Meet the High Point Rockers
By: Taylor Cramer
There is a constant buzz moving through the city of High Point as the Rockers’ opening day approaches. With spring training coming to an end, the team is pumped and ready to play ball. The Rockers have prepared all summer for their upcoming season and are ready to share the experience with the city.
Leading the team to a hopeful victory this season is field manager Jamie Keefe. Keefe has spent his whole life surrounded by the game; which has led him to many championship titles. With 26 years of knowledge, whether it was playing or coaching, Keefe is proud of what he has accomplished this summer and believes it will show on the field.
“My job is to teach them how to play the game and help them succeed,” he said. “We have a strong team of 25 players whom all deserve to be here.”
After spending the summer training the Rockers for the future, with help from Frank Viola, Keefe has already lost one player to the Major Leagues.
“I won’t be surprised if we lose another player before opening day and one to two more by the end of the season,” Keefe said.
He is sad to see them leave but proud that he prepared every single player for an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I know what it will do,” said Keefe when asked how the Rockers will affect High Point. “This team is going to bring the community together, even closer than it’s been in a long time.”
“There’s a buzz going around town, a buzz that you only get when there’s a brand new stadium in a city that’s been starving for that entertainment and that excitement,” he added.
Keefe is hopeful there will be a secure atmosphere throughout their entire season.
“It’s going to be beautiful here on May 2, and it’s going to be the same way at the end of September,” Keefe said.
Rockers’ pitcher Seth Simmons, an East Carolina alumnus and Winston-Salem native, is happy to be playing close to home with a supportive family behind him.
“It’s incredible; I haven’t been this close to home in a long time,” Simmons said.
After playing four years at East Carolina University, Simmons moved out West where he got to pitch for the minor league teams of the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks. Along with his many years of experience, nine of Simmons’ teammates have played in the big leagues. One of which is Seth Maness, who graduated from East Carolina University as well.
“The more experience you have around yourself, the better,” Simmons said of his teammates. “You’re only as good as the people you have around you, competition-wise and learning-wise.”
Simmons said he feels honored to have Viola as his pitching coach.
Viola, a former Major Leaguer, has spent the past 50 years of his life dedicated to baseball. With his decorated baseball career, playing in the big leagues for 15 years and coaching for eight, the Rockers couldn’t be happier to have someone as committed and qualified as Viola.
“I’ve had great pitching coaches, but none like Frank,” Simmons said with a smile. “Frank has a ton of knowledge, and he was so exceptional in the big leagues that I am going to be beside him as much as I can to learn as much as I can.”
Hoping to pitch in the big leagues one day, Simmons said, “Right now the team I am apart of, and the task in front of me is the High Point Rockers, and I’m ready for this experience.”
Skilled catcher Brett Austin is also grateful to be apart of the High Point Rockers. In high school, the National Umpires Association named Austin National Player of the Year. From there, he was the 54th overall pick by the San Diego Padres in the MLB draft. However, Austin decided to play at college for North Carolina State University, where he did exceptionally well. Since graduating, he has spent most of his career with the White Sox organization where he was the fourth round pick in 2014. After not playing the majority of last season, Austin said, “It feels good to be out here playing again with a great group of guys.”
Austin is in High Point to merely play the game he loves and knows so well.
“This is it for me,” Austin said with a big smile when asked what his hopes for the future of his baseball career are. “If I end up getting picked up that’s great, however, if I don’t, I’ll move on.”
Austin had a long and successful career, and he is thankful to be playing still.
“I’m pumped, and I hope the city of High Point is as excited as we are for this season,” he said.
The High Point Rockers will be the city’s first-ever baseball team exclusive to High Point. Playing at the BB&T Point Ballpark in downtown, the Rockers will be members of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Twenty-five players strong, the team is ready to showcase their talent and have some fun, with help from their mascot, the rocking horse.
“We chose a rocking horse because it’s a play on word that embodies both furniture market and rock ‘n’ roll; we want everyone to have a fun time here at our stadium,” said general manager Christian Heimall.
Fans can get involved and help name the mascot on the Rockers’ website. Voting will be available until April 28 at midnight.
The team has their first game on April 25 against the defending Atlantic League Champions, the Sugar Land Skeeters. The team’s first home game is on May 2, at 7 p.m. at the BB&T Point Ballpark. Fans can buy tickets for this season on the Rockers’ website or head over to their local office at 214 Lindsay St. in downtown High Point.
Follow the Rockers for more upcoming events on Facebook at @HighPointBaseball, Instagram at @HighPointRockers, and Twitter at @Rockersbaseball.