Have Rockies found their next Tulo?
This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding's Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.
Double-A Hartford shortstop Ezequiel Tovar entered Wednesday tops in the Eastern League in batting average and hits, but that’s not the kind of leading that’s most impressive.
Tovar, who doesn’t turn 21 until Aug. 1 and is the Rockies' No. 2 prospect, is receiving high marks for the way he has taken a leadership role in the infield, dugout and clubhouse at a level where the average player is around 24.
Tovar, who will join High-A outfielder (also the Rockies’ No. 1 prospect and MLB’s No. 22 prospect) Zac Veen in representing Colorado in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, doesn’t consider himself anything of a taskmaster or whatever preconceived notion of leadership that may exist.
“A long time ago, my mom told me if you’re going to play this game, remember that it’s a game and have fun,” Tovar said in Spanish, with bench coach Luis Lopez interpreting. “That’s one thing I want to bring every day. I’m not out to prove I’m a leader. I don’t see it that way. I just want to help make everyone around me play better and have fun out there.”
Tovar’s relaxed leadership style has earned him high marks.
“He's a presence,” Hartford manager Chris Denorfia said. “And this is saying something, because English is a second language. He's a 20-year-old kid, but he has a presence [where] guys look forward to his spot in the lineup coming up [and] look forward to ground balls being his. And that's something that superstars have. You can't really teach that.”
If that catches your attention, so do the rave reviews from former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, who has returned to add expertise throughout Colorado’s Minor League system as a special assistant to general manager Bill Schmidt. Hurdle was running the club when Troy Tulowitzki debuted in 2006 and helped the ’07 club to the Rockies’ only World Series appearance.
Here’s what Hurdle said as a guest commentator on an AT&T SportsNet Rockies broadcast. Warning: You have to watch the Marlins put up a big inning. But Hurdle's detailed and clever breakdown of Tovar is well worth your 4 minutes and 11 seconds. Do come back afterward, though.
Hearing Tovar’s self-described emphasis on fun and remembering the burning intensity of Tulowitzki’s eyes above his eye black confirms that there is no one way to be a spark plug.
Tovar said he was not aware of the comparisons to Tulowitzki, but he is honored by them. He admits the speculation that he could end up in the Majors before the season ends is intriguing. But whether it’s a Double-A game or one in front of the baseball world, every game is a chance to learn.
“It’s an opportunity that’s been presented to me,” he said. “I’m digesting it the right way, asking the right questions. I’m very eager to participate, and very humble and thankful to be presented with such a special group.”
And he’ll lead with a smile worth following.
The Sirius XM Futures Game will be telecast on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT/7 p.m. ET live on Peacock and Sirius XM and will re-air at 7 a.m. MT/9 a.m. ET on Sunday.