Tulo anticipating happy return to Coors Field

Shortstop facing former team for first time since emotional trade to Toronto

June 27th, 2016

DENVER -- Troy Tulowitzki plans to make Monday's game just like the other 533 he has played at Coors Field. But it won't be.

Tulowitzki will be wearing a Blue Jays uniform when he makes his first appearance at Coors Field since last July's shocking trade that was one of the biggest deals in Rockies history. The teams will play a three-game series, and the sooner it's about baseball, the better for Tulowitzki.

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"Yeah, obviously, mixed emotions -- excited to play in front of the fans again," Tulowitzki said over the weekend in Chicago, where Toronto played a weekend series against the White Sox. "Obviously, it's been a lot of years there, so to kind of give back to them and get a chance to see the field again, some friends on the team, some coaches, but that's about it.

"Everything else is just kind of go about my business and act like it's just another game, or at least try to."

The deal's fallout was immediate, and it continues.

• It resulted in the Blue Jays getting help during their postseason drive last season.

• Tulowitzki expressed anger in several interviews because he expected the Rockies to keep him abreast of all trade talks, although both teams have said that confidentiality was a prerequisite for a trade.

• The Rockies had a topsy-turvy few months with Jose Reyes (whose salary offset some of what was owed Tulowitzki), who played so-so at shortstop and was arrested in an alleged domestic violence case during the offseason. After serving a suspension for violating MLB's domestic-abuse policy, he was waived by Colorado on Thursday and signed with the Mets on Saturday.

• The trade and Reyes' departure allowed rookie Trevor Story to put up All-Star-worthy numbers at shortstop. And the Rockies' grade on the swap will depend on the ultimate production of the pitchers the Rockies received -- top prospect Jeff Hoffman, currently excelling at Triple-A Albuquerque; righty reliever Miguel Castro, who is at Albuquerque after up-and-down big league results; and righy starter Jesus Tinoco, who is at Class A Asheville.

Players have always had these kinds of reunions with their old teams, but each one has its unique emotion and sound. Even those on the field will feel and listen.

"It'll be cool," Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "It'll be funny to see Tulo on that other side. But hopefully the fans give him a nice little ovation, because he's done a lot of good things here."

Tulowtizki said, "I'm not wondering about the reaction will be like at all. I think I have a fair guess of what it will be. I think they saw a guy that gave it everything he had when he was out there, so I think it will hopefully be a warm welcome and they'll show their appreciation for me, and I'll do the same."

Former teammates fondly remembered Tulowitzki for his mentorship and his tenacity for baseball, which can border on extreme.

Before the 2014 season, Tulowitzki summoned Story to his offseason home in Las Vegas for workouts. Through action and at times forceful words, Tulowitzki taught meticulous attention to preparation. Story remembers a conversation after a hitting session that ended near midnight.

"I think about that every day," said Story, who might miss some time after being hit on the right middle finger with a pitch in Sunday's 9-7 win over Arizona. "Like he said, there's no way anyone else did more work or better work than we did that night.

"I want to be the hardest worker and do everything I can to be ready for that day."

Second baseman DJ LeMahieu said there were times when he thought he'd beat Tulowitzki to Coors Field, only to see the shortstop already there and working. And Tulowitzki never left the game at the park.

In 2014, Tulowitzki -- then on the disabled list with a left hip flexor injury -- went to Yankee Stadium to see his idol, Derek Jeter, even though the Rockies were playing in Denver that day. The decision brought heat from fans and media, who speculated Tulowitzki was trying to engineer his way into the Yankees lineup when Jeter retired. But LeMahieu said it was part of a personality that couldn't break away from baseball.

"He goes home after games and watches baseball," LeMahieu said. "On off-days, he likes going to baseball games. We had an off-day, and the city we were in -- I believe we were in Texas -- had a game and he went to that game as a fan."

Rockies manager Walt Weiss said he appreciated the trait, but also worried about it.

"That can be a blessing and a curse sometimes for players," Weiss said. "They don't get to the level they get to without that. But he was one of the guys I'd have conversations with about saving something for the game.

"There were times when he would be in the batting cage at 1 in the morning, still. That's a great thing, but there's a point of diminishing return, especially taking into account the schedule that we play. But his work ethic was as good as I've seen."

In March, Tulowitzki did in a wide-ranging interview with USA Today in which he criticized Rockies management and called the Rockies' palatial Spring Training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., too "country club," which discouraged hard work. Arenado and other Rockies were none too pleased about the remarks.

But Arenado, who said he and Tulowitzki communicate every couple of weeks because of the time difference, said that's behind them.

"We had our different views, and we talked about it," Arenado said. "It's not a big deal. We move on. We're not going to let that ruin our friendship."

Weiss said, "He knows how hard we work as a club. He was a part of that. I didn't take that personally. Anybody that's been around our club knows that's not the case. And Tulo knows that."

Rockies owner and chief executive officer Dick Monfort and general manager Jeff Bridich, the objects of Tulowitzki's comments, declined to address them. Bridich said that Tulowitzki's return should be a treat for Rockies fans.

"There are going to be a lot of fans who are very excited to see him come back to town," Bridich said. "He was here for a long time and did a lot of good things here."

This past weekend in Chicago, Tulowitzki said wanted to leave the discord alone.

"There's no motivation in talking about anything," Tulowitzki said. "I'm a Blue Jay now. I'm obviously happy to be here on a good team, a winning team. Just focus on that and worry about the baseball part."