Story's focus on field, Rockies teammates

April 1st, 2021

DENVER -- The Coors Field springtime sunlight revealed a dynamic left side of the infield -- a scene that bordered on familiar.

Rockies shortstop practiced short-hop grounders. Forehand. Backhand. Two-handed. Each hard test throw he fielded, he returned one to a third baseman with a nice glove.

Story and Josh Fuentes, doing their thing.

“I always tell him, I had to kind of take a double-take to decipher him and Nolan sometimes because they look a lot alike,” Story said, smiling. “Obviously, they’re family.”

Wednesday was the Rockies’ public workout, before Thursday’s season opener against the Dodgers at Coors Field. One would say it’s too early to ask how long Story will be fielding, hitting and operating as one of the sport’s best shortstops.

But let’s face it. Since the Fuentes cousin that Story used to do infield drills with, Nolan Arenado, was traded to the Cardinals amidst a hail of criticism of the Rockies, that’s the question that has hovered over the Rockies.

Story is a free agent at season’s end, and observers outside the organization are not expecting the Rockies to contend in 2021. Trade speculation about Story will not go away until he's dealt or becomes a free agent after the World Series.

But to his relief and the Rockies’ delight, Story is operating above it all.

“I’m looking forward to being present, and taking the season on,” Story said. “This is my personality. It bodes well for me. I’d like to think that I'm a pretty even-keeled guy. No matter -- play well, play really bad -- I try to be the same guy. So that suits me well coming to my circumstance now.”

None of the speculation has affected Story, who has set a goal of 30 homers and 30 steals in a season. He can do that with the Rockies, or in a season spent only partly with the Rockies. But until he hears otherwise, he’s with the Rockies, and for the Rockies, and that’s fine with manager Bud Black.

“Trev has great perspective,” Black said. “We’ve had a couple conversations and I’m sure other people have had conversations with Trev about the thing that’s most important, and that’s today -- today’s game, today’s workout, today’s practice -- and keep that in perspective, not think long term.

“It’s hard for players in this situation not to think about the future. Every decision, every transaction that happens on a daily basis in baseball, players are aware.”

Flashback to early March, a day cooler than one wants after leaving snow and ice and coming to Scottsdale, Ariz. Story had not long before escaped the damaging Texas ice storm and accompanying real-life agony that affected others worse than it did him.

Story himself had been under the weather, but this day he felt better. And for a guy with his future and that of his team expected to hang above his head until all is settled, he felt surprisingly light.

The internet gets through, of course. But Story and his teammates were spared much of the circus, with team-arranged Zoom calls replacing the normal free flow of media into the clubhouse.

“It's been fun, man,” he said. “I love being around these guys. They're very passionate about the game so much. It's always good when you get to be around guys like that that have fun playing. And I love working hard.

“Our guys have a great opportunity this year -- guys that are really talented players, that have a chance to really take that next step. We’re going to help, you know, we embrace that part of it -- I like having guys come to me and ask me questions. But at the end of the day you know these guys are going to make adjustments for themselves. It’s going to be up to them to see if they can take that next step. I believe they can.”

Story delights in discussing his teammates. He’s even fine with his situation as “part of the gig, as long as it’s not very repetitive.”

Since the flurry of phone calls after the Arenado trade, Story has taken the approach that he is going to be all right. Story said from before Spring Training there were no talks about an extension with the Rockies, who performed complicated financial gymnastics with the Cardinals to shed two-thirds of the Arenado commitment. He is part of a group of potential free-agent shortstops in line for massive contracts. The Mets' Francisco Lindoor may have helped Story's negotiating position by reportedly agreeing to a 10-year, $341 million deal on Wednesday.

The whole subject seemed to melt away when Story put on the uniform. It seemed farther away when he watched longtime prospect Brendan Rodgers show a new level of confidence. He raved about leadoff hitter Raimel Tapia’s development last season, and this spring saw teammates Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon trending in that direction.

But Story is clear that there is a standard that he and his teammates must meet.

“It’s been fun here,” Story said. “Obviously, the winning years are my favorite. There’s nothing like playing in the playoffs. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. Once you get that taste, that’s all you want. That’s what we’ve been chasing since we were there in ’17 and ’18. Those feelings and emotions are always in my mind of how fun it was.”

Whether Story has to change addresses to experience that type of fun, either this year after a trade or as an offseason free agent, or in a surprising Rockies season -- which is where his focus is now -- he’s fine.

“It’s not something that I think about a lot,” Story said. “I just think about playing baseball, more than anything else. I don't know if I'm just weird in that way, but I tried to really keep it about stuff I can do on the field.”