SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Players throughout Major League Baseball wore caps with an “SD” logo Friday to honor the 17 victims of the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
For Colorado Rockies minor leaguer Colton Welker, the gesture hit especially close to home.
Welker, a top infield prospect in the Rockies’ system, played for Stoneman Douglas’ state title team in 2016 and was a fourth-round draft pick by Colorado in June of that year. Along with Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and Oakland Athletics minor-league pitcher Jesus Luzardo, he’s one of three alumni of the Parkland high school playing in the Cactus League this spring.
Welker, called upon to pinch-hit by Rockies manager Bud Black in the eighth inning Friday, was robbed of a hit by Arizona’s Rey Fuentes in a line drive to center field. He came on to play third base and flied out to center field again in the 10th inning of the Diamondbacks’ 7-6 victory.
“There were definitely a lot of emotions after the tragedy,” Welker told ESPN after the game. “To come out here and get to strap it on with the big team felt good. The last time I wore this hat I was over there (in Parkland) playing baseball. That’s what got me here, so it meant a lot to me.
“I tried not to make it a big deal of it today. But it was very cool to be out there with these guys and watch them work and watch what the best do every day. It’s just a great experience being around them.”
Welker was friends with Parkland athletic director Chris Hixon and football coach Aaron Feis, both of whom died along with 14 students and a teacher in the Feb. 14 shooting. Feis, who was killed while throwing himself in front of students to protect them, was a security guard at the school and let Welker into the building each day.
As a middle school student in Parkland, Walker rode the bus to school each day with Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who confessed to the killings.
“All my friends are still down there,” Welker said. “My mom still lives down there. She says the town is quiet and it’s still healing. It’s going to take some time after something like that happens. But they’re doing a great job regrouping and staying together and staying strong. They’ll get back to school soon and get athletics going, and that will be good.”
Welker, ranked as the Rockies’ No. 7 prospect by ESPN’s Keith Law, has hit .341 with a .496 slugging percentage in his first two minor-league stops with Grand Junction of the Pioneer League and Asheville of the South Atlantic. As he embarks upon his third professional season, his heart and mind are constantly with the people back home in Parkland.
“That’s where I want to raise my kids,” Welker said. “It’s the greatest place on earth. They have great schools all the way from elementary through high school. It’s a beautiful place to grow up. I’m beyond proud to say I’m from there.
“It’s sickening to know that our name is on the map for that, and not for the other great things that we’ve accomplished. But (baseball) is something I can use to help people, and maybe represent the school and lift people up even more.”
The Rockies were among many teams to wear the Stoneman Douglas caps on Friday, with several managers taking time to reflect on how baseball can offer a diversion.
“Anytime people are hurting, and we know the community is hurting right now, baseball can sometimes play a part with the healing process,” New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “And so to honor them and try and have a little bit of thoughts and prayers and our thoughts are with people who are hurting, it’s something small that it was cool to be a part of.”
More than 2,500 of the Stoneman Douglas caps were ordered from New Era, MLB spokesman Steven Arrocho said, with many of them expected to be signed and auctioned off to benefit those affected by the shooting.
Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Friday’s gesture “puts everything in perspective.”
“Wearing the hats today, I think that means a lot to all of us. It puts everything in perspective,” Cora said. “Something that obviously, it gets your attention. My daughter turns 15 in a few weeks, and I got an email the other day from her school talking about them having a drill. That’s not normal.”
Washington Nationals re-signing Ryan Zimmerman to one-year, $1M deal, source says
Zimmerman opted out of the 2020 season because of concerns about his family’s safety amid the coronavirus pandemic but is set to play his 16th major league season, all with the Nationals.
Zimmerman’s future in Washington had been uncertain after the Nationals acquired Josh Bell to play first base, but general manager Mike Rizzo said last month that the team was open to bringing the 36-year-old back.
Zimmerman batted .257 with six home runs for the 2019 World Series champions.
USA Today first reported on Zimmerman’s return to Washington.
Source — Jurickson Profar, San Diego Padres agree to 3-year, $21 million deal
Profar continues to show his versatility as a true utilityman, having played five defensive positions for the Padres last season while seeing most of his action in left field and at second base. He hit a career-high .278 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs in 56 games during the pandemic-shortened season.
The 27-year-old continues to get on track offensively as he gets more playing time, something he didn’t have during his first six years after the top prospect was called up by the Texas Rangers in 2012. He got off to a horrible start during the 2020 season but compiled an .879 OPS over the final 43 games, hitting .331.
The Padres acquired Profar in a trade with the Oakland Athletics after the 2019 season, and he beat out Brian Dozier to win the starting job at second base. His slow start, however, led to Jake Cronenworth taking over at the position, but opportunity soon followed as Profar moved to left field after Tommy Pham was injured.
Overall, in seven major league seasons, Profar has a .238 batting average with 59 home runs and 222 RBIs with the Padres, Athletics and Rangers.
Images from Hank Aaron’s chase for the career home run record
Baseball Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron died Friday in his sleep. He was 86. The Mobile, Alabama, native is remembered as one of the greatest hitters of all time. He spent his entire adult life in baseball, as a player and in the Atlanta Braves’ front office. Take a look back at some of the greatest moments from his career, including the chase for his record-breaking 715th career home run.
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