Ahwatukee native Cole Tucker has been waiting 26 years for his dream to come true.
That dream? To play in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
On June 5, the snakes claimed Tucker off waivers and optioned him to the Reno Aces of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
“It’s really exciting,” says Tucker, calling from Sacramento, where the Renos were playing the River Cats. “I grew up a diehard D-backs fan. I was growing up in Ahwatukee in 2001 when the D-backs won the World Series.
“The D-backs were a part of my young, impressionable life. It’s a dream come true to be employed by them.”
His girlfriend, actress Vanessa Hudgens, expressed her excitement via social media.
“Let’s go babyyy. A great day indeed,” she posted.
In a much-circulated quote, Ben Cherington, the general manager of Pittsburgh Pirates, said, “We like Cole a lot, personally. Sometimes you just run out of time, and I think in this case we just ran out of time.
“We tried to give Cole as much opportunity as we could at the major-league level, and at some point you’ve got to give it to other guys if the performance isn’t there. It doesn’t mean he won’t improve and perform in the future. It doesn’t mean he’s not going to get another opportunity in the big leagues at some point, but we just felt like we’d given it as long as we could in this case and needed to give the opportunity to other guys.”
The Mountain Pointe High School graduate was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round of the 2014 MLB draft. Subsequently, on June 12, 2014, he signed with the team and spent the year with the Gulf Coast League Pirates.
The next two years he played for the West Virginia Power and was eventually promoted to the Bradenton Marauders.
After stints with Altoona Curve and the Indianapolis Indians, Pittsburgh’s fifth-best prospect — according to MLB.com — joined the big leagues on April 20, 2019.
He bowed that day versus the San Francisco Giants. In his third at bat, he hit a two-run homer over the center field wall at PNC Park.
Tucker bounced between the big and minor leagues, eventually being designated for assignment on May 30.
Tucker admits he was hoping the Diamondbacks would sign him. He stayed positive despite being designated for assignment.
“I was hopeful, when I got DFA’d by the Pittsburgh Pirates, that it would lead to something cool — and it definitely did,” Tucker says.
“It’s a dream come true. The D-backs are a really good organization to be a part of it. I’m having fun with it. It feels like I have a new lease on life.”
When players are designed for assignment, Tucker says, they wait for five to six days to see what happens — whether they return to the team or head to another team.
Tucker was eating breakfast in the living room with his mom and dad when he received the call from the D-backs.
“My mom was sitting right there,” he says. “My dad had left for about 10 seconds. He walked back in and saw the look on my face. It was really cool.”
“I played for the Pirates organization for the last eight years,” Tucker says. “It’s wild. There’s a whole new bunch of guys. I’m a people person and really enjoying it.”
Tucker said — whether it’s the Reno Aces or the Arizona Diamondbacks — he brings effort, hustle, energy and excitement.
“When the game happens, we’re at the mercy of the baseball and what it wants to do,” he says.
“There definitely won’t be a shortage of effort and energy and desire. This has been my dream gig my whole life. I’m going to try to make the most of it. I’m just taking it day by day. Baseball has done so much for me. This is the perfect storm of all-things me.”
When he’s not playing baseball, the Arcadia resident hits whiffle ball with his family, or practices in his parents’ backyard batting cage. He also chips golf balls on a putting green.
“When I’m in Ahwatukee, I go back to being 12 years old again,” he says enthusiastically.
“Ahwatukee is the best place in the world to grow up. It’s so much fun to be there. I’ll pop into Water and Ice in the Foothills. We’re always at Spinato’s (Pizzeria) or crushing all my favorite food spots. I play a lot of golf. I’m addicted to it. It’s bad.”