Wynton Bernard has been on a baseball journey. The 31-year-old outfielder was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 35th round of the 2012 draft (1065th overall) out of Niagara College. He was released by the Short-A Eugene Emeralds on March 3, 2014 and signed by the Detroit Tigers 23 days later. He made it all the way up to the Double-A Erie SeaWolves before electing free agency after the 2016 season.
Bernard would then bounce between the San Francisco Giants’ and Chicago Cubs’ systems, while also playing a few seasons of winter ball in Mexico for the Auilas del Zuli, Tigres del Licey, and Leones del Caracas. He first signed with the Rockies in 2019, then elected free agency and was re-signed in 2021.
In 2021 with the Albuquerque Isotopes, Bernard slashed .254/.319/.395. This year, however, he has really taken off. So far in 27 games, Bernard is slashing .356/.402/.700 with six home runs. Only Elehuris Montero has more (7 HR in 31 games).
Bernard credited new Isotopes hitting coach Jordan Pacheco and Rockies hitting coordinator Darin Everson with helping him get on track this year. They’ve been watching a lot of film and have identified ways that he can improve.
“I told [Pacheco] basically what I wanted to work on,” Bernard said. “I felt like I was coming around a lot of balls before and balls I should have hit in the air and to the opposite gap. And so we’ve basically been working on trying to stay up the middle with all my swinging and it’s definitely helped out a lot.”
That led to Bernard earning PCL Player of the Week honors for April 26-May 1.
“It felt so good,” Bernard said. “I haven’t gotten Player of the Week since like 2015 [with the SeaWolves]. And obviously the PCL has a ton of good players, so that was a huge accomplishment for me and hopefully I can do it again.”
Bernard has been around for a while and he’s spent five years in the PCL. But he definitely notices a difference in how he has to play in Albuquerque — one of the most notorious hitter’s parks in the league.
“I’d say the biggest difference is that the ball just flies a lot more, and that’s offensively and defensively,” he said. “So on defense, if there’s a ball over my head, I know it has a chance to be right at the warning track or over the wall. And offensively, too, we play in ballparks where the ball is going to fly so if I’m hitting in the air, I’m trying to get on third base every time for a triple instead of maybe something not carrying as much in other leagues I’ve been in.”
Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer also had glowing things to say about Bernard’s presence on and off the field.
“There’s nothing I don’t like about Wynton,” Schaeffer said. “When he came in this year, I told him before the season he was going to play 2-3 times per week. That was his role. He did that for the first couple of series and every chance he got to play, he put up and posted up and did his job. And he earned more and more playing time as he went along and now he’s leading off every day. That’s just what you want out of a part-time player: to become a full-time player. He’s just been great.”
This all being said, at 31-years-old, Bernard is a veteran presence in the Isotopes’ clubhouse and is serving as a mentor for the younger players who are on this journey alongside him. He sees it as a way to pay it forward like the guys who helped him in the beginning of his career.
“When I first got drafted, Cameron Maybin was the one who gave me six bats right away, a couple pairs of gloves, and he was telling me stuff in the outfield,” he recalled. “I still call David Justice to this day or Phil Plantier – all these guys who have helped me along the way – and they basically just say ‘try to be a role model for the young players that are coming up’ so that’s what I try to do.”
For a more in-depth look at what Wynton Bernard has been able to accomplish throughout in his career, check out Justin Wick’s Rockpile from May 3.