On Tuesday night, Chris Winder knew he was headed for a journey.
The next day, that journey included a trip to Grand Junction to buy a Tampa Bay Rays baseball hat.
Why Tampa Bay?
Because that’s the team that drafted him.
Winder, a 2008 Moffat County High School graduate, received the call on Tuesday that he had been selected in the 27th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball first-year player draft by Tampa Bay.
“One of my teammates called me first, then the Rays’ scout,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it at first.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life.”
Winder, who played centerfield for Odessa College in Texas, hit .362, with six home runs, 48 RBI, 36 stolen bases and a team-leading 70 runs scored this season.
His successful season culminated in a pair of phone calls.
At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Winder was golfing when his phone rang.
His college teammate told him the news, but the reality didn’t sink in until the Rays’ scout called shortly after.
“He asked me how I was doing (Tuesday night),” Winder said. “I was playing golf, but I wasn’t doing too good.
“He said ‘Let me make it a little better — we just drafted you to be a Tampa Bay Ray.’”
For Winder, being drafted was the realization of one dream, and the start of another.
“I’m reaching my dreams right now — it’s been a lot of hard work, and this is what I’ve played for,” he said. “Now that it’s happened, it’s kind of unreal — it means a lot to me.”
Winder said he expects to sign with the team, but was unsure of which minor league level he will be placed.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I heard they have really good coaches, so I need to show them what I’ve got.
“I want to get my foot in the door, and kick it wide open.”
Winder joins Junior Herndon (1997) and Jerod Estey (2003) as MCHS alums who were selected in the draft.
Herndon, who was a ninth-round selection, made it to the big leagues in 2001 with San Diego.
Estey, who was selected in the 45th round, never signed with Philadelphia.
“It doesn’t really matter where you come from,” Winder said. “If you work hard enough, anything is possible.”
Winder said he constantly dreamed of being drafted by a pro team.
However, the fact that he is headed to the minors hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It might, when I get on the flight to wherever I’m going,” he said.
During the draft, online updates were available to see which players were being selected in real-time.
Winder didn’t watch any of it.
“That would have driven me crazy,” he said. “I had to get out of the house and try to stop thinking about it.”
But, Winder said he wants to get back on the diamond soon to prove he belongs.
“Now the hard work really starts,” he said. “I have to outwork people — show that I want it more.”
Rich Sadvar was Winder’s baseball coach for three years at MCHS.
“He deserves all the credit,” Sadvar said. “He did all the work, and I have a lot of pride in knowing that I helped him accomplish his goals.
“I’ve coached hundreds of kids, but (Winder) was the most athletically gifted I have seen in high school. He also has the work ethic to go with it.”
Sadvar said he expects big things from Winder as he moves forward in his career.
“To see where he is at gives me a sense of pride,’ he said. “Just knowing that I had a small part in his early success makes me happy.
“(Getting to the majors) is based on work, and Chris has a great shot.”