A highlight of RockiesFest 2024 was the “Player Q&A: Rockies Prospects” panel, which brought together
- Chase Dollander (2023 mid-season #4 PuRP)
- Jaden Hill (2024 pre-season #19 PuRP)
- Gabriel Hughes (2023 mid-season #9 PuRP)
- Drew Romo (2023 mid-season #6 PuRP)
- Sterlin Thompson (2023 mid-season #7 PuRP)
- Zac Veen (2023 mid-season #2 PuRP)
- Case Williams (2024 pre-season #35 PuRP)
Also present was Colorado Rockies special assistant Clint Hurdle while Jerry Schemmel moderated.
This was, probably, my favorite panel of the day — and the one in which I learned the most. So I thought I’d just let the players speak for themselves (because we don’t often hear from minor leaguers in their own words).
Developing players and young men
Hurdle: Our entire Player Development Department, as well as the organization, are very excited about the men that we’re going to be bringing up to Colorado in the near future. They are focused, they have fun together, they go out to play to beat your ass. They want to get here, they want to stay here, and they’re looking to bring a ring — the world championship ring.
You’re going to see guys with energy, different vibes from each and every one of them. They’re all authentic in their own way. There’s masculine humility up here in front of you. They’re not gonna beat their chests above themselves. But when they lock arms and go out, they’re strong. They’re real strong together. One of the things I’m most encouraged about, they celebrate each other’s successes so very, very, very well.
Transitioning from high school to professional baseball
Veen: It’s definitely a big transition. You go from playing 20 games to 150, and then, you don’t get Mom’s cooking every night. You don’t get to see your family and say goodnight to them. Thank God for FaceTime. But I’d say that’s the biggest thing: You’ve got to grow up really fast.
Romo: A really big adjustment for me was the schedule because in high school, you have school, and you have all your high school friends that you grew up with. And you have your family there, and the place he grew up, all your favorite restaurants, and stuff like that. And then once you get drafted, you’re at the field all day, every day. You’re with your guys. You’re with your brothers all day every day. And so you’re playing baseball, it seems like all the time. So it’s baseball 24/7. It’s awesome, but it’s a big adjustment.
Williams: It took it took me a little bit to get used to it. My first year, it felt like survival, going from a boy to a man real quick — being an adult, dealing with all the adult stuff, just off the field. Even on the field, it is just so different — not playing against boys anymore. But really just figuring out yourself on and off the field.
From #Rockies Fest: One of my favorite panels of the day was the Prospects panel with @ClintHurdle13. The panel was emceed by @jschemmel6 and was awesome to hear Sterlin Thompson, Zac Veen, Drew Romo, Chase Dollander, Gabriel Hughes, Jaden Hill, and Case Williams speak! pic.twitter.com/fVOzHp8jTn— Evan Lang (@evan_lang27) January 30, 2024
Transitioning from college to professional baseball
Hill: For me, it was different. We had [LSU] coach [Paul] Mainieri who will go down as a Hall of Fame collegiate coach. He’s very strategic. He’s very strict. Everything has to be on schedule. You have tutoring, you have early morning workouts, you have class, and then you have baseball.
You have a lot more free time. So you really have to stay focused and try to stay away from distractions. But going to college, I’m thankful that I went. It matured me as a man. I got to go through and learn from some failures. There were some injuries in college, so I got to learn from that.
Hughes: I think one of the biggest transitions is you’re an adult. You have a job. It’s your full-time job, as much fun as it is to go out and play baseball and play a game every day. You go out, and you’re at the field nine, ten hours a day, six days a week, It’s like, Oh, this is the real world. Obviously, it’s a game at the end of the day, but the adjustment is real. The adjustment is you have to do everything you can to be good at your job. You need to do things on and off the field to be good at your job.
Dollander: A big adjustment for me was just trying to figure out what to do with my free time. Obviously there’s a lot of things in this world now that can distract you from what you’re trying to achieve and the goals that you have set for yourself. And I think one thing is just remind yourself what your goals are and be able to do everything in your power to achieve that goal — figure out what works for you and what doesn’t work for you. Obviously, it’s your job now. Just like all of you, we have a job. We have to be able to perform at the highest capability that we can.
Giving advice to young players
Hurdle: Number one, don’t try and please everybody else. Find out what your strengths are, and then find out the areas where you can make small improvements. The second piece of advice is that performance does not dictate who you are. And you’ve got to work to a level of maturity where your performance is your performance, but it’s not the person inside you. Some days you’re going to do really well. Some days, the best you’ve got isn’t very good. And you’ve got to be able to shower, get rid of it, and find a way to show up the next day and act like nothing happened. That’s probably the biggest challenge for these guys.
