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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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The white Escalade in question was driven by Rockies pitcher Denny Neagle. With his belt undone. With a woman who would be cited for prostitution in the passenger seat. Neagle was cited for misdemeanor soliciting prostitution, and three days later the Rockies terminated his contract. (After disputing the termination, Neagle and the team reportedly settled for $16 million.)

By the spring of '05 the Rockies were scouting character as carefully as they would bat speed and arm strength. The organization's scouting manual included preferred character traits. Scouting reports included sections devoted to the subject.

Tulowitzki had just the kind of makeup they were seeking. "Until you get to know him, you can't do it justice," O'Dowd says. "What the scouts said was accurate, or probably even understated."

Says New York Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer, "He's like DiMaggio, who said some people might get to see him play only once, so he owed it to them to play hard every game. That's what it looks like with Tulowitzki."

It did not take long for Tulowitzki to make an impact. Last May 21, Colorado lost 6--5 at Arizona and fell to 18--27. As the players trudged back to the clubhouse, somebody sent equipment bouncing off walls as he yelled, "This team is too good to be playing this [bleep]!" It was Tulo witzki, the .258-hitting rookie who had just played career game number 66. That was the moment the Rockies became his team. From then on they went 72--46.

"There are days in the course of a long year where you come in with a low energy level," says Helton, the Rockies' 34-year-old first baseman. "It happens. But a few guys have the knack of getting your energy back up to where it should be just by being themselves. Troy's one of those guys. He picks us up, and it's all genuine."

Tulowitzki says, "You can make comments that will wake guys up. I'll pull guys aside and say, 'Hey, what were you thinking?' on a certain play or, 'That ball that was in the gap, you settled for a single and maybe you want to stretch that into a double.'"

Last summer the Rockies brought their latest No. 1 pick, righthander Casey Weathers, to Denver for a look at Coors Field. Not only did Tulo witzki introduce himself in the clubhouse before a game, but he also invited Weathers to dinner that night, where he talked to him about what to expect as a No. 1 pick.

"We turned a corner as a franchise last year, and the biggest reason for that was Troy," O'Dowd says. "It's the single-minded focus he brought, that winning comes above everything else. He's one of those very rare players who makes players around him better."

THE ROCKIES were done with an early spring training workout in Tucson last month, and Tulowitzki, who likes being the first to arrive and the last to leave, was still in his gear, throwing batting practice to a kid in a black Rockies jersey under an endlessly beautiful Southwestern sky. Tulowitzki was 12 years old when he started watching Jeter in the World Series what seemed like every year. He understood that Jeter—like Russell, Magic, Messier and Montana—was defined more by his team's success than by his own numbers. That's the kind of player Troy wanted to be. His father, Ken, who delivers computer equipment for an electronics company, coached his son in Little League and helped stoke Troy's drive to get there.

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