Last weekend the Rockies celebrated Larry Walker, a man who found his home in Colorado and sacrificed money and the spotlight to pursue the ultimate goal of spraying his teammates with champagne. Today, Larry Walker is in the Hall of Fame.
They’ve celebrated Todd Helton, who played his entire career in Colorado. They’ve reveled in “Nazty” glory as Charlie Blackmon has moved his way up in the ranks of all-time Rockies. They have successful pitchers like John Grey and Colorado native Kyle Freeman who have publicly stated their desire to be Rockies for life.
That’s all well and good for the fans who love them and the players who inexplicably find something to love about life in Colorado.
But if you really want to win, Colorado’s not likely to land on your destinations of choice list.
Part of what makes Trevor Story a great teammate is his commitment to do everything possible to win. Sadly, that commitment may take him from the only baseball home he’s ever known as he enters his first stab at free agency.
“I've always thought winning's at the top of the list, for me,” Story told the Daily Planet before what was likely his penultimate home game as a Rockie Tuesday. “There’s a lot of things that go into it — culture and fit, geography — but winning is at the top of the list.”
The Rockies have had only two winning seasons since Story’s rookie year in 2016, and have only once finished above third in the division. He’s been a loyal teammate and a dependable company man his whole career, but after the season’s final out this weekend, his destiny will be in his hands as a free agent.
“It's something that as player you work your butt off to get to that point and to be able to see what's out there,” Story said of his pending free agency. “To see how the landscape’s moving is something that is exciting for sure.”
His resume is replete with all the record-breaking numbers a team could want in a 28-year-old shortstop, but he spelled out the intangibles, lest there be any doubt.
“I have play-every-night toughness,” Story said of himself Tuesday in an open call to all suitors. “I play hard every day. I like to think that I'm a good guy in the clubhouse, a guy that can lead and speak when he needs to, but mostly leads by example. I feel that I haven't played my best ball yet. I think that's ahead of me.”
What’s ahead for him is largely up to him, and it sounds increasingly like he’ll soon be on a road heading out of Colorado.
“Over the years some things have happened for sure,” Story said regarding the prospect of returning to the Rockies next year. “A lot of great times and some bad times, there's no hiding that. But I think the most fair way to say it is no teams are out. That's kind of as simple as I can put it.”
The Rockies are running out of time to work some LoDo Magic on their shortstop, but a Wednesday reprises of a moment like Tuesday’s towering 475-foot game-winning homer against the Nationals could help balance the books on what has been an otherwise forgettable homestand.
The Rockies came home from their first winning road trip of the season — a 7-2 tear through Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington — to go 2-6 heading into the Coors Field finale Wednesday, losing five straight at home to the Dodgers, Giants and Nats.
Story entered Tuesday hitting 4-for-24 on the homestand, then hit a bloop double and an epic blast to turn the team’s tide.
“It was a rough homestand,” Story admitted to the Planet as he recalled the feeling of launching his round-tripper Tuesday and being greeted by a standing ovation in the stands and his dugout. “It’s always good to hit a home run in front of our home fans. They've always treated me so well. It warms my heart to get that reception. It's special. And if that was the last one here, then that was pretty good.”
Story has acknowledged “the writing on the wall” and the “forecasts” that he won’t be back ever since the trade deadline, and as he faces his final games clad in purple pinstripes, he is soaking in as much of the good feelings as he can.
“The friends and the relationships that I've accrued over this tenure are like family to me,” he said, citing the most valuable asset he’d take from his years with the Rockies. “They always will mean a lot to me, no matter what happens.”
In an echo to Larry Walker’s “regular guy” Hall of Fame speech, Story hopes Colorado fans will remember him in a similar light.
“I hope they remember me as a simple dude that played hard,” Story said. “I gave it all I got each night, prepared. I think what I want them to know the most is that we tried our best. We did everything we could to bring a championship to this town. I know the fans deserve that. The city deserves that. I tried to play a big part in that. We just didn't get it done.”
Those fans and his teammates share the sentiment right back at him, knowing he deserves his chance to put his talents to use deep into October with a club that doesn’t just compete, but contends. But while Story soaks in what could be his final moments at home in Colorado, not everyone is ready to let go.
“Whenever I think about that possibility (of Story playing his final games with the Rockies), I immediately stop thinking that thought, because I don't want to think about it,” manager Bud Black said after Tuesday’s game. “A lot of things can change in a drop of a hat. But it was good to see the homer, obviously, and it was good to see the reaction from the fans.
“Bottom line, the guys love Trevor. The coaches love Trevor. The trainer, the strength guys, everybody downstairs here loves Trevor.”
His teammates love him so much they let him run out onto the field to start the final game all by himself, giving him a moment alone on stage, as uncomfortable as it may have made the quiet leader.
The fans greeted his first at-bat with a sustained ovation, many standing in the first inning of a meaningless mid-week game in late September with two teams out of contention and one icon running out of mile-high moments.
Fans got what they came for and more Wednesday night, as the game took nearly six hours to complete, with a two-hour rain delay amidst plunging temperatures. Story went 4-for-4 with a walk and scored three runs, including both the winning run and the final run in the Rockies’ 10-5 victory. After the team completed its traditional walk around the park to thank the fans after the final home game of the season, Story got emotional talking about teammates like Charlie Blackmon who influenced him tremendously throughout his career, and the influence he himself had on helping players like Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers establish themselves in the big leauges, but he ultimately felt like he went out the way he wanted to.
“I'm pretty satisfied with it,” Story told the Planet in his final post-game interview at home in Colorado. “Obviously, I wish I would have hit the ball a little harder and done some more damage, but I'm never going to feel bad or apologize about the hits. Just a crazy game, honestly, the way it all unfolded and how the hits happened. I’m really satisfied, if it is the last time, to be able to get on base five times and walk that last at bat. I know it's not the cool thing to do, but I felt like I was in game mode the whole time, and that's what I wanted to do. I just kind of took what the game was giving me. With the fans and going around and seeing their faces and how they stuck through it on a rainy day and a tough game to sit through. All in all, I would say I was very satisfied with it, and most of all, we won. That's what it's all about. I'm happy that, if it was the last one, we won.”