MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Tulo back in Colorado with fond memories

Blue Jays shortstop cheered in first at-bat against Rockies

Tulo back in Colorado with fond memories

DENVER -- Troy Tulowitzki has moved on. He is a Toronto Blue Jay. And Tulowitzki is happy with the way things turned out.

There is, however, a part of Tulowitzki that still bleeds Rockies purple. It always will.

And it was so evident on Monday night in the Rockies' 9-5 victory over the Blue Jays at Coors Field, the first time Tulowitzki had walked into the ballpark since before his trade to Toronto last July 28 that was announced with Colorado playing the Cubs in Chicago.

"I have mixed emotions," Tulowitzki said. "It's like making my big league debut over again. I played here a long time. I gave it everything I had. I have some fond memories."

And Rockies fans haven't forgotten.

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When public address announcer Reed Saunders, in announcing the Blue Jays' lineup, proclaimed, "Hitting sixth, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki," an admiring cheer came from the stands. When he was announced to hit in the top of the second the fans gave him a standing ovation. Tulowitzki responded with a tip of his batting helmet.

"Honestly I didn't think there was really any doubt that I would get [cheered]," Tulowitzki said after the game. "I felt like when I was here, I had a good relationship with the fans. The whole Tulo chant thing, I remember seeing a lot of jerseys. I knew they were going to be good to me."

Tulo on return to Coors Field

But when Tulowitzki was called out on strikes on the eighth pitch thrown in his at-bat by rookie Jon Gray, there was a cheer from the crowd. They are, after all, Rockies fans.

And Tulowitzki is a Blue Jay now, having quickly became engrained in that franchise's history by helping Toronto down the stretch claim the American League East, and advance to the postseason before being eliminated in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series by the eventual World Series champion Royals.

"Without him last year, we don't get [to the postseason]," manager John Gibbons said. "Eliminate the offense. What he did defensively for us made all the difference in the world."

That's nothing Colorado fans didn't already know. That's a big part of why the chants of "Tulo, Tulo, Tulo" are forever a part of Coors Field lore.

That's why Tulowitzki was appreciative of what Monday's game meant.

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"I think we both should enjoy it," he said in reference to the fans. "I am going to enjoy them. I never got a chance to play here [after the trade]. I was on the road when I got traded. For them to get a chance to see me play, see how I aged, see difference in my game, it will be fun."

It was fun for Rockies fans and Tulowitzki for nearly 10 seasons of him wearing purple. Colorado was, after all, where his professional career began.

The Rockies made Tulowitzki the seventh selection in the 2005 Draft, and two years later, as a rookie, he was a key part of one of the most dramatic late-season charges in baseball history. The Rockies won 14 of their final 15 regular-season games in 2007, including a one-game tiebreaker with the Padres, and then swept the Phillies in the National League Division Series and the D-backs in the NLCS in advancing to the World Series for the only time in franchise history.

"When I got drafted here, people said, 'These guys are terrible,'" Tulowitzki said. "They said, 'You don't want to be a Rockie. You are just going to go there and lose.' That immediately lit some fire in me. I wanted it to be cool to be a Rockie, for free agents to want to sign here, to be a place you can win. More than anything to make it cool to be a Rockies is what I hope helped change about the organization."

Next to Todd Helton, Tulowitzki is the biggest homegrown product in franchise history, one of only four players to appear in more than 1,000 games in a Colorado uniform, and the all-time leader in games played at shortstop (1,033).

And there is a part of his legacy that remains -- third baseman Nolan Arenado and Tulowitzki's heir at shortstop, Trevor Story, two young players that he introduced to pro ball.

"It means I will be a good coach one day, because these guys have really taken off and are some of best players in the game," Tulowitzki said with a smile. "I'm really happy to see these guys doing what they do. I brought both to my house [in Las Vegas] in the offseason -- Nolan multiple times, Trevor once.

"Both great kids with their head where it needs to be. It's exciting to watch. It's a first time for me, where I'm on other end and seeing guys I took under my wing such as Todd did to me and Matt Holliday. To see them have success makes it seem that much more special."

Arenado was able to play alongside Tulowitzki the past two seasons. Story, meanwhile, stepped into the shortstop job that once belong to Tulowitzki, taking advantage to jump-start his career during the spring when veteran Jose Reyes was suspended and eventually released because of domestic violence issues.

Tulowitzki? The initial admission of his disappointment over how the trade was handled has moved into the background.

"It shouldn't be a big story like he's still bitter," Tulowitzki said. "I'm not bitter. I'm in a good place on a good team. We should all move on. The Rockies got good players for me, and hopefully I do my thing in Toronto and we can win a World Series."

Tulowitzki is ready to turn the page.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.