Former Western Nebraska Community College and Western Nebraska Pioneer baseball player Alex Achtermann dreamed of seeing his name on the Major League draft board one day.
That dream came to realization Wednesday when he was drafted with the 909th pick overall in the 30th round by the Colorado Rockies.
Achtermann becomes the fourth Cougar baseball player to be drafted following in the footsteps of Francisco Leandro, who was drafted by Tampa Bay, Phillips Orta, drafted by the New York Mets, and John Timmins, drafted by the San Francisco Giants.
For Achtermann, when he heard he was drafted on Wednesday, it was a heart-pounding moment.
“I still can’t put it into words [of being drafted,” Achtermann said. “Two hours after it happened, I was still pacing around and my heart was still beating. I can’t even put it into words.”
Achtermann always had that dream of being drafted since he was five years old. But as he continued his playing throughout college, that dream was still there, but not as strong from his early years as he saw the talent he was going up against.
“Honestly, I have dreamed about it and I thought someday I might have a chance,” he said. “As you get older you start sifting around and realize that these guys are good and they are better than I am. Each year from my first year at Western Nebraska and then going to my second year and then going to Kearney and then Pittsburgh State, each year my game stepped up a little bit more mentally and physically. I am just thankful to have a chance today.”
It is that realization of playing with guys that are just as or better than you that made Achtermann work even harder to realize that dream.
“All the hard work up to this point has paid off, but there is still more work to do from here,” he said. “It is cliché, but everyone wants to get to the majors. You just have to keep going as far as you can. It is a beginning of a new chapter you can say it is.”
Leading up to being drafted, Achtermann had a road with many turns. Achtermann, a graduate of Cherokee High School in Aurora, Colorado, spent a redshirt year at Garden City Community College. He then spent two seasons with WNCC before spending a year at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. It was a UNK the road to his baseball playing took another turn as the college dropped the program. So, after his junior year with the Lopes he had to find another school and ended up at Pittsburg State in Kansas.
Between his junior and senior year, Achtermann spent a year with the Western Nebraska Pioneers, a first-year collegiate woodbat team in the Expediation League, and helped them to the league championship last August.
Achtermann said last summer really helped him grow as a baseball player.
“Last year’s Pioneer team was such a great group of guys,” he said. “I don’t think I have played with that much of talent on the field and it definitely was helpful for sure.”
Of all the talent that the Pioneers had a year ago, Achtermann is honored to be the first Western Nebraska Pioneer drafted.
“I never thought it would be possible and it is crazy,” he said. “To hear that, I can’t even wrap my head around it.”
The days leading up to the draft was one of not knowing what will happen. Achtermann was in contact with several major league teams.
“It was going round by round; and I was thinking nope not that round, nope not that round,” he said. “I am thankful it finally happened. I was getting nervous toward the end.”
And no better team than his hometown team of the Rockies.
“That was the craziest part. I talked to the Rockies a little bit during the process but I never expected it to happen,” he said. “Then, when it did, I saw the Rockies and my name next to it, you can’t expect anything more growing up going to your home team.”
The first thing Achtermann did, when he saw his name was what everyone does nowadays, grab their phone and take a picture. That is what he did, he took a screen shot of his name with Rockies next to it.
“I was kind of expecting it because the Rockies guy texted me saying we will pick you up here soon so be ready,” he said. “Then I saw the Rockies had the next pick and I saw my name pop up and it said Alex Achtermann from Pittsburg State. I quickly screenshotted my phone to make sure I had a picture of it. I freaked out. I called my mom and dad, everybody I knew basically to let them know.”
Since Wednesday afternoon Achtermann’s future has changed. He has had more phone calls, texts, and twitter congratulations then imaginable. Former college teammates as well as Western Nebraska Pioneer players all congratulated him.
What Achtermann is especially appreciative of is the support that he has had from western Nebraska and him being drafted is also western Nebraska being drafted as well.
“It was a nice day for the community of western Nebraska,” he said. “I was here [Wednesday] answering calls from Coach Mike Jones and Coach Ryan Burgner. Doug Jones has called me. My host family called. There are so many people in western Nebraska I am thankful for. I don’t think I would be where I am now without that.”
In his two years at WNCC, Achtermann had a career .349 batting average with 39 RBIs, 53 runs scored and 16 doubles. Achtermann was also strong from the mound, throwing 81.1 innings with 66 strikeouts.
His one year at UNK, Achtermann was the same kind of player, earning the Omaha World Herald All-Nebraska Division II honorary captain honor.
Last year for the Pittsburg State Gorillas, he as a first-team All-MIAA and second-team All-Central Region utility player. Achtermann posted a 7-5 record with a 3.51 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings of work. He also batted .286 with 30 runs scored, four home runs and 26 RBIs offensively.
With the Rockies, Achtermann will be working more as a pitcher instead of a position player. Achtermann already knows where he will start out in the Rockies organization as he will be stationed in Grand Junction, Colorado. He said they will report Sunday and will start playing Friday with the season opener in Ogden, Utah.
Now that he is a part of the Rockies organization, Achtermann sees a little bit of Nolan Arenado in him.
“He is flashy on the field, but he doesn’t have to prove it off the field. He is a hardworker,” he said. “He takes pride in everything he does but he doesn’t have to be the guy that does a backflip and he doesn’t have to show off. I envy his work ethic and how he plays the game.”