From cheese balls and inside jokes to riddles in the dugout and eye-black Fu Manchu mustaches, the final week of the Berthoud Spartans baseball season was one memorable way to end a group of seniors’ careers.
On Saturday morning, 11 Berthoud High School seniors, many of whom had played together since elementary school, started their final week of baseball with a doubleheader against the Fort Morgan High School Mustangs.
Game one was a high-scoring affair, ending in a 17-6 Berthoud loss. Even with a strong offensive push, there was no way to keep up with Fort Morgan’s hot bats. Game two was a heartbreaker for BHS as they fell 5-2. The game was tied at one heading into the top of the seventh, but the Mustangs strung together a couple of singles to put up the winning runs.
The Spartans’ seniors and their families went through the bittersweet Senior Day festivities before the doubleheader; the usual presentations of flowers to the families, small speeches and photos. It was a little out of the ordinary when the seniors were presented a bucket of cheese balls. The story of the snack traces back to when the boys played on a little league team in middle school.
“We were at a tournament in Steamboat and we weren’t doing too hot. That day, Melanie Johnson brought us a big ole bucket of cheese balls,” senior Tim Sontag said, “we beat a really good team after that, and we credited it all to the cheese balls. Then we started keeping cheese balls in the dugout.”
The simple presentation of the snack food brought back memories for the Spartans as they all recognized the story immediately. The simple gift was a way for the seniors to not only remember their time as baseball players but also remind them what the game was all about.
Maybe it was the cheese balls, maybe it wasn’t, but nonetheless, the Spartans were on fire for the final two games of the season. They traveled to Battle Mountain High School on Monday afternoon and dominated in a 17-4 win. Berthoud’s offense was hot as each of the 11 players with plate appearances had a least one hit, which included a home run from junior Aaron Hardy.
The offense stayed hot overnight and the Spartans jumped on the Centaurus High School Warriors early. The Spartans tallied their first of 12 runs after senior Anthony Trojahn was walked in the second inning. Trojahn, playing in his first high school season, was an important part of the win.
“It was a really cool thing to develop that brotherhood again,” Trojahn said about his return to baseball with his friends and fellow seniors, “to end it like that, it couldn’t have been written any better.”
The Spartans had a strong eight-run lead in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and one pitch to go. A Warriors pinch hitter reached for an outside pitch and tapped a fly ball in foul territory down the first baseline. Senior first baseman Grant Vomacka laid out and snagged the ball to secure the 12-8 victory, the final out of the season and the final out of his career.
“It felt really good to end it on something I will always remember,” Vomacka said, “it was almost like a highlight reel play.”
The final week was full of excitement and fun and it will be something the seniors will always remember about their time playing baseball as Berthoud High School Spartan.
“I’m gonna remember turning double plays, doing riddles in the dugout and laying out and diving for balls I know I can’t get to,” senior Danny Pelphrey, who sported a painted-on mustache on Tuesday night, said as his baseball career closed.
It was all smiling faces for the Berthoud seniors as they wrote the final words to close out this chapter of their lives.
After nearly a complete offseason of silence, Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort spoke out addressing many questions surrounding his baseball club. He gave a brief speech at the Friends of Baseball Breakfast of Champions, a fundraiser for youth baseball in Northern Colorado.
Monfort took his time at the podium to speak to the couple of hundred sitting in the room about his hopes for the upcoming season. He explained that the 2017 and 2018 playoff runs followed by a disappointing 2019 season was similar to that of the 2007 and 2008 Rockies seasons.
“I had an analytical staff go through and interpolate those numbers,” Montfort said about reviewing the historic seasons. “And so in 2020, we’ll win 94 games and lose 68.”
That’s a big statement coming from the club owner. A 94-win season would be a record for the Rockies, and with as crazy an offseason it’s been so far, it’s hard to imagine. Maybe he said it to just give Rockies fans hope, or maybe he said it because he truly believes it’s possible; either way, the statement will stick all through 2020.
In the midst of Nolan Arenado trade rumors, criticism of the front office, and arbitration contract conflicts, it was unclear where the heads of the organizations stood on the issues. On top of his short speech to please the masses, Monfort sat down for an interview, diving into more of the gritty matters.
“I think the Nolan-Jeff deal was really blown out of proportion. I really don’t see that it’s as big of an issue,” Monfort said right off the bat. “I’ve talked to Nolan by text and I think the Nolan-Jeff issue is down the pecking list.”
In his eyes, the interactions between General Manager Jeff Bridich and Arenado through the media were nothing to take too seriously, they come naturally with high-talent players, and he believed the situation had mostly ironed itself out.
“Nolan’s a very competitive guy and he wants to win,” Monfort said. “Last year was hard on all of us and I think a lot of last year is on his mind.”
With that being said, Monfort explained that there could be other existing issues between the GM and all-star third baseman, originating from Arenado’s time in the farm system.
“Most of the fans have seen Nolan for the past seven years but Jeff was with him in Triple-A and Double-A: he was the farm director,” he said. “When you’re coming up through the ranks, there’s some tough love along the way and so there could be something built in there that I’m not even aware of and they’re not even really aware of; I don’t see the issues there.”
Fans have not only expressed concern about the player-GM conflict, but also about the lack of activity from the Rockies during the offseason. The ballclub signed no free agents, traded no players, and their only actions were deals to avoid arbitration for current players, but Monfort explained it’s all for good reason, in his eyes.
As Monfort explained, “When you sign a free agent you don’t sign him for a year, so if you go four or five years in a row of signed free agents … they’re on the team so you’ve also got kids coming up that you have to work in so there’s gonna be times like this.”
In the last five years, the Rockies have signed multiple free agents, most notably Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy and a group of relief pitchers. This year the front office wants to utilize those who they have and those who are flourishing in the farm system. This strategy has already been criticized by many, and if the Rockies have another flop of a season, Monfort is going to take the heat for that decision.
The only move the Rockies have been reported to be considering is an Arenado trade. Most Rockies fans believe sending Nolan out of Colorado would be a terrible move. If you stand by Arenado, you can take a sigh of relief, for now, as Monfort halfway shut down the rumors.
Monfort said “I don’t think so” to three big questions: is there a chance for a trade with the Cubs involving Kris Bryant? Could Arenado be dealt before the start of spring training? And will the state of the team’s success determine if Arenado could be traded before the trade deadline?
Monfort was quick to say later on that he could make no grantees about the fate of the seven-time Gold Glover, but he said the mindset of the ballclub is to go with who they’ve got.
Monfort answered another major question Saturday morning – did Nolan Arenado ask to be traded? Upon hearing the burning question, Monfort paused, contemplating what his answer would be, and finally said, “Did Nolan ask to be traded? No.”
Take it how you want, but the silence before the answer and the shortness of it points to something bigger behind the simple “no.” There is no way to know what goes on behind closed doors within the Rockies organization, but Monfort’s interview helped give some insight into those conversations.
Will the Rockies live up to Monfort’s promised 94 wins? Will No. 28 be at third base for all of 2020? Will sticking with the same team be successful for Colorado? The only way to find out is to watch the season unfold this spring and summer.