No regular Joe: Connor logs first MLB RBIs

Rookie has 'a lot of fun' during memorable night

May 14th, 2021

Rockies first baseman Connor Joe had himself a career night on Thursday. 

Joe delivered his first career RBI in the first inning and later added to his total with a pair of RBIs in the fourth, as he helped the Rockies to a 13-8 win over the Reds at Coors Field.

Joe’s 2-for-3 performance with three RBIs and two walks in the series opener was the key for a Rockies offense that put up 15 hits and tagged Reds ace Luis Castillo for eight runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

But when you look at the bigger picture, Joe's big night adds an encouraging chapter to an early MLB career that hasn't been easy.

The University of San Diego product was drafted in the first round (39th overall) by the Pirates in 2014. He had been with four different organizations when he made his MLB debut with the Giants in ‘19. This year, he made his Rockies debut on May 7.

Yet, despite injury setbacks and positional changes over his Minor League career, the biggest obstacle in the 28-year-old’s professional career came off the field.

During the 2020 offseason, Joe was diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent chemotherapy. He missed the entirety of the ‘20 season while in the Dodgers’ organization, and once he was eventually cleared to play, he signed with Colorado ahead of the ‘21 season.

After going through the cancer treatment and navigating the gap between his first and current stints at the big league level, Joe said that he feels more thankful during this go-round.

“It is a lot different this time,” he said. “I don't think necessarily physically or anything really to do with my swing or anything like that, but mentally, I'm in a lot different place than I was a couple years ago. 

“I feel like I've matured a lot, obviously. Going through what I went through in 2020 has really helped me put everything into perspective and given me a new, fresh lens of gratitude. So I'm really happy to be out there and having fun with it, man. A lot of fun.”

The ball from Joe’s first hit back in the Majors was given to his father after he singled against the Cardinals on May 8. As for Thursday night’s first-RBI ball, the rookie hasn’t decided what he wants to do with it.

“I gave my first ball back after all the treatments to my dad,” he said. “I don't know what this one has in store, maybe keep this one.”

Since being called up, Joe has hit .400 over 15 at-bats and posted a .609 on-base percentage. 

Rockies manager Bud Black said that this type of production is what you can expect out of the rookie, who could also be getting more opportunities due to his current run of success.

“His journey has now picked up again,” Black said. “Just the 15 at-bats with the Giants [in 2019] was a small sample. He looks as though he's going to get some more opportunities here the way he's playing. … He's in a really good spot. And congratulations on his first ribbie, his first extra-base hit. There's gonna be a lot of firsts for Connor.”

But even to start the 2021 season, Joe had another hurdle to overcome. After a strong Spring Training where he slashed .368/.489/.711 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 38 at-bats, he was left off the Opening Day roster. 

“I understand the move that they had to make,” Joe said. “They told me, 'Keep working hard,' and that's exactly what I did at the alternate site. Did my work there and I'm just happy to be up here now and helping this team.”

Joe has not only had an impact on his ballclub’s offense in his quick stint, he has also quickly become a fan favorite at Coors Field as chants of “Joe!” have been heard during his at-bats.

“To be embraced like that by the fans so quickly, to really feel their support, is extremely special to me and I don't take any of that for granted,” he said. “That was a really cool moment and almost one that I had to step out of the box [for] and take a deep breath and reset from that. Those kind of give me chills.”