Four days before the Grand Junction Rockies begin the 2017 season, the team held Media Day at Suplizio Field Thursday.
The Rockies host the Idaho Falls Chukars for a four-game series starting Monday night, before wrapping up the home stand with a two-game series against Ogden Friday and Saturday.
A new season brings new players and this season's roster will be filled with players in different situations. Some are just drafted, some are on rehab stints, while others get a second chance at a professional career.
"Obviously I'm just excited to have a second chance, second opportunity, so I'm just doing whatever I can to take advantage of that," said outfielder Tyler Bates. Bates was drafted by the Angels in 2016 and signed with the Rockies in May.
"I'm one of the older guys in the league this year, I've been here," said utility player Jordan Ebert. "I know what to expect, so I have to be a guy that leads by example for these young kids." Ebert was drafted by the Royals in 2016 and signed with the Rockies before this season.
"Oh we excited, we really excited," said infielder Nate Coronado. "I mean I can not wait for Monday and be able to have some fun and that is the real deal." Coronado played the last two seasons in independent leagues.
This year's draft picks will have a month to sign with the club, so if they are assigned to Grand Junction they are still yet to arrive.
One of the Rockies making a rehab stint in Grand Junction is left-handed pitcher Ben Bowden. After being drafted in the second round in 2016, Bowden pitched with Single-A Asheville last season. Then a string of injuries sent him on a rehab assignment this year. Bowden was sidelined this spring after a hamstring tear. After fully recovering his hamstring, he was on a flight back to Asheville when he tried to help another passenger lift her bag to the overhead bin and ended up injuring his throwing shoulder. Those were the first two injuries of Bowden's career, so he's in Grand Junction to battle back.
"The hamstring happened, I was frustrated, I was kind of devastated because like I said, I had never been injured," said Bowden. "Then, I kind of just dealt with it, rehabbed. Now it's a little bit more frustrating with the shoulder because I was just healthy, getting ready to get back. Then this happened again. So it's frustrating but nothing I can do about it. I just have to get better and get back on the mound."
The Grand Junction Rockies will look to make the playoffs this season for the first time since 2013. Last season, the Rockies finished last in the Pioneer League South with a 36-39 record. They lost three out of their last four games to fall just short of the playoffs. Even though the purpose of the Pioneer League is player development, the Rockies want to have something to play for down the stretch.
"It was awesome to be close at the end, to be playing meaningful games," said Rockies Manager Frank Gonzales. "Guys were tired but we played well to get close there at the end, a couple games here and there and we're in it. Having that kind of feeling and going through those moments hopefully will prepare myself and some of the guys that were here last year."
The first chance to see some of these new players will be Friday night when the Rockies hold an open practice at Suplizio Field. The event is free and open to the public with open seating. Gates will open at 6:10 p.m.