Thompson follows hero Tulowitzki to Colorado

July 18th, 2022

DENVER -- Before Sterlin Thompson was babbling, much less batting, the Rockies were working their way into his heart.

Thompson was born in Longmont, Colo., but his family moved to Ocala, Fla., when he was 1. He grew into a solid left-handed hitter, eventually starring at the University of Florida. After batting .354 with 11 home runs and career highs in other hitting categories for the Gators this year, Thompson was selected by the Rockies with the 31st overall pick in the MLB Draft on Sunday night.

The Rockies picked him -- but Thompson picked the Rockies a long time ago.

Thompson was born June 26, 2001, meaning he was 6 when the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007. Even before learning to do the Hokey Pokey, he was turning himself around imitating his favorite player, shortstop .

“I loved the Colorado Rockies, a lot. I remember being 6 years old and wearing my Rockies hat, admiring Tulowitzki,” Thompson said. “It’s a dream come true to be a Rockie, to see it happen today at 21 years old.”

Thompson played shortstop like his baseball idol, but drifted a bit from the Rockies as he became older. But that had more to do with time marching on.

“Troy Tulowitzki is my favorite, but the Dodgers came into play because I think Corey Seager was a guy I play like, someone with similar characteristics -- kind of like a [comparison],” Thompson said.

It’s unlikely Thompson will end up like either. He broke into the Gators’ lineup in the outfield, and credited the coaches with helping him refine his fundamentals and increase his versatility. He did see infield time this year, and said, “my passion is in the dirt -- I always grew up wanting to play the infield.”

Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt said he envisions Thompson as a “corner player” who saw time at third base this year. The Rockies will assess after bringing him to the team’s complex in Scottsdale, Ariz., then possibly to Class-A Fresno.

“First and foremost, we like the bat,” Schmidt said. “Coach [Kevin] O’Sullivan at the University of Florida basically said he was the best hitter that he’s had the privilege to coach during his time at Florida, and we like his upside.”

During the MLB Draft combine in San Diego, Thompson had a feeling he was the Rockies’ type of player. The Rockies considered taking him out of high school, and tracked his collegiate development.

Thompson batted .301 as a freshman in 2021 with five home runs, 10 doubles and three triples. Already possessing hitting ability and having gained strength, his ability to sting balls increased. In addition to .354 with 11 homers, he had 16 doubles. The pattern falls in line with Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Todd Helton, Trevor Story and, currently, Charlie Blackmon -- solid fundamental hitters who found their power swings as their Major League careers began.

“That's exactly what we talked about in San Diego -- I was fortunate to have a meeting with the Rockies, and they really praised the hit tool,” he said. “That’s something I take pride in, being a pure hitter, knowing that I have power that’s already there, and I’m going to fill out my body and get more power in the tank. But what I like is the hit tool -- hit the ball to all parts of the field and stay very consistent in my approach.”

Thompson chuckled at how it all came together for him and the Rockies.

Outfielder Zac Veen, the Rockies’ 2020 top Draft pick, had committed to Florida before the Draft, and he and Thompson talked many times about Veen’s decision to sign with the Rockies. Through Veen, Thompson has gained an admiration for Rockies second baseman Brendan Rodgers, who works out with Veen in the offseason. Thompson hopes he can join them in the winter. Thompson's advisor Kent Matthes was a fourth-round Rockies Draft pick out of the University of Alabama in 2009, playing outfield in the Rockies’ and Athletics’ systems.

“I’m excited, stoked, ready to get going,” Thompson said. “And happy to be a Rockie.”