QUICKSBURG — Over the last eight months Colton Harlow has been living out his dream. Next week it will continue as he goes to the Colorado Rockies spring training camp.
The 2014 Stonewall Jackson graduate and 2018 James Madison University graduate said he leaves on Feb. 21 to go to Scottsdale, Arizona for the camp.
He said he isn’t sure what to expect from his first spring training experience.
“I haven’t gone to spring training yet, so I don’t know how everything works,” Harlow said last week at Ashby-Lee Elementary School. “But the way I’ve pictured it is spring training is evaluation. And everyone is there, all the coaches and head coaches. And all the guys are there. So they kind of evaluate to see what they think of you and if you’re going to move up.”
Harlow was drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft by the Rockies in the 30th round on June 7. The Rockies sent him to the Rookie-level Pioneer League where he was used as a middle relief pitcher.
The 5-foot-10 left-hander said the team didn’t use him and the other players who were drafted in June right away because they were just coming off college baseball season and felt they needed to rest. Harlow played in his first game on June 27.
“Once they started letting us throw a little bit, I started catching a bit of a rhythm, and things started falling into place,” Harlow said.
He got off to a slow start and had a bad outing that left him with a high earned run average, but he recovered from that and was strong the rest of the season.
The 23-year-old Harlow finished with a 4.57 ERA in 19 games. He pitched 21.2 innings, went 1-0 with 22 strikeouts.
“Overall, it was really good,” Harlow said of his season. “Toward the end, I was really kind of feeling it. I had a lot of confidence, and everything was working right. It was a lot of fun.”
Harlow said his first season in the minors overall was great, and he enjoyed getting to meet new players, most of whom were straight out of college just like him. He said the season had a college baseball summer league vibe to it.
“Just hanging out with the guys and seeing everybody from different colleges and people I never played with, and the competition and how good the players were that I was playing with was just really cool to see,” Harlow said. “And I was ecstatic just to be given that opportunity, obviously. And I was just working on making the most of it and taking it all in.”
Grand Junction’s pitching coach was Doug Jones, a former longtime Major League pitcher. Harlow said Jones was a big help to him last season.
“He’s the man,” Harlow said of Jones. “He knows what he’s doing for sure, and he’s very laid back. And he’s an old jokester. It was a lot of fun. He knows his stuff. He really helped me out. A couple things that he tweaked were things that I had worked on with (JMU pitching) coach (Jimmy) Jackson. Which was good to hear, because I know coach Jackson knew what he was talking about. So he was just reiterating everything.”
One thing Harlow said Jones wanted him to work on in the offseason was slowing himself down on the mound.
“He said slow your mechanics down,” Harlow said. “You don’t need to rush to get to the plate. You have all the time in the world. So basically I’m just focusing on staying under control, cool collected and just not trying to do too much as a pitcher. Just doing you and sticking with it.”
Harlow’s last game with Grand Junction last season came on Sept. 9. On Sept. 13, Grand Junction played its last game and Harlow headed back home.
He said that he’s enjoyed the break that he’s had, and it was much needed.
“It was really nice to have that break,” Harlow said. “I really enjoyed it. I got to spend a lot of time with family and friends. It was just what I needed. Now I’m itching to go back to spring training.”
Harlow said he started working out again in mid-November, doing some workouts with Central High School baseball coach Sean Semones and Central’s baseball team at some open gyms at the school. He said he’s been to JMU a few times to work out there as well and has done some weight lifting at a gym in Harrisonburg.
Harlow said his main goal for this upcoming season is to try to lower his statistics from last year, be consistent and move up to a higher level with the Rockies. Colorado’s Class A short-season team is the Boise Hawks, located in Boise, Idaho. The Rockies’ Class A affiliate is the Asheville Tourists, located in Asheville, North Carolina. Colorado’s Class A-advanced affiliate is the Lancaster JetHawks, located in Lancaster, California.
Harlow read to kids at the Books, Baseball and Breakfast event held at Ashby-Lee Elementary on Jan. 26. He also signed autographs for them and he’s been giving some pitching lessons to youngsters during his time at home as well.
He said he’s enjoying being a role model for the younger kids.
“It’s a cool feeling for sure,” Harlow said. “Just being a role model for them — it’s a pretty honorable thing to be. I try to stay humble about it. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Harlow said if there’s just one thing he could tell the younger kids it’s to never give up on your dreams, even if there are people doubting you. Harlow said there were people who doubted he would even play Division 1 baseball let alone be drafted in the majors and play in the minor leagues.
Harlow said he’s still chasing his dream – which is to make it to the major leagues.
“You just have to work hard and never give up on your dreams, and keep going,” Harlow said. “I’m still fighting for my dream — obviously still trying to get it. Obviously, the main goal is to make it to the bigs. So, I mean that’s the ultimate dream. Other than that, if that doesn’t work out, then I know that I’ll put my mind to something else. And I’ll work as hard as I can to reach that goal.”