Welcome to GJ
Small group of Rookie Rockies take in their new surroundings on first day
Anthony Diaz, the young son of Tony Diaz, was shagging fly balls Friday at Suplizio Field.
So was anyone who wasn’t hitting fungoes or throwing batting practice.
The second edition of the Grand Junction Rockies took the field for the first time Friday and got their work done relatively quickly, about 90 minutes, because there are only about a dozen players in town so far.
More players are expected to report today and Sunday, and some will filter in next week as the June 20 season opener approaches.
Friday was for getting their photos taken, meeting with the media and learning how new manager Anthony Sanders will run his practices.
Diaz, the Rockies’ skipper last season, is now the developmental supervisor, with Sanders, the hitting coach the past seven seasons in Tri-City, taking over on the field.
For the players who spent time in Grand Junction last summer, it was picking up where they left off.
For the others, it was a whole new experience, especially for the foreign-born players.
On the initial roster are 11 players from either Venezuela or the Dominican Republic, and one from Australia, catcher Robbie Perkins.
“It’s going to be a whole different experience than what I’ve faced before,” said Perkins, who signed a free-agent contract last year and played in Major League Baseball’s Australian Academy. He has been at extended spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., since March, arriving in Grand Junction earlier this week.
“I hear a few thousand people (come to games), and I’m not used to that. It’ll be exciting to see how it all works out,” he said.
The biggest thing the players have to adjust to is playing every day — and long bus rides.
“That’s what’s going to get me,” Perkins said. “Travel, get off the bus, play a game, get on another bus.”
The majority of the group on the field came up from Scottsdale, so they’ve gotten to know each other.
And the ones who will report after they sign their pro contracts will catch on quickly.
First baseman Correlle Prime remembers his first few days of pro ball last summer. He arrived late and was a wide-eyed kid right out of high school.
“Last year I was scared out of my mind coming in here,” he said. “I was one of the last guys here, and having the older guys was a little intimidating at first.
“I settled in and got to know everybody, and now I want to make the experience good for everybody else coming in, so they’re not scared like I was.”
Prime is one of the players who know their way around town and are ready to show the new guys.
“Me, (Ryan) Garvey, Correlle, (Jose) Briceno, we know what to expect, and we’re going to be looking out for all the new guys,” pitcher Zach Jemiola said. “The coaches can’t keep an eye on everyone. We know what to expect; it’s a great place to be. The fans here are great.”
Jemiola was injured or sick most of last season, so he returned to Rookie ball to get into the rotation.
Garvey, an outfielder, injured his left hand and missed most of the second half of last season, costing him valuable at-bats he hopes he’ll get this summer.
“This year nothing’s costing me anything,” he said. “I’m grinding. I’m getting after it. I only got 104 reps last year, and I’m looking to get 250 or more this year.
“Staying healthy is the way to go, make sure you eat right,” he said, laughing that yeah, he ate two fast-food cheeseburgers and an order of fries before practice, but he vowed all of that will stop.
Briceno spent about a week in Grand Junction before being moved to Tri-City, and started this season in Class A Asheville.
He struggled at the plate, and the young club needed a veteran catcher, so he was sent back to Grand Junction. He said he’s happy to be back and is looking forward to the season.
The veteran Rookie Rockies will all offer the same advice: Don’t try to impress people, just work on getting better.
“Just being a leader to these guys who just came in, they’re just beginning their pro season,” Garvey said. “We’ll try to teach them the ropes, telling them what they need to do and don’t need to do. Don’t overswing, don’t think you need to do more than you should.”
And, as Perkins has learned, whether it’s in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia or western Colorado, it’s baseball.
“It’s fairly similar to how we play back in Australia,” he said. “There’s just more talent.”