SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The circus came to Bonao, Dominican Republic, and set up beyond the outfield fence of a baseball field -- but not far enough.
That's because an 11-year-old named Wilin Rosario was representing a team from his neighborhood in a city tournament.
"I hit the letters at the top of the sign for the circus," Rosario said. "I was impressed -- 11 years old, and I hit a ball that far."
It's not just clowns and elephants and barkers and tigers who need to keep their eyes peeled when Rosario is at the plate. Rosario parked 28 home runs -- a club record for a rookie -- last season. Some were impressive.
This spring, he has seen launched two homers that dropped jaws. One was over the batter's eye of one of the practice fields during a Minor League game against the D-backs, the other Thursday night off Giants ace Matt Cain that sailed beyond the center-field wall at Scottsdale Stadium.
"That was hit a long way," manager Walt Weiss said after Rosario's blast off Cain. "I wasn't around last year, but he's a lot tougher to pitch to than he was a year ago, and he brings a lot of positive energy."
Last season, an early-season hand injury to veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez forced Rosario into more regular playing time than the Rockies planned. Trying to learn on the run defensively was difficult, as Rosario committed 13 errors and 21 passed balls, but he was an advanced student offensively.
Rosario hit .247 before the All-Star break, as at times pitchers enticed him to chase pitches. In the second half, all of which was played without cleanup man Troy Tulowitzki (groin surgery) and much of it played without Todd Helton (hip surgery) and Michael Cuddyer (oblique strain), Rosario hit .291 with half of his homers.
Rosario has continued the consistency this spring, with a .375 average, three doubles and three home runs (the Minor League homer does not count in Cactus League stats).
"I feel confident," Rosario said. "I'm seeing the ball very well right now. I have control. I'm getting a chance to see pitches. I hope I stay the same. Of course, I'm not going to stay the same the whole season, but I'm going to try to stay the way I feel right now more than not."
To think, Rosario had to be talked into being a hitter.
As a youth, when Rosario wasn't milking cows to help his family, he was throwing -- hard. At 14, he had a perceptive coach, Luis Coronado, who looked at the heights of Rosario's parents and suggested a move to catcher. Coronado was due to arrive in Scottsdale on Friday night, and he'll spend several days looking at what he helped create.
"He said, 'You're too short to be a pitcher,'" Rosario said. "He said, 'You think that because you can throw hard, you can be a pitcher. They're going to kill you.'
"Then he said, 'You're going to hit. I believe you're going to be one of the better hitters in the world.' Now I know why."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less