DENVER -- If you asked just about any Colorado Rockies fan the names of the top outfielders in the early history of the team, Mike Kingery likely wouldn't come up.
Kingery never played a full season for the Rockies or any other team in his 10 big league seasons, but he was a key cog in Colorado's 1995 playoff team as well as the one the year before that gave fans in the Mile High City hope that their new MLB team would soon be a contender.
The 1994 season in particular was special for Kingery. Up until that point, the then-33-year-old native of St. James, Minn. owned a career .252/.309/.360 batting line. But something clicked that year.
Kingery finished the strike-shortened season with a .349/.402/.532 line in 346 plate appearances, giving the Rockies a legitimate center field after the club put up with poor production from Alex Cole and Chris Jones at the position during the prior season. As is the case with most Rockies hitters during that era, it would be easy to dismiss Kingery's strong batting line as a byproduct of playing half of his games in Denver.
For Kingery, that couldn't be further from the truth.
"I guess my line drives traveled too far here," Kingery joked on Sunday during the 20th anniversary reunion of the Rockies team that christened Coors Field in 1995. That sounds like as good of an explanation as any for the bizarre season Kingery had 21 years ago.
Kingery was good in Denver, posting a .333/.381/.507 line at Mile High Stadium. He was a complete beast on the road, putting up an absurd .362/.419/.552 line in 158 plate appearances. In the 22-year history of the franchise, only three players -- Larry Walker, Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez -- posted a better single-season sOPS+ than Kingery's 158 that season.
"I didn’t really see the ball great at Mile High," Kingery explained. "I don’t know what the reason was. I tried to be the same both home and away."
Things normalized a bit the following year, when Kingery posted a 109 sOPS+ at Coors Field and teamed with Roberto Mejia to hit the first back-to-back home runs in the park's history. But he still found a way to produce at a near league-average rate on the road, too, in 1995. A solid contact rate and plus plate discipline skills didn't hurt.
"Walt Weiss, Joe Girardi and I, we were way more important to our team when we were on the road," Kingery said. "I was more defense, speed and contact, which translated a little bit here but not as well as it did on the road."
After he helped the Rockies reached the 1995 postseason, Kingery and the club parted ways. He played one more year in the big leagues before hanging up the cleats at the age of 35 to focus on his family and another fitting post-playing career endeavor.
"I own a baseball school, so I do lots of baseball lessons," Kingery said. He opened Solid Foundation Baseball School -- the logo for which is predominately purple, of course -- in 1997, the year after he retired. Kingery's also a bit of a musician.
"Our family sings about 50 times a year," Kingery added. "We have a gospel/bluegrass group, so we’ve got the fiddles, banjos, mandolins, guitars and a big upright bass. We enjoy doing that."
The group, completely composed of members of the Kingery family, can be heard here.
Kingery's impressive road performance in 1994 will forever be one of the coolest anecdotes about the Rockies, a team that, throughout its history, has been littered with players who have struggled to perform away from Denver. Kingery provided some advice for the current set of players affected by the phenomenon.
"I tried really hard to be level-headed every day and keep the same emotional keel," Kingery said. "I'm not saying that I perfected it, but that was my goal at the time."