Troy Tulowitzki’s journey from Rocky Mountain star to Texas teacher
Troy Tulowitzki played his last Major League game on April 3, 2019 at Yankee Stadium. He went 0-for-1 for the Yankees against Detroit.
Tulo was 34 years old.
One might be tempted to think that Tulowitzki might be lost, adrift. After all, the former Rockies shortstop was a tantalizing all-star five times, but a string of injuries, especially to the legs, cut short his stellar career.
But there is no bitterness. He still has baseball.
“Right away the day I retired I knew what I wanted to do,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Texas. “I won’t say I wanted to retire then because I still loved playing football. Unfortunately my body did not allow me to continue playing, but my mind and spirit had to stay in the game. Because I love baseball so much and will always love it.
Tulo, being Tulo, always had a plan.
Even in 2007, when he helped lead the Rockies to their only World Series and placed second in voting for National League Rookie of the Year, he had a sense of what his long-term future would be like. After hitting 225 career home runs, he knew what he wanted to do after taking his last shot.
Meet Coach Tulowitzki.
“The day I announced my retirement, I had already decided that I wanted to start coaching at a great DI school,” he said. “My sales pitch for the college game was, ‘Look, I’ve never seen myself as a real talent. I’ve never been as good as A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez); it was not me.
“But because of all the work I did and how focused I was on my job, I really got better. I know how I got there, and that’s why I always thought coaching was for me.
Last week, USA Baseball honored Tulowitzki as Volunteer Coach of the Year for his work with the Collegiate National Team over the summer, and also for his involvement with top 13-and-under and 14-year-old players. and less of the athlete. Development program.
For the past two seasons, he has served as an unpaid volunteer assistant coach for the University of Texas. In 2021, Tulowitzki, who coaches hitters and infielders, helped the Longhorns to their first 50-game winning season since 2010. Texas is only one game away from the College World Series Finals.
In Tulowitzki’s case, the term “volunteer coach” is a misnomer. The intensity that was his hallmark with the Rockies is his hallmark with the Longhorns.
“He had high expectations as a player and he also has high expectations as a coach,” said Texas coach David Pierce. “He’s on top all the time. He didn’t come here just to be “around the game”. He is putting in long hours and he is totally committed. He has been a great addition to our staff. I never have to worry about whether infielders are working hard.
“There are a lot of times when I’ll be in the pen working with the pitchers and I know I don’t have to worry about the offensive end because I know Tulo and coach (Philip) Miller s ‘occupy it. “
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Under Miller and Tulowitzki, Texas recorded its highest batting average (0.275) and most homers (68) since 2010 last year.
“Tulo added his mental advantage to our game,” said Longhorns junior wide receiver Silas Ardoin, son of former Rockies wide receiver Danny Ardoin. “He’s really great on the mental side of the shot.
“His big thing is competition. He doesn’t have a crazy hitting philosophy, but when we get into the box we know it’s just us against the pitcher and he helps us give the edge we need.
Ryan Spilborghs, Tulowitzki’s 2006-2011 teammate in Colorado, is not surprised that Tulo’s first foray into training was a success.
“He’s always had that in him because he’s a baseball rat,” said Spilborghs, now Rockies analyst for AT&T SportsNet. “He loved learning from other players and he loved the shortstop profession.”
Spilborghs also marks Tulowitzki’s three seasons at Long Beach State, a school that produced infielders Bobby Crosby, Evan Longoria, Matt Duffy and current Rockie Garrett Hampson, among others.
“The Long Beach coaches worked on Tulo’s (butt) and taught him how to play the game the right way,” said Spilborghs. “The one that was playing shortstop for Long Beach State, you just drafted him because you knew he was going to be good. I mean they’re called the ‘Dirtbags’ for a reason.
“I mean, if you take a guy like Tulo, who’s got talent, and you constantly challenge him to improve, you’re going to get something special. Long Beach put that in him. And Tulo is arguably the most competitive guy you’ll ever meet.
