It wasn’t long ago that Skyler Messinger was sitting in the stands of Coors Field cheering on Troy Tulowitzki and Matt Holliday.
Just like any young baseball player, he aspired to one day step onto the Major League diamond and into the shoes of the sluggers he idolized. He often found himself emulating the man who would one day be his coach, and committed himself to improving his craft, no matter where it took him.
On Tuesday, all those years of relentless hustle sent him straight back home when he heard his name called in the 19th round of the MLB Draft. The Colorado Rockies selected the Niwot High School graduate with the No. 556 pick.
It turned out his dream was just a short drive down the road.
“I would have been excited with any team but having it be the Rockies — growing up, watching them, and being at Coors Field countless times — definitely made it a little bit more special for sure,” Messinger said. “So much has gone into it. It’s been the goal ever since I’ve been playing baseball, really shooting for that opportunity. It’s definitely a lot of hours, a lot of early mornings and late nights and blood, sweat and tears, so it’s definitely a rewarding thing.”
Messinger’s baseball career has been anything but ordinary.
After graduating from Niwot in 2017, he spent four years with the Kansas Jayhawks as a third baseman itching to make it to the College World Series. COVID-19 awarded him the opportunity in 2020 when a pandemic-shortened season convinced the NCAA to grant him, and every other spring athlete, an extra year of eligibility.
He seized the chance to chase that dream and entered the transfer portal. A familiar face in an opposing dugout led him to Texas: assistant coach Troy Tulowitzki.
Before Messinger first donned the Longhorn burnt orange, Tulowitzki recognized the talent in a player who emanated a special passion for the game they both loved. Tulowitzki nurtured that skill even more in Messinger’s lone season with Texas, a season that took him to Omaha for the CWS.
“I definitely saw a skill set from the other side. He looked the part, and then you see him play and you see that he’s a hard-nosed baseball player, so you liked that. You had an idea at the plate of what he was doing,” Tulowitzki said. “I think he fit right in, just with the work ethic and with the love for the game, so that part wasn’t hard for him at all.”
Tulowitzki wasn’t done inspiring that little kid from Niwot. Years later, his mentorship proved invaluable in helping Messinger clear one more hurdle on the road to the minors.
In his final collegiate season, Messinger raked in 59 RBI, 91 hits, 11 home runs and a .364 batting average as the Longhorns stampeded their way into the Austin Regional, the Greenville Super Regional and, eventually, the College World Series. He hopes the experiences he picked up along the way, dating all the way back to his high school days, have prepared him well for what lies ahead.
“Being an experienced college player, I think I’ll be able to get in the mix and be able to make an impact right away and sort of hit the ground running,” he said. “Playing in the Big 12, I think, has prepared me really well. For pro ball, obviously, it’s going to be an adjustment for sure. I feel good about it and just couldn’t feel more ready.”
He’ll begin his journey through the minor leagues when he flies to Scottsdale as a professional baseball player on Sunday.
All these years later, the tables have turned in the relationship between a former star shortstop and an ambitious, young third baseman. The Rockies will be better off for it.
“He would probably say I’m crazy, but I’m probably more of a fan of his than he is of mine, to be honest, just because of our closeness this year. I’m looking forward to seeing how his career plays out,” Tulowitzki said. “I think the Rockies are going to be really happy with what they get in Skyler. I’m not afraid to say it. I think he does have a chance to get to the big leagues. I really do.”