Scottsdale, Ariz. -- When the Cleveland Indians placed Tony Wolters on waivers in February, it's difficult to imagine the worst not going through the 23-year-old's mind. A former third round draft pick (2010), Wolters got chances in Double-A in 2014 and 2015; he didn't impress the first time, and he regressed in his second season, slashing just .209/.290/.280 in 65 games.
But, oh, how much can change when the scenery does—and when the Rockies claimed Wolters off waivers six days later, the infielder-turned-catcher packed his stuff up and moved across town from the Indians' complex in Goodyear to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
"This is beautiful, it's just unbelievable," Wolters told Purple Row about his first impressions of Salt River Fields during spring training. "This is awesome."
The energy and intensity with which Wolters approaches everything—a game, a practice, the Rockies' "win the inning" drills, even a media interview—is evident to the degree that you can't help but be taken aback by how grateful the southern California native is to be getting a second chance in professional baseball.
After all, nearly six years in the Indians' organization saw him moved behind the plate after starting off as a middle infielder. And a sluggish bat that didn't quite catch up with his strong defensive skills left Wolters stalled out those two straight summers at Double-A Akron. It's useless to ask him about that, though; he's only looking forward and is ecstatic about his chances.
"I’m excited to get ready for the season, and find out where I’m going, and let’s just go win," Wolters said. "It really doesn’t matter where I’m at, or where I’m playing, it just matters how my attitude is. I’m always going to work and I’m always going to have a good attitude, so I just need to keep that as consistent as possible."
Attitude and effort are about the only things Wolters can control, so it's right that he's so focused on them with his competitive nature. As he informed Purple Row, the Rockies haven't given him an indication on his plan for the season yet, nor have they tipped their hand as to whether he'd predominantly catch or play in the infield.
"I put a lot of hard work into catching, and I put a lot of hard work into infield, but it really doesn’t matter where I play, it’s just where I can be effective for the team," Wolters said. "I don’t have an ego about it, I just want to play and win. I just want to get back to the simple things in baseball, and that’s all that should matter. I want to play, and I want to win."
It should stick with you that Wolters seems so adamant and repetitive about wanting to win, even more so than the company line so many players regurgitate during spring training through tired clichés. His competitiveness shone through so distinctly even in casual spring training conversations that you can soon expect a second story on this site specifically about that outlook espoused by the 23-year-old.
And true to his status as the young newcomer in a locker room otherwise full of two close-knit groups—been-there-done-that veterans, and a tight core of young prospects—Wolters is a spring training outsider trying to meet his new teammates as he fights for his place within the organization. But he's already turning heads while navigating the room as one of the Rockies' new guys.
"He’s an amazing athlete, really amazing," Rockies catcher Tom Murphy told Purple Row about Wolters. "He’s a guy who can go back there and catch, and then the next day go and play shortstop. That’s something you don’t see every day. Typically once you lose that infield position, you never go back to it as a catcher."
While Murphy joked that he has yet to ask manager Walt Weiss if the other catchers might see time in the middle infield, too ("I hope it doesn’t come to that," Murphy chuckled, "but it's probably not in the cards for me"), the Rockies' top catching prospect gushed over the little things that Wolters can do at multiple positions.
"He’s a guy that can really pick it up, and he’s got some really amazing feet and hands," Murphy said. "Until you see it, you won't know that it’s just... it’s really impressive."
But Wolters didn't want to talk up his own strengths, instead demurring to a feeling of gratitude at being in the Rockies' organization.
"I’m just very blessed in getting an opportunity to play for the Rockies," Wolters concluded. "I’ve always heard good things, and there are a lot of great guys here, so I’m very excited to get going and have a year with them, and just get after it on the field."