Moffat County High School graduate Junior Herndon, who pitches for the Triple A League Portland Beavers, said this season has been the roughest of his career.
"Things haven't been going the way I planned," he said in a telephone interview before practice Monday. "It's been a little rough and it's the first year I've really struggled."
But at 23 years old, he said he likes where he is in his career.
Herndon has been moving quickly through the ranks of the minor league system since he was drafted by the San Diego Padres baseball organization straight out of high school in the May 1997 draft.
"I'm 23 and playing my third
year of triple A," he said. "Right now I think I'm way ahead of schedule."
That schedule took a gigantic jump forward last year when Herndon was called up to pitch the last two months of the season with the San Diego Padres.
Despite having what he calls a "rough" season, he had one game this season that was anything but rough.
In May, Herndon pitched the first no hitter of his professional career, and the first in 10 seasons for the Beavers.
At the conclusion of that ball game Herndon gave his daughter, who turned eight months that day, the game ball. But since that unforgettable game in May, Herndon said he has struggled a bit, but his momentum might be making a return. In his last start last week, he said he went seven innings and gave up only two runs against Toledo.
As far as when he would get another chance to grace the diamond of a major league ballpark, Herndon said he didn't know when it would happen.
"I have no idea," he said. "They haven't said anything."
But Herndon's brief stint in the big show is lingering in his mind.
"I always thought getting to the Majors would be the hardest thing to do in my career," he said. "But now I realize the hardest part is going to be getting back there."
Herndon had no complaints about life on the road in Triple A ball.
"It's not bad," he said. "I'm getting used to it. It's not as good as the big league life, but it beats working nine to five."
But Herndon said he'd live the life of a minor league ball player as long as he has to.
"I made it up there when I was 22," he said. "And I'm going to keep playing as long as it takes to get back there."
When this season gets over, Herndon will take his arm and family to the warmer climate of Arizona, where he said he works out