Rookie ball an adjustment, says Central graduate Roling
Beginning his professional baseball career in Grand Junction would have been a dream come true for Kiel Roling.
The 2005 Central High School graduate was selected in the sixth round of the 2008 Major League Baseball draft by the Colorado Rockies.
“When I was drafted, I started to look around to see where I could go,” Roling said. “Out of college, I wasn’t sure how it works. Looking back now, going to Grand Junction would’ve been 10 times better.”
He started his professional baseball career with the Casper Ghosts that summer. The Ghosts are relocating to Grand Junction for the 2012 season.
Roling’s first season of professional baseball was something he’ll never forget.
“It was a new experience,” Roling said. “I ran into guys I played against in college and met a lot of people. I met a lot of quality friends that year.”
He had a new set of teammates. Nearly half of them were from foreign countries, mostly the Dominican Republic. Last year’s roster included players from Mexico, Venezuela, Australia and the Dominican Republic.
“Playing with guys from the Dominican Republic was new,” Roling said. “It was hard to communicate with them. Our manager (Tony Diaz) was bilingual and fluent in Spanish, so that helped.
“There’s definitely a segregation in the clubhouse. There are always a few Spanish-speaking guys that work hard to learn English. There are guys that come around from the organization that work with them. As they progress through the minors, they speak English better.”
Roling and his teammates also had new families to go home to after games.
Each player was housed with a host family, assigned before their arrival in Casper.
“The first year, it’s nice to have,” Roling said. “It’s only half a season and you don’t have to worry about finding an apartment when you’re there only a couple months. My host family was easy-going. I could come and go as I liked, which is nice because we get home late. It takes a family that is OK with your schedule.”
Half of the time the Ghosts were on the road, which wasn’t easy, either.
“I remember the bus rides,” Roling said. “Our shortest one was six hours (one-way) and it’s usually a full bus. It’s grinding days. We usually played the same day we traveled.”
Roling stayed focused on baseball and made the most of his first year. He hit .344 with four home runs and 17 RBI in 18 games.
The next year, he was promoted to the Class A affiliate Asheville (N.C.) Tourists. In 2010, he jumped over Class A Advanced Modesto (Calif.) to Class AA Tulsa (Okla.), but struggled, hitting .225 in 93 games.
Roling, 24, rebounded in 2011 after a slow start from a pulled quadriceps muscle to hit .252 with 24 doubles, 16 home runs and 58 RBI in 105 games for the Modesto (Calif.) Nuts.
“I was supposed to go back to Tulsa, but by the time I was ready, the roster was full, so they sent me to Modesto,” Roling said. “I played most every game. This next year, they’ve indicated I may go to Tulsa, which is good. I had a rough year the first time there. They say Double A is the separation point. If you do well, you’ll get a look (at the majors).”
After a short visit home earlier this fall, Roling is back in Arizona, starting to train for next season. He hopes to have a big year to improve his chances of being called up to the Rockies, knowing it all started, like it does for most, in Rookie ball.
“I know how good JUCO does,” Roling said. “They have a good fan base. I think (the Rockies Rookie team) will do well. Junction enjoys baseball and it should draw a good fan base.”