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.”
Troy Tulowitzki returns to Coors Field, says he’s not bitter; wanted to “make it cool to be a Rockie”
DENVER — Troy Tulowitzki, donning Toronto blue, returned to Coors Field on Monday for the first time since he was traded to the Blue Jays last summer.
Tulowitzki was the face of the Rockies for seven-plus years. He cemented himself as one of the best players in all of baseball during his time in Colorado, helping lead the Rockies to the 2007 World Series as a sensational 22-year-old rookie shortstop. He launched 188 home runs as a Rockie while winning a pair of both Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.
Since that July 27 trade that sent Tulowitzki north of the border, he has stated that he felt “betrayed” by the Rockies front office. “I felt like I got blindsided a bit. I thought I was in the loop, in the conversation,” Tulowitzki told The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders, “It definitely caught me by surprise. I was shocked. Maybe I was a little naive to think I would be so connected to the process.”
It is now almost a year later, and here’s what Tulowitzki told BSNDenver:
“It’s a little weird being on this side; it’s nice to see all your former teammates and coaches, nice to be back. It is weird. I do have mixed emotions It’s kinda like making your big league debut again. I’ll try to have fun with it. I played here for a long time, I gave it my all.”
There have been many theories as to what Tulowitzki’s reception by the fans will be tonight. Here’s what he had to say on the matter: “I think we should both enjoy it, I’m gonna enjoy them, I never really got a chance to play here, I was on the road when I got traded. It would’ve been great to come back knowing something was gonna go down so I could take it all in and mate they would have the heads up too but that’s not the way it played out. They have a great shortstop to watch too so I’m sure they’re happy about that. For them to get a chance to see me play, see how I’ve aged see the difference in my game it will be fun.”
He was then asked about his relationship with current Rockies stars Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado and the mentorship that has gone on: “I guess it means I’ll be a good coach someday, some of these guys have really took. I’m really happy to see these guys doing what they’re doing. I think — as you guys know — I brought both of those guys to my house in the offseason, Nolan multiple times, and Trevor once. Talk about both great kids, with their head right where it needs to be. It’s really exciting to watch. This is my first time I get to see guys where — I took them under my wing like Todd Helton did to me and Matt Holliday — and to see them have some success makes it even more special.”
“I’d love to stay in contact with DJ [Lemahieu], but as you guys know he’s hard to talk to. He stays about his business, he’s very quite. Those guys I consider great friends. And Trevor [Story] as well, the infielders are those guys I really got close with. But Charlie [Blackmon] is another guy, I’m sure I’m missing a few,” Tulowitzki said about his other former teammates.
Next, he was asked about his favorite memories at Coors Field: “First thing…I remember, being at shortstop, after I got drafted and I was taking groundballs. And I thought there was no way they’d send me to the minor leagues and that I belong here. There’s so many memories, the winning years, the playoffs, the World Series run and the relationships with the guys that really taught me the game, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, it got me really close with Nolan [Arenado].”
One of the keys to his acceptance of being with a new team is his two-year-old son, Taz. Tulowitzki believed if Taz is able to move on, turn the page and love the Jays, then so could he.
DUNEDIN—There was real concern last season that star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was not thrilled to be with the Blue Jays following the shocking trade-deadline deal with the Rockies that fuelled Toronto’s wild ride down the stretch to the post-season.
But now, it seems he’s all-in.
One of the keys to his acceptance of being with a new team is his two-year-old son, Taz. Tulowitzki believed if Taz is able to move on, turn the page and love the Jays, then so could he.
“(Taz) was at that age where he didn’t know or have a relationship with too many guys on the Rockies,” Tulowitzki said. “Now, when he thinks about baseball, he’s saying J.D. (Josh Donaldson) or (Jose) Bautista. That made it easy. As soon as I heard those, as soon as those names came out of his mouth, I said ‘Okay, this transition is a lot easier for him than it is for me.’ That made me happy.”
There were other circumstances not related to geography that dampened his joy last year. There was his time on the disabled list. It was difficult for Tulowitzki when his teammates were out on the field moving closer and closer to a division title and he was stuck on the DL with a divot in his shoulder from Kevin Pillar’s chin. His metamorphosis into a Blue Jay began in the final series in Tampa, when he was able to take full batting practice in preparation for his return. His spirits were lifted by the number of teammates who came out of the clubhouse to watch him take hacks in early afternoon.
“Anytime your teammates show support and get behind you, you’re pleased with that,” Tulowitzki recalled. “So that was awesome. As far as my comfort level here, I think just getting an off-season to soak in everything that happened and digest it and really get over it . . . I think that really happened this off-season. I became closer to my teammates and it’s a good relationship now. I’m excited to be here and I’m excited for this year.”
