Keeping the major-league dream alive |

Keeping the major-league dream alive

It was the summer of 2002, and for the first time in his athletic life, Kris Cox was not playing baseball. After finishing his college career at the University of Southern California, the 1998 Summit High School graduate awaited a major-league draft-day phone call that never came.

So he spent the past year evolving as a person. He married the woman he’d been with since they were both undergraduates at Summit High – known as a maiden as Christi Chantrell – and started a career in real estate, the business of his father, Bob.

But even though he wasn’t playing ball every day, he never let go of his major-league aspirations. Cox re-connected with Denver hitting coach Al Blesser over the winter and began ironing out the kinks in his swing that caused a junior- and senior-year college slump – a slump that may have cost him a chance to get drafted last spring.

“I think the layoff has really helped him,” noticed Bob Cox. “It enabled him to understand more about his body. He’s more mature and he could analyze things that, as a kid, he didn’t really realize.”

Cox got a chance to make the work pay off when he was invited to try out for the Winnipeg (Manitoba) Goldeyes of the independent Northern League during their May 9-22 preseason camp.

For the first time since his sophomore year at the University of Mississippi, when he hit .307 and started every game as an outfielder, Cox was on top of his game. (His production dropped in his junior year, and he transferred to USC as a senior).

“It was the best I’d felt in two years at the plate,” Cox said. “So I’m getting back to where I was at the end of my sophomore year at college.”

The Goldeyes coaching staff was sold, and last week, the team offered Cox his first professional contract, a one-year deal worth $750 per month. The Goldeyes played their first game Friday in Fargo, N.D., an 11-4 loss to the Fargo-

Moorhead Red Hawks.

“It’s a very strong league, and I was very fortunate to get on here in my first year of (pro) baseball,” Cox said. “The caliber of play is very high, so it’s a good opportunity for me.”

The team and league is full of future and former major-leaguers, and Cox hopes to become one. First he’ll have to impress manager Hal Lanier – who managed the Houston Astros to the playoffs in 1986 – enough to crack the starting roster on a team stacked with solid outfielders.

“They’re just telling me to be ready because my shot might be around the corner,” Cox said. “They make moves real fast.”

Meanwhile, the 23-year-old will live the life he’s imagined. His home for the season is a Winnipeg hotel room within walking distance of the Goldeyes’ home field. His wife, Christi, will continue to live in their Denver home, making frequent trips to Winnipeg. Long bus rides to Northern League cities like Fargo, Sioux City (Iowa), and Schaumburg (Ill.), are part of the deal.

The good part is that Winnipeg is a perennial Northern League power and draws an average of about 7,000 fans for its home games at four-year-old CanWest Global Park. Plus, unlike minor league teams that are affiliated with major-league organizations, Northern League teams play to win more than to develop prospects.

“This is hopefully just something to get my foot in the door,” said Cox, a dual Canadian and American citizen. “I’m not playing for the money, obviously. I’m playing because I love the game, and it’s an opportunity to get signed on by a major-league team.”

Jason Starr can be reached at (970) 668-3998 Ext. 231 or at

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