Local pros hoping to show stuff in minors; Baldwin retires

Shaver Hansen, Fruita Monument graduate

Two years ago, Geoff Baldwin had a decision to make: A scholarship to play baseball at the University of Nebraska or a pro contract with the Kansas City Royals?

Baldwin chose pro baseball.

After two years in the minors, though, “baseball is not what I want to do,” Baldwin told The Daily Sentinel this week after retiring from the game at the end of spring training.

“I thought about it some last year,” the 20-year-old Grand Junction High School graduate said. “A lot had to do with what I want to do and I want to do something different. I enjoyed playing baseball. The Royals were great to me.”

As part of his signing bonus, Baldwin has a college scholarship paid by the Royals. He’ll study engineering at Montana State in Bozeman, starting classes in May.

Baldwin went to spring training this season to see if he would have a change of heart, but didn’t.

“I wanted to see if (baseball) was something I wanted to pursue,” Baldwin said. “The Royals have a strong minor league system.

“I couldn’t plan this out any better. I had an opportunity to play pro baseball and now I’m ready to move on.”

Baldwin hit .184 with five doubles and 14 RBI in 50 games for the Rookie League Burlington (N.C.) Royals last season. He hit .251 with seven doubles, three home runs and 21 RBI in 2009 with the Royals Arizona Rookie League team.

The All-Colorado first baseman was selected by Kansas City in the 10th round of the 2009 draft.

“People ask me all the time if I regret not going to Nebraska,” Baldwin said. “I tell them, absolutely not. Now I get to go to school for free. I’m happy with it.

“I’ve always held academics in a high regard. I’m ready to do other things.”

Three other area players open their seasons in the minors today.

Kiel Roling

Roling, 24, recently completed rehabilitation of a leg injury (pulled quadriceps muscle), but is staying in extended spring training in Arizona to get more at-bats before being assigned for the season.

The Central High School graduate will likely rejoin the Tulsa (Okla.) Drillers, the Colorado Rockies’ Class AA team in the Texas League.

“Ever since my leg was messed up my first year, I’ve had trouble with it,” Roling said. “Last year, I ran into the catcher in a collision and had some problems with it. It’s good now.”

Roling, a first baseman, had an outstanding season in Class A Asheville (N.C.) in 2009, hitting .331 with 20 home runs and 66 RBI in 94 games. After winning the South Atlantic League batting title and winning the Rockies’ minor league hitter of the year award, he skipped Class A Advanced ball and started the 2010 season in Tulsa.

Roling, though, didn’t have the same success. In fact, he said it was his toughest season.

“Last year was definitely a learning experience,” Roling said. “I went into the season prepared to struggle. The coaches told me it’s a big jump. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well and it showed in my numbers.

“I’ve been lucky. I’ve done well through my career, but last season was the first season I truly struggled for awhile. I learned a lot from it. I feel 10 times better.”

He hit .225 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 93 games.

“I thought I had the game figured out,” Roling said. “Baseball will humble you in a heartbeat. It’s a game of adjustments. I learned you can’t take anything for granted.”

Roling spent the offseason in the Phoenix area and worked out at the Rockies’ new spring training facility.

“Going in this year, knowing what I know now, I know what to expect,” Roling said. “The competition is better. You have to adjust on the fly.”

Shaver Hansen

Hansen, 23, pulled a hamstring trying to beat out a throw to first base in spring training nearly two weeks ago.

The Fruita Monument graduate is staying in extended spring training in Arizona to rehabilitate, but has been told he will likely join the Class A Advanced High Desert (Calif.) Mavericks when the hamstring heals.

Hansen moved up to Class A Advanced last year after starting the season with the Class A Clinton (Iowa) Lumberjacks.

Hansen hit .208 with six home runs and 33 RBI last season between both squads. He hit .217 with nine doubles, six home runs and 29 RBI in 69 games with the Mavericks. He hit .167 with three doubles and four RBI in 16 games in Clinton.

“Everybody wants to move up,” Hansen said. “I had an up-and-down season, but I learned a lot. It’s a mental grind. I’m trying to keep the right mentality.”

Hansen is splitting time between second base and third base.

“The California League is known as a hitter’s league,” Hansen said. “It’s competitive.”

Christopher Wilson

Wilson, 24, will begin the season in Class A Advanced San Jose (Calif.). The San Jose Giants open the 2011 season tonight at Lake Elsinore (Calif.), an affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

“It’s always a good step in the right direction (to move up a classification),” Wilson said. “We have a good coaching staff and a good team.

“I want to give my team a chance to win when I do get in the game. I know I’ll come in later in the game, but no roles have been established yet. I know I’ll come out of the bullpen in tight situations.”

The Delta High School graduate was a top reliever for Class A Augusta (Ga.) in 2009 when he registered nine saves and owned a 3.83 ERA in 40 games. He posted 67 strikeouts and walked only eight in 512⁄3 innings. The right-handed reliever didn’t join the GreenJackets until early August last year because of an arm injury, but threw well to finish the season with a 2.76 ERA and four saves in 11 appearances.

Wilson had a strained ligament in his right elbow last spring and stayed in Arizona for extended spring training.

“My arm feels great,” Wilson said. “I worked hard in the offseason.”

Wilson spent most of the offseason in Trinidad, working with his former Trinidad State Junior College coaches.

Wilson has worked on a changeup this spring and plans to throw it this season.

Wilson also had the opportunity to visit with Giants pitchers Matt Cain and Jeremy Affeldt.

“They talked to us about what they’ve been doing and what they know,” Wilson said. “I soaked it all in like a sponge.”


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