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The Rockies' Lucky No. 7
TOM VERDUCCI
March 31, 2008
How great was the '05 draft? Six teams passed on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki—and even after he led Colorado to the World Series, only one of them regrets it
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March 31, 2008

The Rockies' Lucky No. 7

How great was the '05 draft? Six teams passed on shortstop Troy Tulowitzki—and even after he led Colorado to the World Series, only one of them regrets it

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Baseball America rated Mike Pelfrey and Luke Hochevar as the top pitchers in the draft, but both were being advised by agent Scott Boras. That ruled them out as too hard to sign. "Romero was aggressive, had a really good breaking ball and changeup, above-average fastball, was a great competitor," Ricciardi says. "All the things you saw in Tulowitzki as an everyday player, you saw in [Romero] as a pitcher. And being lefthanded, that was huge."

Says Boston G.M. Theo Epstein, "I thought Romero was as sure a bet as any college pitcher."

Tulowitzki, watching the draft unfold on the Internet, saw Toronto select his former roommate. Romero, 23, is 8--13 with a 4.19 ERA in three minor league seasons, none higher than Double A.

"Totally my call," Ricciardi says. "Right now we made the wrong choice. I've been in [talent] evaluation my whole life. It happens. When we were in Oakland, we took [Ariel] Prieto over [Todd] Helton. Romero hasn't come as fast as the other guys, but it's really only his third year. We still like him."

Last winter Tulowitzki took a vacation to Las Vegas with his friend Romero. Like Prieto and Helton—or Sam Bowie and Michael Jordan—they will always be connected. "Tulo," Romero told him, "the fans in the minors are all over me. They say, 'We should have picked Tulowitzki!'"

The Rockies were next. Seattle, Milwaukee and Toronto had passed on Tulo witzki in part because of their organizational needs. "After what happened [in '05]," says one American League G.M., "I'm really convinced you should never let positional needs influence you. Just take the best player."

Tulowitzki was the right player for Colorado. And it was not just because the Rockies needed a shortstop. It was also because of what had happened at 1:30 a.m. on a Friday six months earlier, when police in Lakewood, Colo., pulled over a white Cadillac Escalade.

IN THE SUMMER of 2001, after Long Beach State found out that its top shortstop prospect had failed to qualify academically, Troy Buckley, a Long Beach State coach, thought of the tall, athletic kid from Fremont High in Sunnyvale, whom he'd watched over the summer. Tulowitzki signed to play for the Dirtbags in November, and the following month Buckley went to see his new recruit play basketball.

"His team was outmanned, but the one thing I did see was that he ran his team," says Buckley, now pitching coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates. "After that I called the head coach and said, 'This guy's not just a special player. This guy is going to be a billboard for the program. A leader.'"

Colorado scouts, including Dave Snow, a former coach at Long Beach State, followed Tulowitzki closely in the spring of 2005. They watched practices, asked questions. "They were in the process of turning the organization around without us knowing it," Buckley says. "They were after quality people."

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