Rookie discusses nickname, gets surprise question from high school coach
NEW YORK -- Nolan Arenado's work day began five hours before game time against the Mets on Tuesday. Arenado, Colorado's rookie third baseman, took time out of his busy schedule to stop by the MLB.com Chatting Cage, where he answered questions directly from fans about his season and his life.
Arenado, a former second-round Draft pick, has enjoyed mixed results in his rookie season, but he's having a great time learning on the job against the world's best players. The Major League reality has compared well to his expectations, and Arenado had fun interacting with the fans.
"It's a lot of fun. It's a blessing," Arenado said after his on-camera interview. "We're out here, and these fans are watching us and supporting us. The least we can do is give back and have a little conversation with them. It's pretty weird, and I'm not used to it. But I had fun and I enjoyed it."
Standing in front of the third-base dugout at Citi Field, Arenado first addressed the Internet's attempt to give him a nickname. The 22-year-old native of Newport Beach, Calif., said he's heard that people want his nickname to be Sharknado (after the made-for-TV movie), but he also said his teammates have already given him a nickname.
The Rockies, to a man, have dubbed the rookie "Mickey Mouse," he said. Arenado explained that he has Latino roots, but that he doesn't speak any Spanish, which led his teammates to their choice of nickname. They tease him about being a "fake Latino," he said, but it's all in fun.
Arenado was asked about his favorite player growing up, and he credited Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols for how they perform on the field and how they carry themselves off it. He also said teammates Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, among others, have been fantastic role models.
Arenado, a career .299 hitter in the Minors, was batting .364 for Triple-A Colorado Springs at the time of his promotion, and he's batting .252 with nine homers and 35 RBIs in his first 88 games in the Majors. The biggest surprise, he said, has been the consistency of the best players at this level.
"The intensity of this game. The intensity of the atmosphere," Arenado said of the Majors. "I expected that coming in, and I definitely expected it with this team because we expect to win. But definitely the intensity and the support have been pretty cool. It definitely gets pretty crazy."
Arenado gets to play next to Tulowitzki, a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award-winner, as he makes his transition to the Majors. So far, like many of his teammates, Arenado has hit better at Coors Field (.262/.303/.423) than on the road (.241/.277/.373).
Does he ever get exhausted by the constant grind? Arenado said the big leagues are all about winning, while the Minor Leagues left more room for individual development. But now that he's up here and playing in the Majors, he said he couldn't really ask for anything more from the experience.
"When you go through the Minor Leagues and you're on buses for 14 hours, I guess the plane rides and all that stuff isn't that bad," he said. "And the food, you take that all into consideration. It gets tough, but this is fun. We're playing a game that we love and we're trying to put on a good show."
Arenado enjoyed stopping by the Chatting Cage on Tuesday, but coincidentally, he also got to speak to someone he knows intimately. Mike Gonzales, Arenado's coach at El Toro High School in Lake Forest, Calif., somehow worked his way into place to ask the young infielder a question.
And in his response, Arenado got to prove that he'll never forget where he came from.
"That was pretty funny that he got on," said Arenado, a 2009 graduate of El Toro. "He's my guy. I've known him for a long time, and I'm still very close to him. That was pretty cool."