KEARNEY – Alex Achtermann was an All-American as a junior two-way player on University of Nebraska at Kearney's baseball team in 2018.
He success led to interest from the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros in preparation for the 2018 MLB draft. But when the three-day draft concluded, Achtermann wasn’t one of the 1,214 players selected.
Achtermann continued to flourish as a senior at Pittsburg State this season. He drew even more pro attention, which resulted in him hearing his name called in the 30th round of the draft by the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
He’s the eighth player in Pittsburg State history and the third player in the last 20 years with UNK ties selected in the draft.
“I think at this point, I’m still speechless,” Achtermann said. “I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet. It’s one of those surreal moments that you dream about as a kid that would happen. There’s just no words to describe it.”
The Rockies drafted Achtermann as a right-handed pitcher. On Sunday, he will report to the Rockies’ Rookie ball team, the Grand Junction Rockies, to prepare for the start of the season on June 14. Achtermann grew up about four hours from Grand Junction, Colo. in Aurora, Colo.
The Padres, Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and New York Mets also showed interest in him throughout his senior season.
When the third and final day of the draft began Wednesday, Achtermann hoped a team would select him so he could fulfill his dream of playing pro baseball.
In the 29th round of the 40-round draft, Achtermann received a text message from Rockies area scouting supervisor Brett Baldwin. He informed Achtermann that the Rockies planned on drafting him in the next round.
The Reds also were interested in him. But the Rockies selection came before the Reds' next pick, and they announced his name with the 909th overall pick, which was a surreal moment for the lifelong fan of the organization.
“The Reds actually called about 10 minutes before the Rockies and said they were going to pick me next,” Achtermann said. “But, I think the Rockies beat them to it.”
Baldwin, who scouts the Midwest, has a strong relationship with the Pittsburg State coaching staff and followed Achtermann since the fall. He didn’t see Achtermann play in person as a junior at UNK but was aware of him and his success as a two-way player.
Achtermann’s athleticism and repertoire of pitches, which is headlined by his fastball-curveball combination, caught Baldwin’s attention. Achtermann’s makeup, motivation as a small-school player and potential upside now that he’s focusing solely on pitching also intrigued the Rockies.
“You never want to take someone you don’t think has a chance to make an impact on the major-league club at some point,” Baldwin said. “You hear about undrafted guys getting to the big league. Sometimes guys fall through the cracks.”
Although Achtermann was a two-way player in his lone season at UNK, his main focus was as a position player. He hit .413 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in 206 at-bats. He also posted a 4.45 ERA with 55 strikeouts and 22 walks allowed in 62 2/3 innings on the mound.
The position player-first philosophy changed when he transferred to Pittsburg State for his senior year due to the elimination of the Lopers’ baseball program. The coaches believed Achtermann had potential to be even better on the mound. He continued to work as a two-way player, but his top priority was his development as a pitcher.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound right-hander recorded a 3.51 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 34 walks allowed in 89 2/3 innings this spring. He also hit .286 with four home runs and 26 RBIs in 175 at-bats.
His success on the mound changed how pro teams viewed him and prepared him to embark on a pro career.
“I just took off and sparked a lot more interest with my pitching,” Achtermann said. “I had a pitching coach who was phenomenal and just taught me so much because he played in the minors. He taught me what I needed to know and how to approach pitching.”