‘I was ready to be done’

Kiel Roling at peace with his decision to retire from baseball

After hitting 24 home runs last season for Tulsa, Central High School graduate Kiel Roling decided to call it a career, retiring from baseball after six minor-league seasons. Roling said he would have started the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs, but not as a full-time player. The part-time role wasn’t what Roling wanted.

Kiel Roling hopes to return to baseball one day, but for now, it’s time for a break.

The 27-year-old Central High School graduate retired last week after a six-year professional baseball career in the Colorado Rockies organization.

“I thought it was the right time,” Roling said. “I was ready to be done. I love baseball, but it’s a hard lifestyle. I don’t think people understand how hard it is. After you do that for a long time, it starts to wear on you. I didn’t feel like I wanted to do it anymore.”

The idea of retiring hit Roling a couple of weeks before he was scheduled to report for spring training in February.

“It was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make,” Roling said. “It was my dream to play forever. It’s one of those things I’ve been in the game long enough. At least I didn’t get released.”

If Roling didn’t retire, he said he likely would’ve started the season with Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday.

“They told me I was looking at worst going to Triple-A,” Roling said. “I would’ve likely split time there. It’s not fun being a backup, especially later on in your career. That was the hardest part. I thought of that. I didn’t want to be just a backup or play against lefties. It would’ve been fun to play in Colorado Springs, but I wanted to play (on a regular basis).”

Instead, Roling spent Thursday watching the Colorado Rockies play the Miami Marlins.

“I have friends still playing with the Rockies,” he said. “I’ve been talking to Nolan Arenado quite a bit. I watched their whole game today. I’m not bummed. It’s not awkward. I made the decision to be done.”

Roling was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the sixth round in 2008 after earning All-American honors as a catcher at Arizona State University. The Rockies moved him to first base and designated hitter.

He started with the Rockies Advanced Rookie team, which was in Casper, Wyo., at the time. After one year there, he jumped up to Class A Asheville (N.C.), where he hit .331 with 20 home runs and 66 RBI in 94 games. He received the Rockies Minor League Organizational hitter of the year award.

Roling bumped up to Double A Tulsa (Okla.) in 2010, but he had three separate stints on the disabled list that year.

He played one year at Class A Advanced Modesto (Calif.) in 2011 and avoided the disabled list.

Roling returned to Tulsa in 2012 and hit .261 with 13 home runs and 48 RBI. Last year, he made the Texas League All-Star Game and finished second in the home run derby. He hit .261 with a career-best 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 112 games.

“It was a really good year,” Roling said. ” It was a fun year. You have years like that make you want to keep playing, but it was a good year to end on.”

He hit 49 home runs in three seasons with Tulsa, setting the club’s career record for home runs.

Roling and his wife, Stevie (Hughes), whom he married in November 2012, moved back to Grand Junction and bought a house.

Roling, who was drafted after his junior year at Arizona State, is finishing classes for his degree through an online program, but he hopes to return to baseball in some role.

“I want to stay in baseball,” he said. “I’ve been giving hitting lessons. Maybe one day down the road, being GJ Rockies hitting coach.”


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