That second chance Stephen Head was looking for to catch on in professional baseball, he’s found it with the Colorado Rockies organization.
After making his unofficial re-debut on the mound during the Ole Miss Alumni Game in February, pitching a scoreless ninth inning, Head began to focus on making his comeback and late last month got the chance he was hoping for.
A previous relationship with Rockies scout Damon Iannelli led to Head getting an invitation to pitch at a Rockies’ invite-only tryout.
“I had a good relationship with him dating back to when I was in high school so I said, ‘hey I’m going to pitch again,’” Head recalled on Tuesday. “He said if you’re throwing 88 again and have your breaking ball give me a call.
“He came and watched some of my bullpens and ended up getting me to come out here to the Rockies new facility and I threw for them.”
Head didn’t waste his opportunity and was the only player out of over 35 that the Rockies signed.
The experience was unlike any other Head had endured.
“I prepared like I would for anything. I put in a lot of time and effort for it but when I got there I got nervous,” he said. “It wasn’t like closing a game on Friday night in the SEC, where if I blew it I knew I’d have another on Saturday or Sunday.
“This was… I was pitching for my life. If I didn’t throw well in front of these guys that may have been it.”
Maybe it was the adrenaline that came with such pressure, but Head said he pitched as well as he ever had.
“Probably better than I’ve ever thrown in my life,” he said, “and when your back is against the wall like that you do some extraordinary things.”
Head feels that his skill set stood out to the higher-ups with the Rockies during the tryout.
“When I got out here to the tryout all I threw was a four-seam fastball just because I knew it all depended on how hard I was throwing so I just reared back and threw it,” Head said. “But my game is ground balls and two-seam with a lot of sink and actually that’s something the Rockies really want because of playing at Coors Field where the air is thin and it’s a hitter’s park.
“I started showing that a little bit in spring training and I think it opened some eyes within the brass here with the Rockies because I can throw with a little bit of velocity — not blow guys away — but I have good sink and a downward plane to my ball which they preach because of the ballpark they play in.”
Head added that it won’t be his velocity that will potentially move him through the farm system, it’ll be what he does with his pitches that will.
“I think I was 90-93 (miles-per-hour) at the tryout. I’ve been 88-91 every single outing that I’ve been out there, which, being left-handed isn’t bad,” he said. “My ball has had good movement and their philosophy is to keep the ball down and have good movement. I think I showed them that I can be 88-91 and have that good movement and I think that’s what’s going to carry me, not throwing 92-93 because as a hitter I know 92-93 is harder than 91, but when you step into the box it’s not that much harder.
“Once you get over that 95-96, now you’re talking two different levels.”
Head is currently in extended spring training in Arizona with the Rockies so that he can get into a normal pitching regiment.
“I’m staying back and am on a progression to build up my arm where I’m throwing back-to-back days where I can come in and throw in a game then come back the next day and throw,” he said. “I’m doing more of a progression build up than a learn how to pitch.
“I kind of feel like they’ll send me to Low-A first and that will kind of be my real tryout.”
Rebels helping Rebels
Head made the organization on his own, but he also received a little help from former Hillcrest Christian and Ole Miss teammate Seth Smith, who has established himself in the Rockies’ outfield.
“I got to see Seth. The facility is new but there’s a lot of interaction between the big league and minor league guys,” Head said. “I actually had Seth give me some shirts and stuff because all the stuff I had was either red and blue from Ole Miss or from the Indians. I had nothing Rockies so I had him go into his locker and pull out some shirts for me.
“Seth had plenty of extra stuff.”
With any luck, Head will be able to claim the same thing within a few seasons. (April 14, 2011, Page 6)