Sports Talk: Vista’s Wolters catching on with the Colorado Rockies

Sports Talk: Vista’s Wolters catching on with the Colorado Rockies
Tony Wolters, a former shortstop, now starts at catcher in the big leagues. Courtesy of Colorado Rockies

The Rockies’ Tony Wolters settles in and easily squats behind the plate.

But at one time, he had to squint to see a vision others saw first.

“You picture your whole life at your position,’’ Wolters said. “I grew up dreaming about being a professional baseball player, being a shortstop and making diving plays.’’

Wolters had done that since starring in Rancho Buena Vista Little League. He would duplicate that performance at every level until being drafted by the Cleveland Indians in 2010.

As a Rancho Buena Vista High School shortstop.

But as of right now, he’s the starting catcher for the first-place Colorado Rockies.

Things change and they did so in a positive way for Wolters in 2013. He swapped his infielder’s glove for one belonging to catchers and he’s caught on with the Rockies.

“You talk about switching from shortstop to catcher in that short of a period of time?” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “That’s amazing. It seems like yesterday he was at RBV versus La Costa Canyon and now he’s at Petco Park.”

Wolters’ journey was unique, which makes his story more compelling. Embracing the tools of ignorance and shedding his hope of being a shortstop wasn’t easy.

“When you get the opportunity to play another position, you try to get those visions in your head,” Wolters said. “That is one of the biggest things, the image, the picture. Can I see myself as a catcher and making a really cool block or throwing somebody out or getting a pitcher through a game?

“Just trying to get that picture in my mind was difficult because I hadn’t seen it before. Once I got that I said, ‘OK, I can do this up and I’m up for the challenge.’ ”

Still making the pledge and producing in the Majors is a considerable lift.

“This is a tough one,” said Black, a Rancho Santa Fe resident. “It’s not like going from infielder to outfielder or second to third base or any other move around the diamond.

“It’s going to a position that is so important and integral to a team’s success. And to throw it all on a young guy who has no catching experience is rare.

“Usually there is a catcher’s instinct, a mentality, that has developed from Little League, amateur ball, high school, college and minors. There is so much that goes into that position, more so than any other position on the field.”

Wolters landed in Colorado after being cut by the Indians before last season. After knee injuries derailed him in 2014-15, making the Rockies’ opening day ’16 roster was a stretch.

He made it then and hasn’t returned to the minors since.

“I need to get a lot better still,” said Wolters, who was hitting .302 through Tuesday. “But I’m learning every day and there’s not one day that I don’t want to get better.”

Wolters’ arrow points up in more ways than one. His capacity to improve is enhanced because of his inexperience.

“He’s in a good spot and he’s going to get better,” Black said. “His ceiling is much higher because he is going to refine all the things he’s working on. It’s baptism under fire because he is learning the position at the big league level with the expectations of performance. But he’s earning his stripes.”

And it’s as Colorado’s catcher, the equivalent of a mile high away from shortstop.

“It’s still new, but I feel comfortable,” Wolters said. “I’m still learning but I have a lot of good people around me.”

Wolters’ buddies were out for the Rockies’ recent series in San Diego and they likely joined him at his go-to spot, Vista’s Nucci’s Italian Cafe. His memories playing at RBV under Leo Fletes are among his favorite.

“North County and Vista felt like a small little area,” Wolters said. “High school baseball was a lot of fun because everyone knew each other — we even knew each other’s dogs’ names. It was just a time where we went out to the ballfield and had fun.”

Wolters’ laughs now come in the Majors, even if often hidden behind a mask.

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