Being a multi-sport athlete
Hill: I played all three sports growing up. Everything was sports for me. My dream was to make it, so I did everything. In football, I remember I started in the fifth grade. Me and my dad bought a projector, and I’d be in my room watching film in fifth grade on fifth graders. We did that every week, we watched film on kids. And then basketball, that was his sport — he played collegiate basketball. So I followed that dream up until baseball started to become more of a reality for me to make it. But it was between football and baseball. I was going to do both in college. I was going to commit to play both at LSU, but I broke my collarbone my senior year, and so that kind of put an end to playing football. But looking back, it was the best decision I made because I have a love for baseball that I didn’t know I had until I got to college.
[Hill was the only multi-sport athlete.]
Finding what brings joy
Thompson: I love to play to win. I love to play with my teammates. That’s really what it’s about. I think when you focus on other teammates and how they’re doing, the stats take care of itself. I like to work hard. The joy is the winning and the camaraderie with the teammates. That’s all that matters, and it’s just contagious. It goes off one teammate to another, and that’s just winning baseball.
Veen: For me, I love playing baseball. I think everybody does, but I think I truly just love winning, and I think baseball just my best opportunity to go out and win. When I started winning at a young age with baseball, I kind of got addicted. That brings me joy right there — and dominating.
Romo: What brings me joy playing is just having fun out there, playing with my team. I think baseball is very fun, or else I wouldn’t be playing it right now. But I love winning. My main goal for my career is to help bring the World Series to the Rockies.
Dollander: I really enjoy the competitiveness that happens on that field. When I when I think about my joy in baseball, I really think about the grind of it — all the work that you put in leading up to the game. You go down in that clubhouse, and you look at everybody in the locker room, and you say, “That guy worked. That guy worked. That guy worked.” We all know we got better each day, so that way when we go on to the field, there’s nothing to think about. You just do what you do. And so, yeah, I can say, “Winning.” Everybody loves to win. If you’d like to lose, then we’ve probably got a problem. But winning with your teammates is the best thing ever.
Hughes: I think what gives me joy on a baseball field, both in my own performance and in watching my teammates, is baseball as an art form because I think it’s beautiful. I think a well executed double play is beautiful. I think home runs are incredible. I think all these little things that baseball players notice, that fans notice, I think make it into an art form. It makes it so much more enjoyable because we play a lot of games a year. You guys come to watch a lot of games a year, and it can get boring and repetitive and monotonous. But I think being able to look at it and understand the little things that are happening, understand the little strategy and the little advantages people are taking over the game, I think it’s just incredible.
Hill: I genuinely love the entire process of it all — you know the ups, the downs, the struggles. I’ve dealt with a lot of struggles within the game. But being able to reflect on it and learn from it and get better from it, I feel like I have such a higher place to reach, knowing that each and every day, I’m trying to build that character as a person, as a player, and put it all together. So, I genuinely love that process. Losing, it sucks. It definitely sucks. But you’ve learned so much more from it. And so you become a better person, your routine gets better. The things that you do on a day-to-day basis when you’re trying to get 1% better, they become better, they become more efficient. And so I genuinely love that entire process.
Williams: I think with such long seasons we often forget how great it is, truly, just be out there every day with your friends playing the game. And that’s what I want to do every day and it’s going out there and competing to give myself the opportunity to win
I realize RockiesFest is all about rallying the faithful (and selling tickets), but I left this panel impressed and hopeful. The Rockies have drafted a talented group of young men, and we will surely see some of them at Coors Field this summer.
Rob Bradford broke the news over the weekend:
Morning podcast: Daniel Bard and @bradfo have some big news. That and some good 2012 Red Sox spring training stories along with radar gun realities.— Baseball Isn’t Boring (@BBisntBoring) February 2, 2024
Listen: https://t.co/RDwICjt0bW pic.twitter.com/9tRWoGMMWC
I’m looking forward to reading it.
Patrick Lyons does a pretty terrific job of contrasting the career trajectories of Nolan Jones and Kris Bryant. My favorite quote from the piece: “Read that again. The best player in the game over the final 19 days of the regular season was Nolan Jones.” There’s much here to ponder.
Please keep in mind our Purple Row Community Guidelines when you’re commenting. Thanks!