runs in six games for the Rockies, he thinks his power numbers will only get better the deeper into the season he goes.
With the weather clearing, Ferguson was eager to play in front of his new hometown fans Friday instead of just practicing on the football field and hoping for clear skies. He does, however, love being at the ballpark day and night.
“They’re long days, but that’s why we do it. We love the game,” he said. “I love the game. I love the work part of the game. I enjoy all the little stuff and all the practices before.
“This is what we signed up for. It’s a job. We’re putting in nine-, eight-hour days like everyone else. Maybe it’s a little more physical activity than other jobs, but we don’t look at it that way.
“We have a lot of fun doing what we do and feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to play for a living.”