WHEELS ON FIRE
Tim Wheeler’s On Path to a Major
Tim Wheeler peers in from his
center field position at Raley Field.
2011 season, Colorado Rockies prospect
Tim Wheeler (El Camino High/Sacramento State) was goin’ good.
The Rockies 2009
first-round draft pick had just completed his second full season in the minor leagues at
Double-A Tulsa, where he set a team record with 33 home runs, batted .287 and slugged .535 and
was named to the Texas League All-Stars.
training this year, he was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, a
short drive away from Denver, where Wheeler hopes to realize his dream of someday
playing for the Colorado Rockies.
Then just six
games into the season, Wheeler sustained a hamate bone break in his right hand forcing him to
miss 47 games, a big loss for the fifth-ranked prospect in the Rockies' organization, according
to Baseball America.
the right wrist is healing nicely and almost back to normal, although he still feels a “buzz” in
the right palm area when he swings and misses, which he’s been trying not to do.
recovery, Tim Wheeler used the time off to employ visualization techniques in an imaginary
batter’s box to better prepare for his return. Seemed to work.
Right after his
return to the lineup, the left-handed hitter went on a tear, hitting in 16 straight
games. The one noticeable remaining weakness: no home runs and just 10 RBI, anemic
comparied to last year's bust-out season.
Sacramentan played his first game tonight at Raley Field, patrolling center field for the Sky
Sox. In the fifth inning of Saturday's contest, he singled in a runner from third with a
game-tying RBI (The Cats clawed the Sox 9-3). He is now hitting .307 for the year. Prior to the
game, he imagined it would be great fun playing before friends and family who’ve watched him
develop into one of the area's best.
As a sixth
grader coming to watch the River Cats, "Wheels" as he is called by teammates, dreamed
of playing professional ball. He starred at El Camino High, batted .535 and was named to the
All-Metro team. He had several offers to play at several high- level baseball programs, but
eventually chose Sac State because “I had a goal that anything that I wanted to accomplish in
baseball, I could accomplish at Sac State in front of family and friends.” He followed older
brother Jim to Sac State and immediately became one of the star players in Green and
In his sophomore
season (2008), he posted a 20-game hitting streak, finishing the year batting .330 with 43 runs
batted in. That summer, he played in the Cape Cod League and turned heads when he made the
All-Star team and later was named most valuable player for the Orleans Cardinals after leading
his team in hits and the league in stolen bases.
A pre-season All-American selection, Tim Wheeler shined in his junior
season. He batted .385 and hit 18 home runs (three in one game twice), while setting school records
for RBI in a season (72) and career (142). He was named second-team All-American by Baseball
America and the American Baseball Coaches Association.
Sky Sox outfielder
Tim Wheeler watches on deck.
his career at Sac State by being selected in the first round (32nd overall) by the
Rockies and signed a $900,000 bonus.
He’s been on a
steady, upward climb toward the majors ever since.
understands that being a first-round pick brings with it high expectations, especially by the
organization. But he doesn’t feel the pressure.
“They just want
me to succeed. That’s really the only type of pressure you feel…what it comes down to is they’ve
(the club) invested in you initially because they think you have the talent and they’re just
looking for that success.”
understands there are solid, young players ahead of him playing well in the Rockies outfield
(Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler) and younger, equally talented guys coming up through the
system (highly touted Kyle Parker), but Wheeler
tries to stay focused on what he can control.
“One of the things I control is the mindset. I’m a tireless worker. I’m always trying to get better
and be more consistent,” he says honestly. “Largely, as a hitter, I’m unfinished. I’ve got a way to
“But, I’m getting a lot closer.”