CHICAGO -- The Colorado Rockies have had their share of good things happen in the opening weeks of the regular season. Nolan Arenado is beating people with his glove and his bat, with a quick six homers highlighted by his single-handedly beating the Cubs at the plate last Sunday with two of his blasts in a 2-0 victory. And rookie shortstop Trevor Story has ripped a quick eight home runs to introduce himself to the major leagues and make it clear that what might have been seen as an initial cameo before giving way to veteran Jose Reyes upon the latter’s return from his suspension is going to be a lot more than just that.
And perhaps more than any number of souvenirs air-mailed into the cheap seats, the left side of the Rockies infield is redefining the franchise and its clubhouse culture. But there’s still a healthy amount of respect for the examples of the recent past, as both Arenado and Story cite the positive impact from being around and playing with Troy Tulowitzki before the Rockies’ former franchise shortstop was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays last summer.
Arenado credits Tulo for helping him take his defensive responsibilities seriously, but Story is quick to add that some time spent during spring trainings past helped him as well.
“I got to be around Tulo a lot, too, and he helped me a lot,” Story said during the Rockies’ visit to Wrigley Field last weekend, before suggesting that his teammate at third base has taken up that role since the trade.
“A lot of that is on Nolan now, and it keeps rubbing off on me,” Story said. “I like to be around him as much as possible when we practice and when we work, and just pick his brain about defensive nuggets that he has for me.”
“I mean, I’m 25, and other than Story, I’m one of the young ones in here,” Arenado reflected on his birthday last Saturday. “Whatever I’ve learned, I try to help people out.
"Story’s got a pretty good head on his shoulders and he’s got a good routine,” Arenado went on to observe. “So [right now] there isn’t much there that I want to step in and say, because he’s doing a good job with that. On D, it’s been great -- I’ve been extremely comfortable with him over there. He does a great job, and we communicate pretty well. We’re getting better at that, but he’s got a lot of range. I feel like we can cover a lot of ground.”
Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich certainly is pleased by the dynamic and his club’s younger vibe with Story in the mix and a young veteran like Arenado filling more of the leading role on a roster that used to be defined by franchise greats Tulowitzki and, before him, first baseman Todd Helton.
“Nolan has been starting to step into that role more and more,” Bridich said. “There’s a lot of youthful energy there with those guys. So when a younger guy like Trevor Story or Cristhian Adames, Tony Wolters behind the plate at 23 years old, it helps to have those young, energetic people who are really focused on getting the most out of every day with a worker’s attitude and a positive attitude.
“These guys want to play and want to be in there every day. It’s not just Nolan or [Carlos Gonzalez] or anybody else who can carry that worker spirit; it’s got to be a lot of people. The more guys who get into that, the better. When some of your most talented players are like that, it’s a great thing.”
In terms of the process and the payoff, Bridich sounds very new-school in terms of how he thinks about his ballclub’s developing group dynamic and identity, noting, “The whole idea of having one captain or one clubhouse leader, it might be a little bit antiquated. Maybe it works for other teams, but it doesn’t work for us. We’re looking for communal leadership. Guys are going to be different -- they’re going to bring different things to that mixture.”
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.