In case you missed it, the Rockies traded Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night around 8pm MT, was made official on Monday around the same time. It’s a move that has, rightfully, distressed many Rockies fans and we have all been finding ways to cope with one of the most devastating losses in franchise history. As Rockies fans come to grips with what happens next, we thought it would be nice to take a moment to reflect on Arenado’s time as a Rockie. We were so privileged to witness his awesomeness day in and day out and it’s only fair that we take a moment to remember the good times we had with him at the hot corner. The Purple Row staff offers their memories below.
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My favorite memory of Nolan Arenado was an interview I had with him in 2018. It was the first time I’d ever spoken to him and I was starstruck, to say the least. My article was about Rockies players who had played musical instruments growing up, and I didn’t expect to get very many good responses. A few of the players mentioned dabbling in trumpet or drums in elementary or middle school, but Nolan said that he played the clarinet for two years. I was honestly surprised, but we talked for a good ten minutes or so about his experiences and why he hadn’t continued into middle school. We also spoke just about musical skills in general, and how he was fascinated by people who play guitar or piano (I can relate). It was a really fun interview that allowed me to get more comfortable around the players, and I was able to use that information to recruit some beginning band kids — even in Phoenix, the kids know who Nolan Arenado is.
You can read that article here.
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The play that stays with me isn’t a gravity-defying Arenado catch — though those always feel like moments in which the laws of science have been defied. Rather, I think about an April 14, 2019, game against the Giants. Germán Márquez was taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning. The Rockies had hit an eight-game skid, and they needed a win. Márquez was getting it done.
And then, Evan Longoria hit a single. Well, watch for yourself:
Nolan Arenado, despite being Nolan Arenado, couldn’t get to the ball. But the thing that stayed with me is his action after that, throwing his glove into the dirt with frustration. Later, Arenado said, “I just wanted him to get it so bad . . . . He pitched so good and this year has been so tough, it was just good to see him go out and pitch that well. He did an unbelievable job.”
That play is never going to show up on a Best-of-Arenado highlight reel, and it didn’t help him win a Gold Glove (though he did), but it is a reminder that Arenado was always about his teammates and the game.
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The highlight I will forever associate with Nolan is “the tarp catch.” Just by the fact that when you say “the tarp catch”, and most baseball fans know what play you’re talking about, makes it an all-time Rockies play and really an all-time defensive play. It’s the perfect personification for who Nolan is as a player and competitor. It’s unbelievable but it’s so Nolan Arenado.
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I’m a huge memorabilia/autograph collector. So when the opportunity presented itself to meet Nolan Arenado during an autograph signing in 2018, I couldn’t pass it up. Besides getting a game ball (with the Father’s Day blue stitches) signed from the walk-off cycle game, I had another grand plan — to get a picture of my own Nolan (not named for Arenado, but a great namesake, nonetheless) with THE Nolan so I could hopefully get it autographed for him down the road.
Well, this was the result of that attempt...
My Nolan obviously wasn’t too happy (which gives “Nolan being Nolan” an entirely different meaning to me), but Arenado was a great sport. And it’s a great story that my son and I will always have regarding an interaction with one of my all-time favorite athletes.
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I know the walk-off cycle, bloody face Nolan is a favorite of many and it’s one thousand percent mine as well. I have been to lots of games — from the MLB to the NFL to the NBA to the NHL — and witnessing that moment from section 323 on Father’s Day with my dad is still a moment that I can’t find words to describe. It still makes me cry and smile simultaneously just thinking about it. The light blue hats and stripes. The bottom of the ninth. One out, runners on the corners. The Giants meet on the mound to try to game plan for Arenado. You think about the possibility in the back of your mind, remembering how Nolan hit a triple to start his day and has since dropped in a single and double, but you don’t dare say it out loud. You can’t jinx this. Mark Melancon releases the pitch and before it gets there, you already know it’s time to fire up the fountains. The crack of the bat was absolutely perfect. The crowd roars. I was yelling and jumping, unaware of anything but the sheer joy of witnessing a super-human feat. I only stopped to avoid plummeting down the steep stairs of the third level. I high-fived my dad and couldn’t stop smiling. I lost my voice. The adrenaline didn’t stop for hours. Nolan may not be a Rockie anymore, but I will always have that memory.
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In the popular 1987 graphic novel (and 2019 HBO miniseries) Watchmen, the only superhero with actual superpowers is Dr. Manhattan. The accidents that turned him into a god-like being caused him to experience time differently. Whereas you and I experience time linearly, Dr Manhattan experiences his whole life simultaneously. He's a child immigrating to America, an adult receiving his powers, and a demigod interacting with other people all at the same time.
Wow I am of course a finite human being and do not experience time like Dr. Manhattan, it does approximate how I think about Nolan's time with the Rockies. It's hard to single any one thing out when I still see him as the first prospect who was "my guy" in the minors. I see him nervously chomping gum in LA during his debut week. I see him anxiously learning everything he can from Troy Tulowitzki. I see him develop that sweet power stroke. I see him snagging fly balls off of tarps, corralling line drives from behind him, hurling bullets to first base from the seat of his pants. I see him bloodied and screaming on Father's Day, my first as a father. I see him with his hands in the air on a cold Chicago night in October with the giddiest grin I've ever seen on his face. I see him crying at salt River Fields, announcing his extension. I see him making impossible plays at third and hitting gargantuan homers onto the concourse at Coors.
But I also see him getting frustrated with losing. I see him giving short and pointed feedback to the Rockies front office. I see him getting hurt early in the abbreviated 2020 season. I see him struggle at the plate while still being perfection at the hot corner. Now I see him wearing Cardinals uniforms.
I can't separate any of it out because it is all wonderful an impossible that he was my third baseman. I see it all and it is beautiful as much as it is heartbreaking.
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Arenado debuted in 2013; I was an aspiring 16-year-old high school pitcher at the time, catching Rockies action as much as I could between my own baseball schedule. I fondly remember my favorite Rockies pitchers growing up (Brian Fuentes, Ubaldo Jiménez, Huston Street), but as my knowledge of the game grew, it was often Arenado’s defensive capabilities that motivated me to pitch at the highest level possible. When I knew an infielder would have their pitchers’ back like Arenado did for the Rockies, it encouraged me to bring my best for my own teammates.
His collection of defensive work, particularly early in his career, is what I consider my fondest memory of Arenado. I often glue my eyes on pitchers during games (even while a ball is in play elsewhere), but the presence of a perennial Platinum Glove winner on the left side of the infield was plenty for me to think less like an exclusive pitcher and more like a collective ballplayer.
His tenacity each day inspired me to think how I could pitch more effectively for the fielders around me, and his constant drive is something I strived to embody in my own career. I’m thrilled the Rockies had such a star at that point in my baseball development.
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What are some of your favorite Nolan Arenado memories? Sound off in the comments below!