Troy Tulowitzki stepped out of the batter’s box, let the cheers wash over him, then doffed his batting helmet in appreciation to the Coors Field crowd.
“It was great. It was a cool moment for me and brought back a lot of good memories,” he said.
The Rockies did nothing official to welcome Tulo back to Colorado on Monday night — no announcements, no video montages on the giant scoreboard — but the warm standing ovation from the fans was a reminder of better days. True, there was a smattering of boos in the crowd of 36,419, but there were also plenty of Tulo jerseys, both in Toronto blue and Rockies purple.
“Honestly, I didn’t think there was really any (thought) that I would get some boos. I really didn’t think so,” Tulowitzki said.” I felt like when I was here I had a really good relationship with the fans — you know, the whole ‘Tulo chant’ thing. I saw a lot of Tulo jerseys tonight, so I knew they were going to be good to me.”
The game did not go well for Tulowitzki or his team. He went 0-for-4 and struck out in first at-bat, as the Rockies beat up the Blue Jays 9-5. Tulo, who had a career .299 average with the Rockies, is hitting just .214 this season.
Before he was sent to the Blue Jays 11 months ago in a blockbuster trade, Tulowitzki, now 31, played 1,142 games for the Rockies. At a news conference in the visiting team’s dugout before the game, he was asked what he wants his Rockies legacy to be.
Tulo thought for a moment and said: “I’ll tell you what, when I got drafted here (in 2005), a lot of people said, ‘These guys are terrible, this team (stinks) … you don’t want to be a Rockie. You are just going to go there and lose.’
“That immediately lit a fire in me. I wanted it to be cool to be a Rockie. I wanted free agents to sign here. I wanted it to be a place where you can win, and pitching wasn’t always the problem. That was definitely my goal.”
For a short period of time he helped the Rockies achieve that goal. In 2007, he was runner-up as National League rookie of the year and the Rockies stunned the baseball world by making it to the World Series. In 2009, he belted a career-high 32 home runs and the Rockies made it to the postseason as a wild card. They have not been back.
Now, two young players, all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado and slugging rookie shortstop Trevor Story, are the franchise’s faces of the future. Both were past participants at “Camp Tulo,” the rigorous offseason workout sessions Tulowitzki conducted in Las Vegas.
“I guess that means I’ll be a great coach someday,” he kidded. “But I’m really happy to see how those guys are doing. Both are great kids and great players and really exciting to watch.”
Before the game, Tulowitzki hugged it out with with manager Walt Weiss, Arenado and Story. Then he waded through a sea of media and took a spot in the visiting team’s dugout.
“It feels really weird. I have mixed emotions, but I will try to have fun tonight,” he said.
Although a Tulowitzki trade had been rumored for months, and he had lobbied to be traded to a winning club, he was stunned when the trade finally went down in the ninth inning of a July 27 game against Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago. At the time, he expressed his bitter disappointment in how it was handled. During spring training, he made it clear he was still angry at Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich and owner Dick Monfort regarding the awkward nature of how the trade came down.
Tulowitzki still wishes his divorce from the Rockies would have been different. When asked if he had any regrets, he said: “Yeah, the way the trade happened. I wish it would have been cleaner, with better communication. I think I touched on that when I got traded. I think people knew how upset I was.
“But now I’m sitting here and it’s over with. It shouldn’t be some big story of, ‘Oh, he’s still bitter.’ I’m not bitter. I’m in a good place and I’m on a good team. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”