NEW YORK -- Michael Cuddyer spent Tuesday morning performing magic tricks with a card deck at Washington Square, part of an MLB Fan Cave visit before the Rockies open their series against the Mets at Citi Field. During that visit, the right fielder explained that it was a stomach flu outbreak back home in Virginia that led to his two-game hiatus earlier in this road trip.
"Things are well," he told MLB.com. "My wife [Claudia] and our nanny, who also takes care of the kids at times, both got the stomach flu. There was really nobody to turn to. I had to go home for two days and take care of our 5-year-old and twin 20-month-olds, and I was very fortunate that the Rockies allowed me to do that. Once [Claudia] got better in the next 12 to 20 hours, I was able to hop on a flight to Pittsburgh and meet the team."
Cuddyer is in his 13th Major League season, and he said people probably don't fully appreciate how challenging those kinds of situations can be for MLB families. On his way to the Fan Cave from the Rockies' team hotel, he received a text from his 5-year-old son Casey.
"My son was up at 6:30 in the morning asking about his pool," Cuddyer said, "and at 7:30 he was already out there playing.
"You definitely have those situations that come up. Life gets involved, as everybody's does. Sometimes you have to get involved to take care of your family and that was one of the few incidents where that has happened. Like I said, I'm fortunate that the Rockies were understanding. We went 1-1, so we didn't lose both games, which was nice."
Cuddyer rejoined the club on Saturday, which happened to be exactly one month after his 27-game hitting streak ended. He entered this series batting .330, which ties Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (currently on the DL) for second in the National League behind the .342 average of Atlanta's Chris Johnson. Cuddyer also set a Rockies single-season record by reaching base in 46 consecutive games this season.
"As a player, you're always trying to strive to get better," Cuddyer said. "There's no question about that. I'm at the point in my career where individual numbers and individual performances are nice and fun, but at the same time, I judge my season on how the team is doing. It's been up-and-down for us all year. We've competed, and we're going to continue to compete. But as a player, until you win that championship, your work is not done. That's what we strive for, and what I strive for every day, to help your team get better in order to get that championship."
The last time Cuddyer was seen around these parts, he was the starting designated hitter for the National League in the 84th All-Star Game at Citi Field. A night earlier, he made a run into the semifinals as part of the Chevrolet Home Run Derby.
"It was incredible," he said. "I thought I was going to be a little more nervous than I was. I thought I was going to be so nervous that I wouldn't have much fun. But once I got in the box, I was comfortable and felt good. I hit a couple to start with and was able to finish my round strong, and I ended up getting to the second round. I had a blast. It was an awesome time."
Cuddyer dismisses any notion that Home Run Derby contestants can be negatively affected in the immediate weeks after participating.
"I think you obviously look at some guys' numbers, and that's why people say it," he said. "Some guys have good second halves, and some don't. I think it's coincidental. For me, I take BP every day, and I try to hit home runs in BP just like I tried to hit home runs in Home Run Derby. So it wasn't too much different than what we go through every day."
All Rockies fans know Cuddyer as "Magic Mike," thanks to the regular in-game videos showing his acclaimed sleight of hand. You'll be able to see the Fan Cave video in coming days. During the taping at nearby Washington Square, he blew people on the street away. One woman finds a card in her purse she wasn't expecting, while another woman finds a card under her shoe that Cuddyer somehow put there.
"I was always enthralled as a little kid in magic, illusions and people's reactions to magic," Cuddyer said. "I made it a point to start learning tricks, and then I got to a point in high school where I started making up tricks of my own. It really allowed me to have a real icebreaker. First big league camp, I was able to take them into the clubhouse and have established veterans not only know who I am, but talk with me. That's rare as a 20-year-old at your first big league camp."
He has done all right in baseball. Now, for his next magic act ...
"You continue believing," he said to Rockies fans. "We continue to fight. We believe in ourselves. Obviously, 2007, Rockies fans should know that anything is possible, to be able to come back and get into a race and get into a World Series. We did it with the Twins, as well. Anything can happen in these last two months, especially in this day and age of unbalanced schedules, where you play a team in your division -- I think every game, just about every game we play in September is against our division. So we've got a chance.
"You always go into Spring Training expecting to win. If you don't expect to win, then you don't have a chance to get there anyway. We always go through that, and even with two months left in the season we still expect to win."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.