Fulfilling dreams: Kiel Roling making impact in Rockies’ organization
Playing professional baseball has been a dream of Kiel Roling’s as long as he can remember.
The 22-year-old former Central High School standout is living that dream and enjoying every minute of it.
He recently completed his second season in professional baseball, winning the South Atlantic League batting title with a .331 average for the Colorado Rockies’ Class A Asheville Tourists.
“I know our catcher, Jordan Pacheco, was leading the league all year,” Roling said. “He was the (league) MVP. I still feel like he deserves the batting title. He had 120 more at-bats than I did. If I had those 120 at-bats, I could’ve been down close to .300.”
Pacheco finished second in the league with a .322 average. Together, Roling and Pacheco led the Tourists to the South Atlantic League Southern Division second-half title and a spot in the SAL playoffs.
“We kind of pushed each other,” Roling said. “He was third in the lineup and I was fourth. I would tell him, ‘if you’re going to hit today, I’m going to hit today.’ It was one of those fun rivalries.
“You have that extra ‘I got to go today, he’s doing well, I want to do well.’ I feel like I’ve always had that from high school with Andrew Martinez, and Brett Wallace at Arizona State. I hope I pushed him, too. I think that makes your season better when you’re competing against (a teammate).”
Greenville, which won the Southern Division first-half title, swept Asheville 2-0 before losing to Lakewood for the SAL Championship last week.
Roling’s season started slow.
He spent three weeks in extended spring training while a thigh muscle injury healed before reporting to Asheville.
“It was tough because you’re playing down there and you’re hearing about your team in Asheville losing,” Roling said. “You feel like you’re ready, but they have timetables they go by. I was thrilled (when) they told me I was on a flight the next day.
“When I first got there, I felt like I was a little slow for a week, then I felt like I hit my stride.”
Roling joined the Tourists in April, but tweaked a knee running the bases and had to sit out two weeks during the season.
He finished the season with 114 hits in 344 at-bats with 26 doubles, 20 home runs and 66 RBI.
After the season ended, Roling spent a week back in Grand Junction, taking it easy at his parents’ home before reporting to Tucson for instructional league.
Roling, though, didn’t sit in front of the TV the entire time at his parents’ home. He spent some time hitting baseballs in a cage and tossing the ball with his father, Guy, and brother, Brett, 24.
“I went and hit and I’ve thrown a couple days,” he said. “I don’t want to go down there and not know what I’m doing anymore.”
Instructional league is three weeks of training.
“This year, it’s been a long season,” Roling said. “You get the one week of off time that’s freedom then you go back and have to turn it back on.”
Roling will be back for Thanksgiving and Christmas before reporting for spring training in February.
He won’t know where he’ll be assigned in the Rockies organization until spring training.
“I think they kind of know where they want you to go,” Roling said. “If you have a bad spring training they may keep you somewhere else and if you have a good one, they may move you up. I just hope they move me up every year.
“I just hope I can move up and go to Modesto. That’s all I can ask for, it’s all up to them. If they tell me to jump, I jump. That’s how it works.”
If Roling plays for the Rockies’ Class A Advanced Modesto (Calif.) Nuts and succeeds, there would only be two more levels between Modesto and playing at Coors Field in Denver.
“If I’m lucky enough to make it up there and play in Denver, it would be a dream come true,” he said. “It would be amazing.
“If you can progress one level every year, it would put you in good position. If you’re lucky enough to skip a level, even better. I still feel pretty young at this point. I don’t really have a timetable on it. Whenever I make it, if I do make it, it’s going to be fun either way. If it’s two years, five years, whatever.”
Roling is just having fun playing a game he’s played since he was old enough to swing a bat.
“That was the thing this year,” he said. “The coach we had was the best coach to play for. He was out there running around being like a kid with us sometimes. It was fun, a very, very good experience.”
“When we were losing in the first half, it was kind of rough, but when we were winning it was a good time.”