ATLANTA -- It's doubtful that Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez ever felt this way before, but he went into Friday's game against the Braves wanting a baseball to hit his face.Stuff like that happens during Players Weekend.Through Sunday, players can display nicknames on the backs of jerseys, wear special patches
ATLANTA -- It's doubtful that Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez ever felt this way before, but he went into Friday's game against the Braves wanting a baseball to hit his face.
Stuff like that happens during Players Weekend.
Through Sunday, players can display nicknames on the backs of jerseys, wear special patches honoring their influences and show their personalities through their gear. In addition to the name "CarGo" on his back, Gonzalez picked up a bat with his likeness right on the sweet spot. He and Rockies catcher Jonathan Lucroy each were using bats with their faces on them.
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"I'm going for the nose," Gonzalez said before testing his new sticks in batting practice.
The Rockies were shown the jersey during their last series, at Kansas City, so they weren't a shock. Center fielder Charlie Blackmon aka "Chuck Nazty" thought the jersey, a gray pullover with sleeves and trim of warm purple, was a nice novelty.
"I think I like all this fuchsia, maybe? More fuchsia than plum," Blackmon said. "It's unique. I like it. It's different. You don't see it a lot. I do also like Rockies purple a little bit better."
Blackmon sees the weekend as a chance to let his hair (and beard) down in front of the people who know him best. Blackmon was raised in Suwanee, Ga., about 45 minutes away from SunTrust Park, so plenty of friends and family will watch.
"Because it's once a year, it seems like a big deal for the Blackmon family and all my people," said Blackmon. "We always turn out well and try to get together a little bit. It'll be exciting to have Players Weekend be here, also."
Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado, a fellow All-Star, were among several Rockies who were sent bats that were blue toward the barrel and red from the middle to the handle, with white stars around the logo.
Blackmon loves the bat, but thought the non-Rockies colors were a bit jarring to look at while he's concentrating on hitting. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu also decided his blue Louisville Sluggers would not get game use. As for Arenado, he was going to practice with the bat.
"Hopefully it has a lot of homers in it, and then I'll probably use it this weekend," Blackmon said.
Outfielder Gerardo Parra aka "El Yolo," to honor his late grandmother, Yolanda Apalmo, enjoyed the wild batting gloves and other gear. Like Blackmon and Arenado, his bat honors his home country, Venezuela.
"It's an amazing story," Parra said. "I represent Venezuela. I represent my city. Santa Barbara [on my tribute patch]. I represent my family. I represent everybody. I'm happy for this day. I'm excited."
While many players are from warm-weather areas, relief pitcher Adam Ottavino carried the name of Brooklyn on his sleeve to remember his personal and baseball upbringing, and give a nod to the players who either grew up there or played for youth teams in the New York City borough.
"From Brooklyn, there are maybe two, but there are a lot of people I grew up with playing in Brooklyn -- Pedro Alvarez and Dellin Betances," said Ottavino, going by "Otto" on the jersey. "My friend, Pedro Beato, is from Brooklyn. He's not in the big leagues right now. He's with the Phillies. There are a couple others coming up, and many, many in history, so I try to honor those guys, too."
Game-worn Players Weekend jerseys will be auctioned at MLB.com/auctions with 100 percent of net proceeds donated to the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, a joint effort by MLB and the MLBPA to improve amateur baseball and softball programs across the U.S. and Canada.
Rockies manager Bud Black aka "Harry" this weekend, believes anything to reach youth is worthwhile.
"We've got to keep them in baseball," Black said. "Don't get me wrong. I like lacrosse, I like soccer, I like other spring sports. I like football and basketball. I like tennis. I like golfers. But we need ballplayers."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.