Ryan Warner’s days are spent doing mostly inglorious tasks. He’s a scoreboard operator, he retrieves foul balls and he shags fly balls.
Such is life in extended spring training, and Warner loves every bit of it.
“I’m completely happy with my decision,” said Warner, who opted out of a scholarship offer from N.C. State last year when the Colorado Rockies drafted the Pine Creek graduate with a supplemental pick after the third round and offered a $363,700 bonus. “I’ve learned more in the past year than I have in my entire career in baseball just by listening to the coaches, the older guys and every day I’m getting better. I can’t wait to get there.”
Warner’s next stop will be either a return trip to the Pioneer League team based in Grand Junction or a stint with the Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Wash. Either way, until the first week of June he’ll keep throwing every fifth day in front of sparse crowds in Arizona.
While baseball is the primary focus of his daily routine, Warner couldn’t help but point out some of the perks that come with playing professional baseball in his current environment. Most of his games are finished by 1 or 2 p.m., at which point he and friends will either lounge around the pool, watch TV or play Xbox. In that way, he’s not all that different than many 19-year-olds in their first year out of high school.
But most of those kids didn’t just wrap their first spring training alongside the likes of Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton.
“You’ll see them in the lunch room every now and then and they’ll say what’s up,” Warner said of his brushes the longtime Rockies. “You’ll see them in the hallway and you’ll say hi. It’s just normal; nothing really to it.”
The Rockies wouldn’t have offered such big money to Warner if there wasn’t a realistic shot he could one day join those players. “Baseball America” named the 6-foot-7 right-hander the No. 26 prospect in the organization, noting his football background and a frame that is “the kind scouts can dream on.”
Warner went 3-0 in 14 appearances with Grand Junction last year after earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors for Pine Creek. His ERA was a lofty 7.00 because of a few rough outings and not enough time to work into a rhythm on occasion with a strict 60-pitch limit, but his peripheral numbers such as 36 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 45 innings certainly provided glimpses of his potential.
Warner built his velocity to the low 90s at the end of the last year, reached 90 mph near the end of the season. He’s already touching those speeds this year.
“So I’m hoping by the end of this year I’m cranking it up there pretty high,” he said.
Yes, big things may be in Warner’s future. But he’s got many foul balls to retrieve in the meantime.