McKenry joins pitchers, catchers at camp after journey
Ice storm delays backstop's arrival as Rockies officially open Spring Training
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The words, "pitchers and catchers report," are magical, if meaningless. Teams such as the Rockies, with ultra-modern complexes like Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, have had most of the team in town for days already working. Footage of guys just now arriving with their bags is as antiquated as artificial turf.
But then there's Colorado catcher Michael McKenry, whose difficult trek was worthy of glad-hands and hugs.
McKenry trains near his Murfreesboro, Tenn., home -- where he has the fortune of several professional players living nearby -- and makes a drive to Spring Training with his wife, Jaclyn, a tradition.
"Me and my wife talk about everything we can think of ... I feel like a scholar for a minute," McKenry said.
But an ice storm hit middle Tennessee this week. Taking off Sunday was suddenly out of the question.
"The day we were going to leave, between Murfreesboro and Nashville [roughly 30 miles], there were 37 wrecks in the morning, people trying to commute to work," said McKenry, who hoped to arrive in Scottsdale on Monday, but didn't arrive until about 4 a.m. Thursday. "I can't tell you how many tractor trailers and cars we saw flipped over. It looked like the apocalypse. People pulled over and abandoned cars. That doesn't happen in Tennessee.
"There was an inch and a half of ice. I walked out onto my driveway and you could skate on it. Trees falling down everywhere because of ice ... it was nuts."
Once on the road, the McKenrys still dealt with awful weather in Little Rock, Ark.
"We thought we were free," McKenry said. "It didn't show it on the radar or anything, but it just started snowing like crazy. If you've ever seen 'Star Trek,' where they start going really, really fast, at warp speed, that's what it felt like. And the only people on the road were me and my wife, and 18-wheelers."
Sixteen hours of driving Wednesday into Thursday morning brought McKenry to Scottsdale.
For most, though, Thursday was not the end of some big adventure, just another day of bullpen sessions, fielding drills, running and lifting weights. Manager Walt Weiss, pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes presided over the drills earlier this week, with bench coach Tom Runnells arriving. Multiple Minor League staffers, some who live in Scottsdale, also have been watching and coaching.
But the first official workout looms Saturday, so the enthusiasm is growing.
"This is my second Spring Training for the Rockies, so seeing guys again is exciting," said right-hander Jordan Lyles, who previously pitched for the Astros. "Last year, it took a long time to figure out guys' names. But they made it easy and welcomed me."
This is a good time to be a catcher. Colorado will have 31 pitchers in big league camp, including 16 non-roster invitees. There have to be guys to catch them. In addition to Major League catchers McKenry, Nick Hundley and Wilin Rosario, the club invited four Minor League catchers -- Dustin Garneau, Tommy Murphy, Audry Perez and Ryan Casteel.
A 19th-round Draft pick in 2009, Garneau, 27, hit .270 in 34 games at Double-A Tulsa and .216 in his first 44 career Triple-A games for Colorado Springs in '14. Breaking into the Majors as a catcher is difficult, with many players for few jobs, but big league camp allows many catchers to make an impression on the staff, in practice and games.
"I'm just basically looking to show the coaching staff what my abilities are, not doing anything crazy or trying to be someone I'm not," Garneau said. "They need the spots for guys who catch, so it gives me an opportunity. I got a decent amount of playing time last year, but I've got no control over that."