DENVER - The Rockies' Wilin Rosario went from catcher last season to first baseman. But a transition to grounds crew?
Rosario joined manager Walt Weiss, first-base coach Eric Young and several teammates who came to the rescue of grounds-crew members, who had a strong wind blow the heavy tarpaulin out of their hands while they were trying to cover the infield when rain hit during the first inning Thursday night. After the 2-hour, 6-minute delay, Rosario added a first-inning RBI double during the Rockies' 5-3 victory over the Braves at Coors Field.
"I'm utility," Rosario said, smiling. "I help my grounds crew. I help my team. Double. I do my thing, man."
Weiss, Young, pitcher Chad Bettis and backup catcher Michael McKenry were logical volunteers to help with the tarp. While Weiss and Young have plenty to do, they're not playing. Neither were Bettis and McKenry.
Little did anyone know that Rosario wasn't the only player who would figure in the game to help with the tarp.
Right-handed pitcher David Hale had no reason to think he'd be involved Thursday. He was scheduled to start Friday. After helping out, he went into the clubhouse and placed his soaking uniform jersey on the back of a chair, figuring it would air-dry and he could wear a sweatshirt while watching the game.
But the weather didn't cooperate. At one point, the grounds crew uncovered the field but had to protect it again when rain showed up immediately. By the time play resumed, starter Kyle Kendrick was no longer an option.
The Rockies came to Hale.
"They told me I was probably going to start so I gave it [the jersey] to one of the clubbies, and said, 'Hey, you need to dry this real quick,'" said Hale, who threw 1 2/3 innings before suffering a slight left groin pull -- which occurred while running the bases, not while pulling the tarp.
When players reach the professional level, they have a grounds crew. But before then, players have to snap into action. Hale and Bettis each went to high schools fortunate enough to have a tarp, and they had to do so in college. Schools even practice covering a field.
"The first time we practiced it, it was in the morning and we had a big windstorm -- so that was a little rough," said Bettis, who went to Monterrey High School in Lubbock, Tex., and helped cover some fields at Texas Tech.
Weiss, who coached high school ball at Regis Jesuit in the Denver area before taking the Rockies managerial job in 2013, said he helped pull tarp "a few times before, but never in the big leagues."
Those with experience know that laying the big ol' carpet is no small task. The sheet has to be heavy to prevent it from being blown away or from tearing.
But Rosario, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, had no experience with the tarp.
"Woah, it's like you're pulling a truck. That thing was heavy," he said.
Teammate Carlos Gonzalez, who was nowhere near the tarp on a night when he doubled three times, piped in, "That's why he only got one hit, because he wasted his energy."
But Rosario had no regrets. "It was good to help those guys," he said. "That way, we could play."
The Rockies have now sat through 22 hours, 24 minutes in rain delays this year.
Teams helping save their own field with the tarp is in style these days. The Pirates did it Tuesday during their 3-2 victory over the Padres.