The reality of relationships in sports is that they no longer need be interrupted when the season ends and be picked up again later. Jays players, following the devastating Game 6 ALCS loss to the Royals, stayed in touch often and grew their friendships over the winter.
“I’m not a big social media guy myself,” Tulowitzki said. “I don’t have Twitter or Instagram or anything like that, but I do have phone numbers and I do text a lot and we do talk. We have group chats. We really have fun with that. Fantasy Football’s another way we grow closer and there are so many different avenues to have contact with teammates. You definitely are closer because of that.”
Tulowitzki has become a good influence on younger guys like second-baseman Ryan Goins and centre fielder Pillar. He’s doing for them what Rockies veterans like Matt Holliday and Todd Helton did for him in his first couple of seasons in the majors.
It’s about leading by example.
“For me it wasn’t too much different, just because I was always trying to hang around those veteran players that were real good in the game,” Tulowitzki explained. “What kept us close (with Rockies veterans) was that, obviously their work ethic was really strong. I’d like to say that at a young age I had had that work ethic and wanted to stay around those guys to get myself better. They did a good job of really teaching me the game and welcoming me.”
As a defensive shortstop, Tulowitzki believes in finish, not flash. He ranks first in MLB history in fielding percentage for a shortstop ahead of Omar Vizquel, Jimmy Rollins and J.J. Hardy. He makes routine plays look effortless and difficult plays look easy. He keeps the game in front of him.
“Every once in a while, maybe you’re going to get the flashy plays from me,” Tulowitzki said “But I think more than anything else you’re going to see me protect the baseball and you’re going to see a pitcher out there confident when the groundball’s hit to me. That’s what I want. That stuff your teammates see and it becomes part of their game and then it makes your whole defence better.”
Despite his well-documented offensive struggles with the Jays last year, over the course of his 10-year major-league career he has been to five all-star games, earned three top-10 MVP finishes, two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. Playing hurt in the post-season, Tulowitzki did not collect many hits, but when he did they seemed to be huge and win games.
“I’m not a guy to make excuses, but it was a difficult transition,” Tulowitzki said.
“I think that played a huge part in some of, I don’t know if it’s struggles or I just wasn’t myself, I felt like. But the post-season, I had been there before and I wanted to come through. I think I came up with some good at-bats and came up with some key hits. You really feel like you’re contributing and really part of the team. I was definitely happy about that.”
Jays manager John Gibbons took care of one lingering issue when he said Tulowitzki would bat fifth in the Jays’ powerful order and would not be considered for leadoff, as when he joined the club.
“It wasn’t tough,” Tulowitzki said of batting leadoff, a role he had never played in his career. “I just think I was better in that (fifth-place) role and I think he probably likes me in those RBI situations and protecting Eddie (Encarnacion) and I’m fine with it. I’m fine with anywhere I hit.
“My job is to go out there and help our team win games.”
Entering his first full spring training with the Toronto Blue Jays, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki‘s health and comfort should return him to elite status in 2016 (as if he left)
Troy Tulowitzki is finally feeling a little more at home with the Toronto Blue Jays after a 2015 deadline deal uprooted him from the familiar surroundings of Colorado. Even with 41 regular season and 11 playoff games with the Jays in 2015, the coming season should be a debut of the real Tulo.
“Coming to spring training and knowing the coaches and the organization a little bit and some of my teammates has definitely made this transition a little bit easier,” the 31-year-old told Shi Davidi in Dunedin this week.
With six seasons of a 5.0+ WAR since 2007, Tulowitzki is undeniably one of the game’s great shortstops. An underwhelming start to his Blue Jays career does not change that, and coming off a 2014 season in which he posted a 5.2 WAR in just 91 games, it’s not yet time to worry about Father Time. At all.
Tulowitzki is now hoping to get back across the 130 game plateau that he’s crossed just three times as a major league player, and with some swing developments that are causing an offseason buzz, there’s ample reason to be excited for what the coming summer could hold.
“Every off-season I try to get myself better as a player,” Tulowitzki told Davidi. “I know I can be a way better offensive player than I was (in Toronto), I went through a few things and changed some things up to try and better myself. There’s a little bit of a leg kick in there, but some of the stuff I do up top is real similar.”
