Hope for the Colorado Rockies Springs Eternal

A What's So Funny special report from spring training in Tucson.

Then he mentions Joe Carter's winning blast against the Phillies in the 1993 World Series. "That's probably the one that sticks out the most," he says with a grin.

I ask him about the off-season, who he stays in touch with.

"A lot of us live in Denver, so I see a lot of these guys every day: Garret (Atkins), Cory (Sullivan), Jeff (Francis). Tulo lives there now, but he wasn't there much during the off-season. I talked to him most days, though. Spilly, too," he concludes, referring to Ryan Spilborghs.

photos by Holly Harris
Todd Helton, Matt Holliday and the rest of the Rockies are ready for business.
photos by Holly Harris
Todd Helton, Matt Holliday and the rest of the Rockies are ready for business.

I mention a quote he gave at the start of spring training about how nice it was to be back playing baseball after all the silly ways he and his teammates find to compete during the off-season. When I ask him to elaborate, Holliday talks about competitions in the weight room, pull-up battles, nights out bowling, video games and playing Ping-Pong in his basement. And as he's telling me this, I realize why so many people fell in love with this team: They're just a group of friends playing baseball together.

I once had a coach who said if he was offered a team of nine all-stars or a team of nine friends, he would take the nine friends every time. Camaraderie is not something that can be forced or faked, and there's no denying that the Colorado Rockies have it. It's incredibly rare in baseball to have a group of guys come up through the minors together — through overheated buses and shitty motels — and then stay together long enough to perform at the highest level the game allows. In an era of free-agency and arbitration, that just doesn't happen all that much. But it did for the Rockies, and they look poised to have it happen again.

When the Rockies were making their run last year and the press was suddenly paying attention and asking the players if they were surprised to be as far along as they were, the standard reply from virtually each one was that he wasn't surprised at all, that he believed in the abilities of his teammates long before anyone else was paying attention. If pressed, some players would go on to comment about how they loved the large turnout of fans, the newfound attention — but that really, they were simply playing for each other. Hearing Holliday talk about bullshitting with his boys in the off-season hammers this point home even more, and I ask if he's excited that the team is locking up most of the core guys for a while. Of course, he says, so I fire off my next doozy, a query developed in a post-T.G.I. Friday's stupor.

"The powers-that-be finally get around to making a movie about the 21-out-of-22 winning streak of the Colorado Rockies," I say. "Who plays Matt Holliday?"

Holliday marinates on this for a minute, then decides I need to ask his teammates. He calls over Cory Sullivan, who ponders the question.

"Well, if you want to go serious, you could get Vin Diesel," Sullivan says. "But do you ever really want Vin Diesel to play you?"

"What, are you kidding?" Holliday responds. "Vin Diesel would win an award for playing me."

"Or you could get Woody Harrelson on the juice," Sullivan offers. "That'd probably be pretty good."

I move on to Tulo. Rockies fans should be pleased — if not at all surprised — to hear that Troy Tulowitzki is all business. Aside from mentioning the possibility of some Britney Spears as walk-up music this season, he answers every question with professionalism and efficiency, staring directly at me and focusing on the task at hand. This is clearly the man you want playing shortstop for your team.

The sports memory that stands out most for Tulo is Kirk Gibson hitting his shot for the Dodgers against the A's, then hobbling around the bases pumping his fist. But this is not a good memory for Tulo. He grew up an A's fan, so it's a hard pill to swallow. He also vividly remembers the earthquake during the 1989 World Series.

"I lived right there in the Bay Area, and I'll never forget my dad carrying me out of the house during the World Series," he says. "It was vivid."

He was five.

I try to get Tulo talking about his recent purchase of the Glass House penthouse, but he hasn't spent much time there yet, so he doesn't have a lot to say about it. He does offer up a few spots where he likes to hang out downtown, though: Snooze, Sullivan's, the ChopHouse. But he says he's just as likely to enjoy some hole-in-the-wall joint.

I fire off another one.

"You're obviously a very competitive person, and I'm sure you want to top your last season," I say. "Does that mean that if you don't get two triple plays this year, it's pretty much a failure?"

"I'm going to go ahead and say that won't happen," Tulo says and laughs. "It would be amazing, but I'm not going to be disappointed if it doesn't."

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