Sports

Hawks hoping Colorado Rockies’ prospect can rebound in Boise

Two years ago, Kevin Padlo was far from anyone’s radar.

Then a junior at Murrieta Valley High in California, Padlo was merely chasing a college scholarship when he attended the Area Code Games, a scouting showcase in Long Beach, Calif.

But the 6-foot-2, 200-pound third baseman caught the attention of pro scouts, and the Colorado Rockies picked him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. He tore up the Pioneer League with the Grand Junction Rockies, hitting .300 with more extra-base hits (27) than singles (21), eight home runs and 44 RBIs in 48 games as the second youngest player in the league.

Baseball America ranked his pro debut as the second best in the 2014 draft class, and MLB.com named him the Rockies’ No. 14 prospect.

But 2015 brought a different story.

The Rockies gave him an aggressive second-year assignment to Asheville, N.C., in the Low-A South Atlantic League. The 18-year-old in a league with an average age of 22 batted cleanup on Opening Day. He hit .145 in 27 games before the Rockies sent him down to their extended spring training facility in Arizona to await an assignment to Boise.

Padlo said he struggled to create solid contact in Asheville, which frustrated him and snowballed into even more struggles.

“It’s something I’m used to getting, so I was getting really frustrated,” said Padlo, an all-section shooting guard on his high school basketball team. “They were just telling me we want to take the pressure off of you so you’re not as frustrated. I was just out there frustrated every day.”

Fred Nelson, the Rockies’ club supervisor in Boise, worked with Padlo in extended spring training. He said Padlo possesses all the tools, but the organization is trying to convince him to focus on the aspect of the games he can control, a skill that has eluded and sunk plenty of promising prospects.

“He’s a strong, powerful guy that can drive the ball,” Nelson said. “His defensive skills are very solid. He’s got a strong arm. He’s energetic and maybe a little advanced in terms of his mental approach and his fundamentals for a young kid.

“He’s positioned himself to be a really good player. I’m not surprised where he was drafted. I have no doubts at all that he’ll do very, very well, and, in time, he’ll progress through the ranks.”

Padlo said he’s taken that message to heart and will focus on letting the game come to him.

“I’ve already been through the worst of it, getting sent down. .... I’m just going to work on having fun and working on my game,’’ Padlo said.

HAWKS BEGIN NEW AFFILIATION

Boise sported a new color Friday during media day — purple.

The alternative uniforms are a nod to the team’s new parent club, the Rockies. When Boise’s player development contract with the Chicago Cubs ran out last season after 14 years, the Hawks signed a four-year deal with Colorado.

Minor league clubs typically sign two- or four-year deals with major-league affiliates. But Hawks President Todd Rahr thinks the relationship could last even longer.

“The Rockies wanted to commit to the market,” he said. “They said we believe you can get a new facility done. We promised some upgrades around here and we’re sticking to our word about that.

“They said, ‘Hey, you guys put some commitment in from the ownership group and we’ll put in some commitment in.’”

Rahr said he expects to see major progress toward a new stadium or plans for renovations of Memorial Stadium before the contract expires in 2018.

The Hawks’ affiliation switch was part of a three-card monte in the Northwest League this offseason. All eight cities and all eight major-league affiliates in the league remain the same. But the Rockies moved from Tri-Cities, Wash., to Boise. The Cubs moved from Boise to Eugene, Ore. And the Padres moved from Eugene to Tri-Cities.

Boise resident Gary Van Tol, who managed the Hawks the past two seasons and was a volunteer coach five years prior to that, remains with the Cubs and takes over the Eugene Emeralds this summer.

OPEN HOUSE SATURDAY

The Hawks will host an open house from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium that includes a player autograph session, carnival booths and discounted merchandise.

Opening day tickets will also be on sale, and fans can spin a wheel to determine how much they will pay — anywhere from nothing to full price.

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