ASG ovation at Coors moves Arenado, peers

Reyes' strikeout culmination of arduous journey to first All-Star Game

July 14th, 2021

DENVER -- From the time was introduced as a Cardinal following his trade from the Rockies last February, through his emotional return to Coors Field on July 1, and even prior to the 91st MLB All-Star Game there Tuesday night, he repeated a certain phrase often regarding his eight seasons in Colorado:

"I did my best."

Following five All-Star selections during his time in Colorado, eight Gold Glove Awards and authorship of some of the most iconic moments in franchise history, was that ever in doubt?

"I think we all understand that sometimes when you do your work, and you do good work, sometimes it doesn't get noticed," Arenado said after going 0-for-2 in the National League's 5-2 loss to the American League. "And sometimes you want to be appreciated for what you did. And that's in everyday life -- I mean, it could be anything.

"Not that I want them to say, 'Thank you.'"

But they did. When Arenado was announced during player introductions for the NL starting lineup, he received a standing ovation that left others on the field in awe.

"That was unbelievable," said Padres third baseman Manny Machado. "That was sick. Well-deserved. He's done a lot for this organization and this city, and for them to cheer him on and give him that standing ovation, that was special."

"That was amazing," said Dodgers slugger Max Muncy. "They did a really good job. You really can't say enough about what he did over here. ... It was really cool to see the fans give him the recognition he deserved. It kind of makes you sit back and almost wish that he could've won a little more here, but it was just fun to see the fans give him his recognition."

And therein, perhaps, lies the reason behind Arenado's doubts about how the fans at Coors Field would receive him when he returned in another team's uniform. With all that he did -- the .293/.349/.541 slash line, the 235 home runs, the unending reel of jaw-dropping plays at third base -- the Rockies only won one playoff game while he wore their uniform.

"I never asked for answers or thank-you's from anybody," Arenado said. "I just tried to do the best I can."

There it was again -- "I did my best."

Tuesday's ovation was ear-splitting, and counting the ovations he received when his Cardinals played in Colorado to start the month, this one had to be at least the fifth given to him from Rockies fans since he departed.

Arenado received yet another standing ovation the first time he came to the plate in the All-Star Game, which was in the bottom of the first inning against Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Arenado grounded out to short. He grounded out again, this time to second, against Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi in the fourth.

But none of that mattered, at least not to the nearly 50,000 fans witnessing the first Midsummer Classic hosted in Colorado since 1998.

The question is, did that outpouring of love for Arenado -- on national television, no less -- convince him that he did enough with the Rockies? That he was appreciated for the spectacular athlete that he is?

"I guess there's a little closure, you know?" Arenado said. "I won't be coming back again this year. But it was an amazing time. I love coming back here. What the fans have done for me, supporting me and cheering me on, it was a pretty amazing feeling. One of the better things I've had in my life and in my career."

Arenado spent eight seasons with the Rockies not knowing if he had done enough -- only that he had done his best. Now he can truly turn that page and his focus to his next chapter, in St. Louis. And after the whirlwind few days he had in Colorado, he can now get back to his all-consuming quest -- to help the Cardinals reach the postseason.

"There's a little relief as far as trying to push for the second half and make a run for the playoffs," Arenado said. "My focus is there now."

There's a lot to do in that department. The Cards open the second half of the season two games under .500 at 44-46 and 7 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot.

Standing ovations have been a routine occurrence for Arenado the past couple of weeks. But he doesn't figure that will be the case going forward.

"I won't be getting any standing ovations anywhere else anymore," he said. "I'm not too worried about those anymore."

Maybe he should be. Because if his track record and passion to win are any indication, there are more standing ovations ahead.

For now, he's happy he can put to rest the doubts with which he came to Denver as an All-Star for the sixth time, and the first time in a uniform other than Colorado's.

"The fact that they appreciated it means a lot to me. I just tried to play hard and sometimes you get unnoticed for playing hard or people don't appreciate it. And the fact that Colorado did, I love them and I appreciate it."

Reyes gets big strikeout in All-Star debut
has dealt with immense trials in his life both on and off the field over the past few years. The No. 1 prospect in the Cardinals organization in 2016, Reyes underwent Tommy John surgery in '17, suffered another setback with a torn lat muscle in '18, and had a broken finger that wiped out most of his '19 season. And during the month before that Tommy John surgery in '17, Reyes' daughter, Aleyka, began cancer treatment.

But after all of that, the right-handed reliever stood on the mound at Coors Field in the 91st MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night, giving up a hit but following that by getting the Royals' Whit Merrifield to ground out and striking out the Rays' Mike Zunino, who had homered earlier in the contest. That stranded a runner at third for the AL.

"There was a lot of adrenaline, similar to the situations I've been in throughout the season," Reyes said. "Just a much bigger stage and everybody's watching. I was just excited for that moment."

After the strikeout of Zunino to end the top of the eighth inning, Reyes looked up and pointed skyward as he walked off the mound.

"It felt good," Reyes said. "It felt good to be able to get that out and not let the run score. At the end of the day, it's a baseball game. Just trying to keep runs off the board."

At the end of the day, it is just a baseball game. Reyes has gone through much more strenuous circumstances than the one he faced Tuesday night. Nevertheless, it was a triumphant moment for a 26-year-old who had overcome so much to get to it.