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Story and Photos
by Editor Rick Cabral

WHEELS ON FIRE
Tim Wheeler’s On Path to a Major League Career

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Tim Wheeler peers in from his center field position at Raley Field.

Following the 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.

 

Following spring 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.

 

He claims 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.  

 

During his 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.

 

The native 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 Gold. 

 

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. 

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Sky Sox outfielder
Tim Wheeler watches on deck.

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. 

 

He culminated 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.  

 

He also 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