Beyond the mammoth ceiling of his bat and glove, there’s the still-underrated impact of Tulowitzki in the clubhouse. For those of you who fill the winter baseball void with hockey, consider Tulowitzki to be the Jonathan Toews of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Pillar, Goins, Barney, Colabello & others put in a long BP session today w\ Troy Tulowitzki. I asked Tulo about it: pic.twitter.com/QbmsWJ1v0r
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) February 24, 2016
Much of what has transformed the Blue Jays clubhouse in to a great strength is the balance they now have. From the stoic Jose Bautista to the warm and thoughtful R.A. Dickey, from the off-the-walls Marcus Stroman to the strong and silent type in Tulo, all of the pieces fit.
Keep in mind that Tulowitzki has five years remaining on his contract with a team option that would take him through his age-36 season.
Jose Bautista is on an expiring contract, as you may have heard. The same goes for Edwin Encarnacion, and while Josh Donaldson just inked a two-year deal with one arbitration year remaining beyond that, Tulowitzki appears to be here for the long(est) haul.
After the 2016 of Tulo, everyone will be left feeling a little better about that.
DUNEDIN, Fla. – There’s a normalcy to being with the Toronto Blue Jays now that’s making Troy Tulowitzki feel more comfortable this spring than he did last year following his acquisition from the Colorado Rockies.
The stunning trade, coming after assurances he wouldn’t be moved, turned his world upside down, and after the Game 6 loss to the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series, he told a small group of reporters that parachuting into another club’s season made it hard to feel settled.
Some four months later, with time to properly digest the changes both professionally and personally, and deepen the friendships he developed during a frenzied run to an AL East crown, the all-star shortstop is home.
“Coming to spring training and knowing the coaches and the organization a little bit and some of my teammates has definitely made this transition a little bit easier. So, that’s nice,” he said during an interview on a stormy Wednesday. “I made it known a couple times that (the transition last year) wasn’t that easy just because I’d been in Colorado so long. But now that I look back at it, I’m a firm believer that things do happen for a reason, and I’m definitely happy to be here and I can’t wait to start the year.”
Among the things Tulowitzki is looking forward to is a break from the trade rumours that dogged him during his final seasons with the rebuilding Rockies, who gave him a $157.75-million, 10-year extension in 2010. Former general manager Alex Anthopoulos managed to pry him and now retired reliever LaTroy Hawkins away for pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman, Miguel Castro and Jesus Tinoco plus shortstop Jose Reyes, a turn of events Tulowitzki said last October made it “tough for me now to trust anybody in this game.”
Then came the front-office turnover in Toronto, as Anthopoulos left just as Mark Shapiro took over from Paul Beeston as president, leading to the hire of Ross Atkins as general manager.
“You know what the game is about, anything can happen at any point in time, but I did find it a little awkward that Alex was the guy who came and got me and then talking about things we were going to do here in the long haul and how this organization is going to run,” said Tulowitzki. “Then all of a sudden he goes off somewhere else, but it wasn’t by his choice, I don’t think, obviously things didn’t work out. I think we’re in good hands with the new people running the organization. Bottom line, the people in this locker-room here, the players, is what is going to win us games.”
How long this group remains together beyond 2016 has been a focal point so far this spring, as the Blue Jays have 10 pending free agents including franchise cornerstones Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. But while there is longer-term uncertainty, in Tulowitzki’s eyes that’s not all negative, either.
“It will be interesting, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “We can really use it to benefit us because sometimes you get a little bit more from them because they are hitting the market, and I think that’s going to be the case with some of these guys.
“They’re going to have some big years because they know what’s at stake.”
Regardless, Tulowitzki will play a pivotal role in the team’s fate this year.
Manager John Gibbons praised his contributions following his acquisition last season, describing him succinctly as “a very professional player.”
Still, while he provided stellar defense and helped fortify a dedicated and driven clubhouse following his arrival, Tulowitzki slumped at the plate, slashing .239/.317/.380 in 41 games with the Blue Jays, well off the .300/.348/.471 he delivered in 41 games with the Rockies beforehand.
To that end, he’s been experimenting with moving from a toe-tap to a leg kick as the trigger for his swing, a product of his regular discussions about hitting with Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista.
“Every off-season I try to get myself better as a player,” Tulowitzki said. “I know I can be a way better offensive player than I was (in Toronto), I went through a few things and changed some things up to try and better myself. There’s a little bit of a leg kick in there, but some of the stuff I do up top is real similar.”
If the end result pushes him toward the slash line of .297/.369/.508 he’s posted over a 10-year career, a Blue Jays lineup already bulging with mashers will become even more imposing. And the offence will need to help carry the load if he’s to reach his ultimate goal.
“I want to win a ring, bottom line,” he said. “All I care about is winning, going to the playoffs, year-in and year-out. Really, winning a ring is something I value the most.”