When Wilin Rosario talks about his rise to the Majors last summer, it makes him a little emotional. A catcher signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, Rosario has established himself as Colorado's top prospect despite an injury that kept him off the field for much of 2010.
Rosario, who will turn 23 next month, spent most of the 2011 season coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee that he suffered in August 2010. He hit .249 with 21 homers and 48 RBIs in 102 games last season before the Rockies brought him up to finish the year in the Majors. The 5-foot-11 backstop, who also reached the Rockies' 40-man roster in 2010, went on to hit three more homers in 16 Major League games.
And that, awards and All-Star selections aside, has been what's driving Rosario to improve even more by the time Spring Training camp opens in February in Arizona. A two-time Futures Game All-Star, Rosario has earned four Texas League All-Star nods and saw time this winter in his native Dominican Republic, playing in 43 games for the Aguilas Cibaenas.
MiLB.com caught up with the slugging catcher to talk defense, video games, quality Texas food and the secret to surviving 13-hour bus rides.
MiLB.com: How's your offseason been going? What have you been up to besides playing Winter Ball?
Wilin Rosario: I try to thank God for everything -- I'm glad [playing Winter Ball] happened, the Rockies gave me a shot to play this winter. I've been waiting all my life and to play here -- I feel I did pretty well.
MiLB.com: You spoke recently about having David Ortiz as a bit of mentor from the Dominican Republic. What advice has he given you?
Rosario: I've talked to him a little bit on the phone. We've talked about the culture, and he's taught me about how to play ball and whatever you need to do [in regards to] how baseball works for Latin people.
MiLB.com: Was your time in the Majors this past summer what you expected? How satisfying was it to finally make your debut?
Rosario: I was excited. I'm thinking, I can't believe I'm playing in Coors Field. I went to sleep in Texas and I open my eyes and I'm in the Majors. When I went there for the first time, I knew I was going to play. I thought to myself, "Am I here, or is this a dream?" It's something special. I think about it right now and I start sweating -- that emotion is unbelievable.
MiLB.com: You've played for the World Team in the Futures Game twice. What's your favorite memory or moment from those games?
Rosario: It was pretty good, that's a game where they push you to get to the Majors. That's where a lot of people see you play and you compete, and when you get to go to those kinda things, it makes you better. You know you're the man.
MiLB.com: You played in 43 games this winter in the Dominican Winter League. What was the best moment from your time back home?
Rosario: The best moment? One time we played, we were losing, 1-0, and I hit a home run to tie the game. That's the best game, when I tied it up.
MiLB.com: What do you know about some of the team's other top players you'll be catching like Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek?
Rosario: I became really good friends with some of them in Spring Training. I'll tell you, they're good players -- they're working hard and they know what to do. When they come to the field, we have good communication, and they have each at-bat planned out. When they have that mentality, that is everything.
MiLB.com: What's the best way to survive those long bus rides through Texas?
Rosario: The longest trips were to Midland and Corpus Christi -- Midland is like 12 hours, and Corpus is 13-and-a-half. We sleep a lot -- I actually a bought travel pillow and slept on the floor of the bus. That's the little things you need to plan for to get to the Majors.
MiLB.com: Speaking of, how'd you like playing in Tulsa the past two seasons?
Rosario: It was good. The first year, I played well and the second one, when they told me I was going back to Double-A, I said I know, but my mindset was I need to finish in the Majors. That was my mindset because I know I got hurt a year before, but I've come back pretty well.
MiLB.com: Your arm strength behind the plate is well known, what else have you been working on this winter to improve your game?
Rosario: I'm working a lot on getting stronger and mostly the direction where I throw the ball. I know I have power in my arm, so now I've learned how to time the throws, when to throw ,and I know how to move my feet to best throw guys out.
MiLB.com: OK, important questions now. Favorite video game?
Rosario: MLB 2K10 on PS3 and Need for Speed.
MiLB.com: Favorite food you found in Texas?
Rosario: Barbecue ribs and sweet potatoes -- and New York strip.
MiLB.com: Finally, what really gets said when you go out to calm down a pitcher?
Rosario: You see when they're trying to do too much -- that's the thing you go talk to them about. You see what kind of hitter it is and try to take a little break. Sometimes they'll be a hitter who moves his feet in the box, who steps forward or back, and if you see that, that's the point when you go and you tell them, "They're moving forward, they're trying to hit a breaking ball," and so maybe you change your approach.