Men of Troy: Tulowitzki leads Rockies
Shortstop a leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year
Rookie Troy Tulowitzki bounced around the clubhouse like a little kid on Monday night, hugging teammates and drenching them in champagne while celebrating the Rockies' 9-8 victory over the Padres in the Wild Card tiebreaker.When R. Kelly's "I'm a flirt," blared through the clubhouse speakers -- Tulowitzki's song of choice when he comes to bat -- he danced and sang the lyrics with his champagne bottle in hand. Barely old enough to drink at 22, Tulowitzki has become the Rockies' inspirational leader on the field this season, and he's flirting with National League Rookie of the Year honors. When a Colorado pitcher is struggling, as Jorge Julio was in the 13th inning on Monday night, Tulowitzki makes sure to give a word of encouragement. He made it known early this year that he'd never played on a losing team and he wasn't about to start. "I came in and I liked our team, and I don't think many people did," Tulowitzki said. "I believed, the whole team started believing, and look where we're at now." The Rockies are there -- in the playoffs -- with many thanks to their shortstop. He's put up the numbers, hitting .291, setting a National League record for rookie shortstops with 24 homers and 99 RBIs, and he's also producing when it matters. On Monday night, Tulowitzki made sure to leave his fingerprints on the Rockies' victory. He went 4-for-7, had two doubles, a triple and drove in the first run for the Rockies in the 13th. "I was just looking to take a real good at-bat and not let my team down," he said. "I was determined. I wasn't going to get out, and I was going to hit a ball hard. Luckily, I found a gap, and the other guys followed up. What a win." While Tulowitzki's biggest contribution on Monday night was at the plate, he's probably made the biggest impact in the field this season, where he anchors a Rockies defense that set a Major League record with a .98925 fielding percentage. Tulowitzki led all Major League shortstops with a .987 fielding percentage, 834 total chances, 262 putouts, 561 assists and 114 turned double plays. Even more impressive than Tulowitzki's fielding stats are the actual plays he makes in the field. His powerful throws have been known to give first baseman Todd Helton a sore hand and he regularly makes leaping, off-balance throws across his body -- as he did in the ninth inning on Monday night on Adrian Gonzalez's one-hopper in the hole.
Tulowitzki's near perfection in the field is no accident. He gets on the treadmill and runs after a game when he's made an error, and practices the improbable plays he makes with regularity every day in batting practice."A lot of people -- if they make errors -- they're fine with it, and you shouldn't be fine with it," he said. "Not only is it hurting your team, you don't want yourself to perform that way." When the then last-place Rockies weren't performing to Tulowitzki's liking in mid-May, the rookie made it known he wasn't going to allow the poor performance to continue. It didn't. And now the Rockies and their rookie shortstop are dancing their way to the playoffs.
C.J. Moore is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.