By JOEL BADZINSKI | email@example.com
Quick Hits: Jordan Pacheco
Colorado Rockies infielder/catcher
Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.
• Played in 62 of 67 games for Loggers in 2005
• Drafted by Colorado in 7th round in 2007
• South Atlantic League (Class A) MVP in 2009
• Made Major League debut Sept. 6, 2011
• Led NL rookies with .309 batting average in 2012
• Finished 6th (tie) in voting for NL Rookie of the Year
• His broken-bat home run clip has 2.4 million views on YouTube
Jordan Pacheco’s first real experience with the daily grind of baseball came when he played for the La Crosse Loggers in 2005.
Seven summers later, the stadiums were bigger, the pitchers better and the stakes higher, but Pacheco continued to grind away.
Pacheco, 26, spent his first full season in the Major Leagues in 2012 for the Colorado Rockies and led all NL rookies with a .309 batting average.
“It’s been a long time, and obviously I’ve learned a lot about myself in those years,” Pacheco said. “I think it kind of all started at La Crosse because that schedule is like a minor league schedule and I got the opportunity to play in almost every game. It gave me a taste of what it was going to be like.”
Pacheco was a 19-year-old freshman from the University of New Mexico in 2005 when he joined the Loggers. He became a mainstay at shortstop and played in 62 of 67 games, batting .287 with two home runs, 33 RBI and a team-leading 13 doubles.
“He’s got a great story to share,” Loggers general manager Chris Goodell said. “I remember him playing every single day and performing. You saw a guy that not only loves the game, but he wanted to put himself through that grind because he had a goal to play at the next level.”
The 2005 season was his first solid step of a six-year journey to his big-league debut on Sept. 6, 2011. Pacheco played in the Cape Cod League in 2006 and was Mountain West Player of the Year in 2007 as a junior at New Mexico.
The Rockies drafted him in the ninth round in 2007. In addition to the challenge of trying to work his way up the minor league ladder, the Colorado organization threw him a curve by asking him to learn the catcher position.
“There’s been a lot of trial and error, ups and downs and things that I had to overcome more mentally than anything,” Pacheco said. “Especially changing positions to catcher and I had to learn how to grind that out while still working toward my ultimate goal of getting to the big leagues.”
Pacheco knew better than to fight the transition from infielder to catcher, knowing it would help his career in the long run.
“Obviously being a catcher, that’s the quickest way to the big leagues besides pitcher,” Pacheco said. “And once I showed I can play that position and that I was versatile and could play the infield, that helped me get to the next level.”
Pacheco made a steady climb through the Rockies’ system: from Rookie to Low A in 2007; from Low A to High A in 2008; from High A to Class AA in 2010; from Class AA to Class AAA and then a September call-up in 2011 after 456 minor-league games.
Along the way, Pacheco became a YouTube sensation. While playing for Class AAA Colorado Springs on July 8, 2011, he hit a broken-bat home run to center field. The clip has received 2.4 million views.
“It was kind of a freak deal,” Pacheco said. “I didn’t know it was going to be such a big deal, but it turned out to be some good press for Colorado Springs and myself. Everybody wants a YouTube video; it was fun to have one that people watched.”
Pacheco’s Internet fame was quickly overshadowed when the Rockies brought him up late in 2011. His season at Colorado Springs had just finished, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be heading home or to a winter league or to Denver.
When the call came, Pacheco celebrated for a little while, then prepared for the toughest challenge of his baseball career.
“It’s awesome, it’s what you work for to get that opportunity, and you don’t want to be overwhelmed,” Pacheco said. “You want to prove something. I was excited and at the same time I knew I had work to do.”
Pacheco was assigned to Class AAA to open 2012, but when the Rockies were hit by injuries, he was called back up and stayed there for good, starting 80 games at third base, 33 at first base and five at catcher.
It was, by all accounts, a strong rookie season, even in the midst of Colorado’s disappointing 64-98 finish. Pacheco finished tied for sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting.
Pacheco said he doesn’t know what the team has planned for him in 2013. The Rockies hired a new manager, Walt Weiss, after Jim Tracy resigned in October.
“You obviously want to make an impact, and I think the club has confidence in my bat and what I can do,” Pacheco said. “I want to be a guy that plays every day, and I need to show them I can do that. I’m going (into spring training) open-minded and whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to do.
“I want to be a piece of that puzzle they need to win.”