Baylor goes into Colorado Sports Hall of Fame
DENVER -- The D-backs pulled out their extra-innings victory over the Yankees without the presence of hitting coach Don Baylor on Thursday night. Baylor took the day off for his induction ceremony into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.
"It was surreal, really," Baylor said of the recognition he earned for managing the Rockies over their first six seasons. "It was kind of like, 'I don't believe they're doing this.' To do it as a manager, you can't do it without good players and coaches that support you, good or bad, on everything that I decide to do as a manager. They might agree with you and sometimes they might not. Guys have to play good for you. They don't put bad coaches in."
Before Baylor's Rockies even took the field, he gave the expansion club some legitimacy, giving big league baseball a foothold behind the most recognizable face in the franchise. Baylor's first managerial gig followed a 19-year career that started with the Orioles and took him to the A's, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox, and Twins. He was a three-time American League Silver Slugger and the American League Most Valuable Player in 1979.
Baylor entered the Hall along with Avalanche defenseman Adam Foote, Broncos safety Steve Atwater and punter Don Cockroft, big league pitcher Stan Williams, and golfer Steve Jones, the last three being native Coloradans. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin, another native, were recognized as the 2012 Athletes of the Year, in the professional and amateur categories.
"There are some guys that are in it that are Colorado guys that were born here," Baylor said. "[Major League Baseball Hall of Famer] Goose Gossage, I saw him last night. I went in with Adam Foote, I know him. [NHL Hall-of-Famer] Joe Sakic has been in for a while. Stan Williams was a big league pitcher. Peyton Manning stopped by last night, he was there."
Baylor's not quick to miss a day of work, but the event was obviously important to him, as evidenced by the guests he brought to Denver to help him celebrate the honor.
"It was 900 people, a little gathering," Baylor said. "I had my high school baseball coach there. My junior high, high school, college roommate, he was there. We started out in the seventh grade together. My son was there, and my wife. So it was a good deal, kind of reflecting back to 1992-93."
After two years posting a .414 and .455 winning percentage, Baylor led the Rockies to the postseason in 1995, the quickest a franchise had ever made the playoffs from inception. He won Manager of the Year and put up two more 83-win seasons, having left a lasting legacy in the town he helped transform into a big league city.
The Rockies acknowledged Baylor's induction on the field before Friday's game, presenting him with a team jersey. Baylor is already in the Angels Hall of Fame, but the Rockies have yet to open one of their own. In a season-long celebration of their 20-year anniversary, however, the seeds for a Rockies Hall of Fame are taking root.
"After 20 years, they'll get around to it one of these times," Baylor said. "I asked them if they have Eric Young's first home run ball [from the first at-bat in the first home game]. They don't have that. EY tried to get it, but it went into the stands.