By Ken Reed
Last week, 31-year-old Wynton Bernard finally got the news he’d been waiting 11 years to hear: He was going to the big leagues.
The Colorado Rockies called up Bernard from their AAA farm team, the Albuquerque Isotopes, last week. It was a mountaintop moment for Bernard after a long, hard, winding climb that involved numerous minor league stops along the way, including playing for several international and independent teams.
It was a popular move to everyone who knows Bernard thanks to his relentlessly positive attitude, strong work ethic and team-first approach.
“What I saw today made this the best day of my coaching career,” said Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer.
“What I witnessed in a locker room today, the reaction of Wynton, the reaction of his teammates, it just made … everything that you do worthwhile to see somebody like Wynton, who has been grinding in the minor leagues for 11 years, who does everything the right way … It’s something that we can all learn from.
“And to see grown men cry – men who have children – to hear that Wynton Bernard is called up and to see tears flow in a locker room by Wynton and his teammates … That’s just special, man.”
The call-up certainly wasn’t a gratuitous handout to a good soldier either; Bernard earned it. He was hitting .325 this season in 87 games for the Isotopes with career bests in homers (17) and RBIs (74) to go with 26 steals and some of the most consistently high-level defense in center field in the Pacific Coast League, where he was named the July Player of the Month.
“He’s done everything he can do,” said Rockies Director of Player Development Chris Forbes. “… He’s done a great job on both sides of the ball, in the clubhouse. I mean, he’s a high character kid. He’s everything you want in a player.”
Bernard was overcome with emotion when he heard the news.
“Schaeffer goes, ‘After eleven, hard minor league seasons, Wynton Bernard’s going to the Show,’” said Bernard, his voice rising with excitement the day after he got the news. “I was like, just shaking, just dreaming. The emotions, it’s indescribable.” (Watching Bernard call his Mom with the news will bring a tear to the eye of everyone but the most cynical of human beings.)
It’s a fun story whenever a long-time minor league player gets called up to The Show, but what made the Bernard story even more special was the kind of human being Bernard is and what a great teammate he’s been everywhere he’s played.
“He’s a great example for kids all around the country – for baseball players everywhere,” Schaeffer said. “If you persevere, anything can happen.”
Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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