Sports

Bernard keys Rockies’ win in long-awaited debut

DENVER — Wynton Bernard finally got his chance to play in the major leagues a decade after he was drafted by the San Diego Padres, and he made it count.

Bernard, batting eighth and playing center field, singled, stole a base and scored in his major league debut, helping the Colorado Rockies beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-3 on Friday night.

The 31-year-old Bernard toiled in the minors for more than 10 years and 863 games before having his contract from Triple-A Albuquerque selected by Colorado on Friday. He made it a memorable debut when he helped spark a seventh-inning rally that put the Rockies in front for good.

Bernard received a loud ovation when he stepped to the plate for the first time in the bottom of the third. He grounded out to second, but received more love from the crowd.

“I never had anything like that,” he said. “That was incredible.”

Bernard was taken in the 35th round of the 2012 draft and spent three seasons in the Padres’ minor league system. He also played in the minors for Detroit, San Francisco and the Chicago Cubs, along with stints in the Mexican Winter League, Venezuelan Winter League and independent ball. And, he played for the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League.

In 10 minor league seasons, he hit .286 with 50 homers and 226 stolen bases. His first stolen base in the majors had a big impact.

Bernard legged out an infield single after Sam Hilliard started the inning with a double off Chris Devenski. Bernard stole second, went to third on Charlie Blackmon‘s RBI single and scored on a sacrifice fly.

“I want to do everything I can to help the team win,” Bernard said. “So in a big situation like that, to come through for the team, it was huge.”

Colorado manager Bud Black went to see Bernard and outfielder Connor Joe in the winter of 2020. He pitched batting practice to both players and encouraged the Rockies to sign them.

“I made the recommendation to our front office to see if we can sign these guys,” Black said. “Our front office contacted their agents and they got deals done.”

Joe made his Rockies debut in 2021 while Bernard played for the Isotopes the past two seasons. He hit .254 with seven homers in 2021. This year, his numbers are outstanding: .325 with 17 homers, 24 doubles and 26 stolen bases.

Bernard was told he was being promoted before Albuquerque’s game on Thursday. He celebrated with teammates and shared the news with his mother in a video call.

“My mom’s emotions, it made me break down even more. She’s done so much,” he said. “The way I saw her take care of my dad before he passed away, he was bedridden but she stayed by his side. I said to myself, ‘I know how hard she worked so I’m going to work just as hard — if not harder.’ Just to see her reaction meant a lot.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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