Rockies Prospect Shocked By Shooting At Alma Mater

Eight days ago, Colton Welker, one of the top prospects in the Rockies farm system, was at the team’s spring complex, taking part in informal workouts on Valentine’s Day, getting ready for the start of spring training.

It was just another off-season day for the third baseman ranked the fourth best prospect in the Rockies system -- until he he went back to the locker room.

The shock hit him.

A gunman had gone on a shooting spree, killing 17 students at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where Welker was in the midst of his senior year just two years ago, anticipating the baseball draft, in which he was the Rockies fourth-round pick.

“One of my buddies texted me, `Do you see what's going on?’ Welker remembered on Thursday. “I had no clue. I just got done at the field (working out). I thought maybe he was joking.  ... I mean I don't know who would joke about that, but just couldn't see that happening over there.”

“I went home and watched on the news. I was just in complete shock, and just ... I actually knew the (accused shooter Nikolas Cruz) who did it. I went to middle school with him, and I rode on the bus with him for three years, so, I mean, it was just complete, complete shock.

But it did. And when the reality sank in it hit Welker hard.

The victims included Chris Hixon, the school’s athletic director, Aaron Feis, a security guard and assistant football coach, and Meadow Pollock, an 18-year-old student and sister of one of Welker’s best friends.

“Just to hear that news, from such a great area, and a school that meant so much to me, and put me on the map and got me here, pretty much, along with a lot of other kids,” Welker said, pausing to collect his thoughts. “It’s just tough to see that at a school like that. …

“It's just terrible to be on the map for that reason, 'cause usually we're on the map for a top sports school and things like that. To be on headline news for that type of thing is pretty terrible because people really don't know how beautiful of an area it is and how great of a city it is. And it really is. It's still a great city.”

A great city with a nightmare that will know hang over it, one that hits particularly hard to people from Parkland.

It’s not unlike the people in the Denver area with memories of the attacks at Columbine High School 19 years ago, which has become the hallmark for a tragic trend. The Florida shooting was the 208th since Columbine, according to the Denver weekly newspaper Westward, and the 18th in the first 45 days of this year alone.

“Reading about (mass shooting) on the news you go, `Oh that's miserable, that's terrible, breaks your heart,” said Welker. “When it happens in your hometown, you're really thrown back, just in shock, and disbelief that it happened so close to home. I mean, I live right there, so it's just terrible to see.”

Welker said the actions of students and school staff in response to the shooting, including meeting with President Trump did not surprise him.

"I expected nothing less from that community and the kids," Welker said, praising the way the students are reflecting the character of the school. "It's amazing. I saw the other day, kids went over to President Trump and spoke out. People are trying to get the laws changed. I know a ton of people there that are going to stand up for that."

And on Friday Major League Baseball will honor the victims when players wear Douglas High caps for their exhibition games.

"I saw that on Twitter, and I was really thrown back," Welker said. "It was amazing to see that. It's going to be beautiful for the people to think of [our school] in a positive way. Instead of dwelling on the past, we'll try to get past it."

It won’t be forgotten. Welker knows that, just Columbine hasn’t been forgotten by the survivors and friends of family of those victims remember that moment 19 years ago.

But it could serve as a wake up call and provide a motivating force to find a way to avoid recurrences.