DENVER — The six-hour drive from Albuquerque to Denver was nothing. Not if you compare it to the journey of undrafted to big leaguer.
"“On the drive up here, there was a lot of daydreaming.” Fuentes said from the Colorado clubhouse on Sunday. “Like me hitting a homer, a walk-off, anything you could imagine I was doing.”"
Three years ago, the only dream Fuentes had was playing baseball another day. Then 23 — almost two years older than the average player in the league — he was repeating single-A. The start of his third pro season was slow, barely hitting above .200.
"“There was a game where I was sitting there 0-for-2 with 2 Ks and I thought it might be my last game,” Fuentes said. “I was just like, ‘If I can’t hack this, maybe I’ll quit.'”"
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It was on May 1 in West Virginia that Fuentes sat in the lowest rungs of affiliated ball thinking in a dugout about what else he could do with two years of college under his belt.
"“I dug into a corner and fought. I knew I could play,” he said. “Then I homered and now I’m here.”"
Not only did he go yard, but he proceeded to bat above .500 with 13 other extra-base knocks in the next 16 days earning a call-up to High-A. In part, it was because top prospect Brendan Rodgers was hurt but Fuentes never went back down.
Hot prospect Ryan McMahon is the one who is hurt now. And the now 26-year-old former NAIA ballplayer is the replacement.
"“They said get there safe,” Fuentes recounted the phone call he’s waited years to hear. “75 mph on cruise control the whole way.”"
His one stop was at Raton Pass to get some drive-through lunch and gas but it was pretty quick no doubt. Right back to cruise control up I-25.
That is, until he got into Denver at 6:30 p.m. Minutes before the Rockies’ first pitch, one of their players pulled into LoDo blocks from his dream. The last obstacle was navigating the hoards of fans in purple picking their parking spots and headed to the park.
"“It was funny because I was in game traffic the last bit. I’m like, ‘I’m on the Rockies I gotta get here,'” Fuentes said with a laugh. “I was in the car there was a lot of yelling with people not moving.”"
The cousin of star Nolan Arenado, Fuentes was the Pacific Coast League Player of the Year in 2018. As a corner infielder, he slashed .327/.354/.517 earning a trip the Arizona Fall League and an offseason 40-man roster spot.
Given all that it took for him to get to 20th and Blake before he succeeded, going down 0-2 before a single in his first plate appearance is only poetic.
"“Everything leading up to it was chaos,” the rookie said. “I can’t tell you how many phone calls I made on the way up. When I got in the box and was like ‘this is baseball’ it made all the craziness worth it. It was special.”"
Fuentes still hasn’t slept after his dream finally came true. Could you?