Chances are you’ve heard of the newest Colorado Rockie — the newly-promoted Wynton Bernard. His ascension from independent ball player to major leaguer is one of the most heartwarming in ages, but the significance of his arrival is more than meets the eye.
Bernard grew up in San Diego and was a Padres fan in his early life. His professional baseball career began in 2012 when he was selected by his hometown team in the 35th round of that year’s draft. What followed was a tumultuous journey that saw the young man spend time in various organizations such as the Padres, Tigers, Giants, and Cubs. He also played independent ball for the Sugar Land Skeeters (now known as the Space Cowboys) before being signed by the Rockies in 2021. The story from there is fairly straightforward — Bernard was serviceable that year before exploding onto the scene in 2022, earning multiple Player of the Week and Month honors and impressing the Rockies front office enough to secure his spot on the big league roster.
We see call-ups all the time, though. This one is special, and it isn’t only because of Bernard’s unordinary path to the Show. His arrival was improbable partly due to the extraordinary hardship he faced on the way, such as losing his father Walter during his sophomore year of college. That was a formative period for Wynton, as seeing how strong his mother, Janet, was during this trying time inspired him and lit a fire within his heart.
“She’s done so much,” he said, “and the way I saw her take care of my dad before he passed away... He was bedridden and she’s by his side. And so I promised myself: ‘I know how hard she works, so I’m gonna work just as hard, if not harder.’”
Janet, or “Mama B,” as she’s affectionately known, is Wynton’s rock. Family has always been a key motivator for him, and that hasn’t changed — his bats are adorned with pictures of himself and his mother, as well as his late father Walter. The support of those close to him has always been his greatest motivator, and not just in his personal life. When the call came down of his impending promotion, his teammates on the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes were just as excited as he was.
“What I saw today made this the best day of my coaching career,” said ‘Topes manager Warren Schaeffer. “What I witnessed in a locker room today, the reaction of Wynton, the reaction of his teammates... to see grown men cry — men who have children — to hear that Wynton Bernard is called up and to see tears flow in a locker room by Wynton and his teammates … That’s just special, man.”
The skipper isn’t new to call-ups. Formerly the helmsman of the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, Schaeffer has seen many a minor leaguer move on to greener pastures in his time, but this one was different. The announcement was so emotionally charged, Bernard wasn’t even sure he remembered it all accurately.
“I had no idea,” he said prior to his debut. “Absolutely no idea. I was just in shock. And guys were telling me what I did afterwards and they’re like, ‘Did you know you did this, this and this?’ I was like, ‘I did that?’ I guess I picked up (Topes pitcher Julian) Fernández. And I was hitting my chest and hitting the ground. It was almost like I blacked out for a second there.”
Who can blame him for being so emotional? The Rockies, though, want something made clear: this is not just a feel-good moment. Bernard isn’t on the major league roster for nothing — he’s earned his spot.
“I mean, he’s been good since spring training,” Rockies manager Bud Black said before Bernard’s debut. “He’s been good all year. He deserves this.”
Ain’t that the truth.
This has easily been Bernard’s best season statistically. The outfielder is world-traveled, using those experiences he’s gathered to his advantage now, and everyone is taking notice.
“I think his skill set is such where he can beat you a lot of ways,” continued Black. “He can beat you with a base hit. He has 17 homers in Albuquerque so there’s some power in there. He can beat you with his legs, on the bases. He can beat you with his glove. [He can beat you] in every way.”
Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon also recognizes the work Bernard has been doing.
“We all know guys similar to that, right? Guys who have grinded to get where they are.” McMahon said prior to the August 12th contest. “What he’s done this year speaks for itself. He’s earned this through and through. I’m excited for him and excited to play with him.”
That adulation goes all the way up.
“Well, I’m excited for him, right?” general manager Bill Schmidt told Purple Row before Friday’s game. “It’s been a journey, and the hard work and time and effort that he put in to get there... he’s earned it.”
“He’s leading the Pacific Coast League in hitting, he’s PCL Player of the Month,” continued Schmidt. “He’s earned the right to come up here and try to help his club win. We’re very excited for him.”
Of course, everyone now knows that Bernard’s debut lived up to the hype. He recorded his first MLB base hit (though not without some drama), stole his first MLB bag, and scored his first MLB run. It was as perfect an evening as one could hope for. He’d add his first RBI two days later in the series finale with Arizona on August 14th. It’s impossible to know what the future holds, but for now everyone is just enjoying the moment. Wynton Bernard has worked for this moment for over a decade, and he’s finally arrived.
He’s not done, either. After the magical game, he waxed poetic on how he was feeling after his first night on the job: “It just felt like a dream,” he said. “But honestly, I felt like I belonged.”
You do belong, Wynton. We’re happy to have you here.