Bat Man

Baseball's clubhouse manager of the year brings the love of the game and a Regis degree to the job


A lot of major league baseball’s clubhouse managers have catchy nicknames. Not a lot of them got those nicknames at age 9.  

But Mike “Tiny” Pontarelli, the Colorado Rockies clubhouse manager, has been in baseball so long that when he got the nickname, he actually was tiny — at least compared to the grown-ups on the field.

Since then, he’s grown both physically and in stature. In January, the Major League Baseball Clubhouse Managers Association named the one-time bat boy Clubhouse Manager of the Year.  

“It’s truly an honor,” Pontarelli said, because it was voted on by his peers.  

As clubhouse manager, his job involves overseeing everything in the locker room, the players’ dressing room, uniforms and equipment. He even arranges for players’ cars to be hauled to Arizona for Spring Training, then back to Colorado.  

His career started early. Pontarelli’s father, a Denver Police detective, did off-duty work for the local baseball team. In those pre-big-league days, that team was the Denver Zephyrs, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Triple-A farm club. 

“When my father would go work with the Zephyrs, I’d tag along. Eventually, they asked me to be a bat boy,” Pontarelli said. “I more or less grew up with baseball.”  

Because baseball’s penchant for nicknames extends to the smallest people on the field, no one called little Mike Pontarelli by his name. “Everyone had a different nickname for me, and I was getting frustrated.” One day, Pontarelli recalled, Brewers’ pitching coach Don Rowe (nickname: Skid) called him over and asked what was bothering him. “I said, ‘All these guys are calling me all these different names and it bothers me.’”  

Rowe asked his preference, and Pontarelli didn’t hesitate: Tiny. 

“He said, ‘OK, that’s your name.’” Nearly 30 years later, it still is.  

Tiny’s love of baseball has grown along with him. But at one point, it seemed he might have moved beyond the sport.  

When it was time for college, Regis was a natural choice. Pontarelli was raised Catholic, and several family members, including his sister, were Regis graduates. “I loved the campus and the class sizes. I just felt very comfortable at Regis.”  

He majored in communications and minored in business, planning to go into baseball broadcasting. He has fond memories of his experience at Regis, and his instructors, particularly Catharyn Baird, a professor in Regis’ business school for 21 years. “She had a huge impact on my education. She gave me leadership roles and... I think she saw something in me, and that helped inspire me to see the big picture,” Pontarelli said. “She was a class act and one of my favorite teachers ever.”  

By his graduation day in 2004, Pontarelli was working part-time for the Rockies when the Atlanta Braves came to town.  

Bobby Cox, the Braves’ manager at the time, wasn’t going to let Pontarelli leave the ballpark for the ceremony at Regis empty-handed. Pontarelli recalled that Cox asked him to run an errand, and when he got back, the man who holds Major League Baseball’s record for the most ejections from a game “had a card for me that he’d had all his players sign, and they made a contribution to my graduation fund.”  

After graduation, Pontarelli and his business education went to work — briefly — as a financial analyst. “Financial markets were fascinating,” he said. “But I truly missed baseball.”  

So Pontarelli returned to the Rockies, as assistant clubhouse manager, in 2005, and served as manager of the visiting clubhouse in 2015 and 2016. He’s been the Rockies’ clubhouse manager for the last three years.  

As the 2020 baseball season remained on hold in May, Pontarelli was missing baseball again. 

But he has plenty of memories and mementos to get him through the dark diamond-less days. And a love of the sport that has never waned. He’s got a wall full of autographed jerseys, and he never stopped getting a thrill when the team traveled to San Francisco for games against the Giants and Willie Mays or the late Willie McCovey showed up. He recently watched “Field of Dreams” again. “I was just missing baseball,” he said.  

“I never got jaded. I’ve always been able to see the good in the industry,” Pontarelli said. “It’s more than a job. I do it for the love of the game.”