When Tulowitzki was called up from the Rockies in late 2006, he learned from Rocky Mountain veterans Todd Helton and Matt Holiday. It wasn’t long before Tulowitzki became a dominant presence in the clubhouse. He remained that way until he was traded from the Rockies to Toronto in a successful deadline deal in 2015.
“As a teammate you knew there was something special about him,” said Spilborghs. “If he wasn’t playing baseball, you knew he was going to coach him, manage him or be the general manager.”
Tulo’s star pupil was Nolan Arenado.
During Arenado’s 2013 rookie season, Tulowitzki constantly rode on Arenado, asking him, “What are you doing to improve yourself today? If Arenado was relaxing in his locker, Tulowitzki would tell him he should use his time studying the video or working on his swing.
In 2011, Arenado, only 20, knew he had to make big changes if he was to grow from a bright prospect to a great player. Of course, Arenado hit 0.298 with 20 home runs at High-A Modesto. And yes, he hit .388 and took home MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League, beating future superstars Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
But the Rockies third baseman was overweight, a bit slow on his feet and needed a mentor.
In December 2011, Arenado traveled to Las Vegas for “Camp Tulo,” where Tulowitzki set up his own offseason baseball complex – and played the role of drill sergeant. He did Arenado Grounders until Arenado’s quadruple muscles were shaking. The duo spent hours in the batting cage. They talked about baseball over dinner.
“It changed my life and who I was as a player,” Arenado recalls. “I was out of shape. I wasn’t eating well, and once I started doing this a lot changed.
Arenado also took up the challenge of Tulowitzski.
“I made a bet with Tulo that he would give me big league sticks if I came to spring training at 210 pounds or less,” Arenado recalls. “I got into spring training and he weighed me in and I got to 209. So I had six big league bats.
“It was a big deal for me because the major league lumber is a big deal compared to the minor league bats.”
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Tulowitzki sees himself as a motivator and a teacher.
“If you look back in the Rockies, there have always been a lot of kids I’ve been helping,” he said. “Whether it’s Nolan or DJ (LeMahieu) or Trevor (Story)…
Tulowitzki, however, recognizes that he is a passionate teacher.
“I wasn’t always the nicest guy or someone who was going to pat you on the back all the time,” he said. “It was more of an intense conversation where I challenged you. But I felt like that was how I got along with guys and that’s how I worked with guys like Nolan, to help them take the next step.
Pierce added, “Tulo is pretty straightforward and honest. His words have meaning and he understands hard work. He had high expectations as a player and he also has high expectations as a coach.
Ardoin called Tulowitzki “brutally honest,” but added: “We like it. He gets right to the point and gets to the heart of the matter. It helps us get better.
In Texas, Tulowitzki not only works with hitters and infielders on a day-to-day basis, but also with opponents’ game plans.
“My favorite part is developing young children and showing them the ins and outs of the game,” he said. “My title is volunteer assistant, but I do a lot more than that. “
Tulowitzki hits the cage and often takes the infield with his players.
“I try to stay in shape and I’m really active with them,” he said. “I think I can show the guys what I want them to do. Some of our guys are visual learners and it helps a lot for them to see tips and technique. “
Tulowitzki has been nibbled by major league teams over possible training or front office work. For now, at least, he’s content to coach the Longhorns. He and his wife, Danyll, are busy raising their son, Taz, who will soon be 8 years old. Being an assistant in the college game is a good choice.
Bigger things, however, are in its future.
He left the door open to a career in professional baseball, but Pierce and Ardoin believed Tulowitzki would be a great college head coach.
“If I’m respected enough in the industry, it could happen,” Tulowitzki said. “I just watch him like I did as a player. You just do your job every day and then if you have an opportunity that you like, then you think about it.
Pierce predicts that Tulowitzki’s passion and work ethic will take him far.
“I think he can do whatever he wants at the college or professional level. He’s so good, ”he said. “If one of my full-time assistants took a job elsewhere, Tulo would be the first guy I asked if he wanted to take on that role.”