Arenado more than a one-man highlight reel
Rockies' third baseman relies on instincts to make must-see plays
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Nolan Arenado is not a look-at-me guy. It's just that you can't help but cast your eyes his way.
Even before last season's Rockies returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009, Arenado was a regular on the highlights.
Arenado, the first third baseman with five Gold Glove Awards in as many Major League seasons, seems to find a way to raise the highlight bar, even if that isn't on his list of goals.
"I think about just making my plays, being aggressive, and being me," said Arenado, whose exploits have a hashtag: #NolanBeingNolan. "I don't want to try to top anything. When you try to do too much, you start trying to do things out of the ordinary. That's when errors start to happen. I'll just let it happen."
A new season dawns in six days. For the first time in Arenado's career, he'll be playing for a team that's facing higher expectations. Although the Rockies felt their young pitchers were talented enough to succeed last season, the trip to the National League Wild Card Game (when the Rockies lost to the D-backs, 11-8) was a surprise to the baseball world at large.
And Arenado became more than the Rockies' one-man highlight reel of defensive plays. With 130 or more RBIs in each of the past three seasons, Arenado is a two-way star who has become the team's face, the way Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki were when Arenado entered the Majors in 2013.
"It's happened the last three years. People are like, 'How are you going to lead?'" Arenado said. "I'll just continue to do what I do. There's always pressures to seasons and you want to perform, but I'm not going to let those doubts or those fears take over. That's why I work hard, so I can overcome those fears and I can go into these games very confidently."
It's more than confidence that allows Arenado to bat down a grounder, retrieve the ball from his belly and throw from his back. (It bears yet another look.)
"I anticipate the ball coming to me. That's all I really think about," Arenado said. "I really don't think about diving, throwing from my knees or anything. I try to let that happen and let the instincts take over.
"They do look cool. They don't feel good, but they look good on ESPN. So hopefully I can continue to do that."
Rockies manager Bud Black enjoys being amazed, but not surprised, at what Arenado can do.
"It just sort of comes out," Black said. "During the course of a game there are going to be a lot of different plays. When Nolan plays, he has great instincts for where a ball is going to be hit. It just seems he has a knack to make plays.
"But he practices these things. In the morning, early, on our practice fields, he's working on practicing great plays."
What Arenado doesn't do is put extra into a play to make it look better.
"I never play this game to look good," he said. "I mean, look at my facial hair.
"I think about helping the team win and doing my job."