GRAND JUNCTION – Amy Anderson’s eyes fill with tears. She bursts with pride.
This baseball mom is doing what countless baseball moms do when they take their kids to a game. She opens the Grand Junction Rockies official game program, scanning the faces before her. She points at the photo of Cole Anderson staring back at her, officially a professional baseball player.
“This. This made me cry right there,” Amy said. “Now it’s real.”
The Andersons gathered in Grand Junction on Monday night to watch Cole make his home pro debut with the Colorado Rockies rookie league affiliate.
Anderson was drafted by the Rockies in the 10th round of the 2015 MLB draft earlier in June. He graduated from Rocky Mountain High School in May and decided to forgo a scholarship to the University of New Mexico to become the first Fort Collins native to go pro out of high school.
“I told him, ‘This has been your dream since you were 10 years old. Why not do it?'” Amy Anderson said. “You can always go back to school.”
For Cole, the gravity of this new reality came when 2,360 fans roared their approval when blasted a home run to left field for his first hit as a professional.
“It’s definitely hit me now,” Anderson said, unable to suppress a huge grin. “Seeing all these fans that come out and support us, that’s unbelievable. I think that’s what really got me. They really care about our team here.”
Anderson’s path to pro baseball started when he was a 5-year-old kid playing tee-ball.
Baseball was his obsession. Anderson would do homework with a bat in his hand, constantly taking practice swings.
He would sit on the couch, glove in hand, bouncing a tennis ball off the walls.
His dad, Jim, coached him from the age of 12 until he reached high school. Young Cole could never get enough of the field.
“As soon as baseball season was over, three days and he was going nuts because he was ready to play again,” Amy said.
He starred for the Lobos, hitting .494 as a junior in 2014 as Rocky Mountain won a state title.
In 2015, he was named a Louisville Slugger All-American in a season that routinely featured scouts clinging the fences as they watched him play.
Making the adjustment
The growing process is accelerated now. As opposed to the structure of college, Anderson is now in the high-pressure world of professional sports.
It’s an adjustment for Anderson, one of three players on the roster just out of high school. It’s also different for Joel, his 12-year-old brother, to be without his big brother for the first time.
But it’s a special bond they get to share. Joel, a mirror image of Cole, left Suplizio Field in Grand Junction on Monday night grasping Cole’s home run ball and a bat he broke during the game.
Anderson lives with a host family, Stacy and John Kelley, and their kids Brayden and Mya. Brayden helped bargain with a fan to get Anderson’s home run ball.
After Monday’s home opener, the two families shared hugs and pictures.
But not before fans asked Anderson to pose for pictures and autograph ticket stubs, baseballs and shirts.
“That’s awesome,” Anderson said about having youngsters idolizing him. “That’s something you dream about. I don’t even have a word for it, it’s just an incredible feeling.”
The kid who just finished high school looks more star-struck then the autograph seekers. Now it’s real.
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.