A canceled spring prep season upends Glenwood Springs pitcher’s ultimate goal

Luke Zahlmann
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Glenwood Springs pitcher Cole Houston winds up for the pitch in action last spring against Coal Ridge.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Four years of high school weren’t supposed to result in a leap of faith for Glenwood Springs High School senior Cole Houston.

As a pitcher who was already nearing 90 miles per hour in his final year, he was set to receive multiple offers to play on scholarship.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, those opportunities vanished quickly. It left Houston without a chance to prove himself, and without a chance to finish things he started with teammates who were by his side as far back as little league.

Originally, the Colorado High School Activities Association postponed spring sports. Then they pushed them back further before finally canceling all activities for the remainder of the school year.

“Last season, I was so worked up, everything was so mental,” Houston said. “Coming out of last year, I knew this was a really important season because a lot of people didn’t think the best of me. I knew I could do a lot better.”

Houston was already receiving interest during tournaments before the spring season as a member of the Rocky Mountain Oysters, a local travel-ball team.

“We played at a couple of tournaments and there were a couple of people that came up and talked to me after,” Houston said. “I was planning on going to a couple of camps too. I was going to go to (The Colorado School of) Mines for one but it got canceled.

“Ideally, my other top option was to try to get a scholarship from Mines for baseball.”

To get there, Houston spent the summer in construction, working out as many muscles as possible. He spent several days throwing 60-pitch bullpens as well to strengthen his already quick arm.

Demons’ head coach Eric Nieslanik recognized Houston’s off-season growth before spring sports were canceled.

“Cole is gifted with an arm with just unbelievable speed and velocity on the baseball,” Nieslanik said. “We had traveled down to Delta March 7 for a scrimmage and Cole did a fantastic job. He dominated — 80% strikes, location was there, velocity was up. I saw some great signs for his year.”

The mental hurdles Houston battled in his junior year were gone. His fastballs always been quick, but now it was under control, too — a good indicator that his disappointing stats were going to give way to something recruiters could embrace.

Putting together a better season was a priority, but so was embarking on a senior campaign with close teammates.

“I’ve been playing baseball with the kids on my team for the past 10 years,” Houston said. “We were finally ready to capitalize on what we’ve learned. We all had a lot of goals and our team is just such a great group of guys.

“I was waiting for this season for the past five years.”

The canceled season resulted in Houston committing to go to California Polytechnic State University where he’ll attempt to make the team as a walk-on.

Houston excelled in school, specifically engineering, and hopes to make strides on the West Coast. Competing for a spot on the baseball team will be something he’ll enjoy. Dropping hockey, despite offers to play across the nation for junior-league teams will be hard, but the memories made in both will last.

“I’ll miss being friends with the kids you played with ever since you were little,” Houston said. “They’ve been through every single moment you’ve had, so it’s just fun to share moments with kids — forming a ton of friendships.”

As of now, local coaches are working to organize a 4A statewide baseball tournament for seniors and other players alike who missed out on the season. The event would take place over the summer and serve as a Senior Day for many.

If it doesn’t happen, Houston’s story as a Demon will be over — a book missing a couple of chapters.

“Everybody had progressed into such a great baseball player,” Houston said. “To see the damage we would’ve been able to do as a team would be really cool, but we weren’t even given the opportunity to see it.”