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Sock grad Datres left to wonder what’s next in baseball

All Kyle Datres can do is wait. There hasn’t been much of an update from the Colorado Rockies as to when he might get to head back to Scottsdale, Arizona, for spring training. So he waits.

The Loyalsock graduate’s biggest concern these days is finding a place he can hit. Indoor batting cages are closed because of Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration to shut down non-life-sustaining businesses. Most schools have closed down their batting cages by varsity fields as schools are closed.

“I can work out and take ground balls anywhere,” Datres said. “I do need to find a cage to hit at home.”

Datres recently returned from Arizona after the Rockies sent their minor leaguers home from spring training. Datres is one of thousands of professional baseball players in the country who are left to sit and wonder when they’ll be able to get back to baseball.

There’s no set date in which the Rockies will have their players return to spring training. Instead, Datres is left to sit and wonder what’s next while he tries to work out at home.

“We’re going to have to have a mini-camp of some kind before the season gets started,” said Datres, who was a 12th-round pick of the Rockies in 2018 out of the University of North Carolina. “There’s a lot of guys who don’t have the chance to work out back home.”

This was going to be an important season for Datres, and one he was looking forward to. He’s coming into the season fully healthy. Last year, he had back surgery to remove part of a disc to relieve pinched nerves which shortened his first pro season in 2018. That surgery led to a slow start last April for the Rockies’ low Class A team in Asheville, North Carolina.

In his first 12 games through the first month, Datres slashed .135/.250/270 with one home run and five RBIs for the Tourists. But over his final 84 games, Datres slashed .306/.417/.576. His .417 on-base percentage was fourth-best in the South Atlantic League. His .576 slugging percentage was best in the league, as was his .992 OPS.

He finished with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. His 46 extra-base hits were tied for third-most in the league. All in all, it was a spectacular finish to a season which began so dismally.

And it was the kind of finish which had Datres excited to start this season. He was expecting to start the season at high Class A with the Lancaster JetHawks in Lancaster, California, and hoped maybe a solid season might get him to AA by the end of the season.

“I think the big thing for me was knowing I could have success and I can play with anyone,” Datres said. “I think it was good for the Rockies to see that I could have a tough start but still overcome that and have a strong finish.”

Datres isn’t concerned about where he plays, though. He just wants to play and he knows everything else will take care of itself.

But playing professional baseball has been an adjustment for the 24-year-old. The level of play isn’t overwhelming. Datres has been playing at the highest level he can for years, including the College World Series and the Cape Cod League before playing pro ball. But what has come as a shock is how the individually focused the pro game is.

“That’s just not how I’ve always played,” Datres said. “I remember one time we blew a game and coach comes in and says ‘let’s get ’em tomorrow.’ I’m like, that’s now how it’s supposed to work. It took some time getting adjusted to how it is. But you start to figure it out and you work into it.”

Nobody in spring training with him knew this spring was going to play out like it had. He lived with four of his teammates during the spring and they would wake up every day seeing just what the news was saying about the COVID-19 pandemic. He saw the NBA season suspended and the NCAA tournament canceled and then he knew it was only a matter of time before the baseball season was delayed.

There was never a time he was worried about being congregated around so many people. By the time it was announced there were Yankees minor leaguers in Florida who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Rockies had already dismissed its minor leaguers from team activities.

So now, all he can do is wait. There will hopefully come a time when Datres is playing baseball again, but when that is, he doesn’t know.

“I can only control what I can control,” Datres said. “All I’ll try to do is play well every day and show the team what I’m made of.”

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