Growing up in Grand Junction: The first step toward the Colorado Rockies

GRAND JUNCTION, CO - MARCH 24: Amtrak's California Zephyr rolls past a farm during its daily 2,438-mile trip to Emeryville/San Francisco from Chicago that takes roughly 52 hours on March 24, 2017 in Grand Junction, United States. President Trump has proposed a national budget that would terminate federal support for Amtrak's long distance train services, which would affect the California Zephyr and other long distance rail lines run by Amtrak. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
GRAND JUNCTION, CO - MARCH 24: Amtrak's California Zephyr rolls past a farm during its daily 2,438-mile trip to Emeryville/San Francisco from Chicago that takes roughly 52 hours on March 24, 2017 in Grand Junction, United States. President Trump has proposed a national budget that would terminate federal support for Amtrak's long distance train services, which would affect the California Zephyr and other long distance rail lines run by Amtrak. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) /
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Tony Diaz of the Colorado Rockies
Feb 23, 2017; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies first base coach Tony Diaz (37) poses for photos during photo day at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports /

Tony Diaz knows a thing or two about the Grand Junction Rockies.

Now in his 18th year with the Rockies organization, including time as Colorado’s rookie-level team manager in Casper, Wyo. (2007-11) and Grand Junction (2012). From 2013-2016, he served as Grand Junction’s supervisor of development before getting his own call-up to the big leagues. This season is his first as the first base coach for the parent Rockies.

Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies /

Colorado Rockies

He believes how things start for the Rockies in Grand Junction sets the tone as the players move up in the organization.

“It really starts with our scouting department and the homework they do with these kids,” Diaz told Rox Pile. “We do a tremendous job of drafting kids of high character. That makes our job in player development a little easier because we know we’re dealing with solid, high-value human beings. We try to continue that process and make sure the kids feel comfortable. We have a great host family program. It’s about learning how to be a professional, on and off the field. Being on time, being dressed professionally and representing the organization, their families and themselves in a professional manner. Those are the main points we try to hit.

“The other part is just going out there, playing and being yourself. We drafted you because we liked what we saw.”

Diaz says that while the players are getting used to play professional baseball, the Rockies won’t touch how they hit or pitch. They’re dealing with enough life changes as it is.

“Our policy in player development is that in the first 30 days, we’re not changing anybody’s mechanics or swings. Our scouts liked what they saw and the players were successful doing it,” Diaz said.

Diaz had the official title of manager and supervisor of development in Grand Junction. However, there was much more to do the job than just that, Diaz explained.

“It’s an ongoing balance,” he said. “Some people call rookie ball babysitting a little bit. It’s everything. You have to be a father figure, a counselor and a coach. Routines are important and it’s important to engrain the Rockies’ identity and who we are as an organization. Our main objective is that once they leave that level, they know what it takes to be a winning Rockies player.”

Even though he’s now with the parent Rockies, Diaz glows when asked about Grand Junction.

“The Grand Junction community is second-to-none,” Diaz said. “They are extremely hospitable. They have a baseball history with the JUCO World Series. Great people. The community is awesome. It starts with the host family program. These people open up their homes and provide housing, food and transportation to kids they don’t know. They trust us and we don’t take that lightly. The community is very supportive and it’s a great stadium to play in.”

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