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Sports

'His Last Hurrah': Monday's Home Run Derby May Have Been An Unofficial Farewell To Rockies Shortstop Trevor Story

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Alana Schreiber
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KUNC
Colorado Rockies Trevor Story waits on deck to practice for the Home Run Derby behind Mets first baseman Pete Alonso on July 12, 2021.

During Monday evening's Home Run Derby at Coor's Field, no player was more lauded than Rockies shortstop Trevor Story. With a fast-approaching contract expiration date — and faster approaching trade deadline — that may have been his last big stint with the only Major League club he's ever known. KUNC's Alana Schreiber attended the derby and spoke with Story, along with the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders and Rockies scorekeeper Jillian Geib, about the significance of this event.

TRANSCRIPT

Alana Schreiber: If you flew into Denver last weekend, chances are Trevor Story welcomed you, not in person, of course, but over the airport loudspeaker.

Trevor Story: Welcome baseball fans, this is Rocky shortstop and two-time All-Star Trever Story. As host of the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star festivities, we hope you enjoy your visit to beautiful Colorado and the Mile High City.

Schreiber: The irony is, Trevor Story wasn't even set to play in the All-Star Game. Each year, players are voted in by the fans. And this year he didn’t make the cut. But he did get a chance to shine on his home turf during Monday night's Home Run Derby.

In the derby, eight of the top sluggers in baseball face off mano a mano. Each player is paired with another competitor, and whoever hits more homers in the first round moves on to the next. On the morning of the derby, players gathered at individual tables to talk to the press and story was swarmed by reporters, all wanting to know how this underdog was strategizing for the competition.

Story: To hit more home runs than everybody. So I know it's pretty simple, but yeah, I'm going to try to try to keep my effort level down. I know it's going to be really high when it comes time, but, I want to use my timeouts, right, really not overexert myself. To where I get tired.

Schreiber: But for Story and for Rockies fans, this year's Home Run Derby had an added weight. It might be one of his final appearances as a Rocky.

Patrick Saunders: He is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the 2021 season.

Schreiber: That's Patrick Saunders, who covers the Rockies for The Denver Post.

Saunders: Knowing that the Rockies are not a contending team if they traded before the July 30 trade deadline, they’d get some young prospects in return. This time of year, teams have to consider whether they are buyers or whether they are sellers. And in most estimations, the Rockies are sellers, or at least they should be.

Schreiber: So if the Rockies want to make some money off their star shortstop, they'll need to trade him, and fast. And if they don't trade him, Saunders thinks it's unlikely he'll sign with the Rockies again. Either way, Story's days on the Rockies seem to be numbered. And of course, the looming potential trade isn't lost on the player himself.

Story: I mean, obviously, it's a possibility, right? You know, I can't really say for sure what I think, but those decisions are all out of my hands, so, I guess.

Schreiber: So would the derby tonight kind of be like your swan song?

Story: You know, in the case that I'm not a Rocky, then yeah, you know? But yeah, it's something I want to do for the fans.

Schreiber: Leading up to the night, Story had his teammates, both current and former, to support him, including Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado.

Story: He's such a great player and a good friend of mine. He's in the locker right next to me like it was back in the day. So it feels like he’s back.

Schreiber: Arenado was a star player for the Rockies from 2013 to 2020, but in a shocking move for management, was traded in the off-season. Between the loss of Arenado and now the potential loss of Story, it's unclear how much more Rockies fans can take. Once again, Patrick Saunders.

Saunders: In the economic realities of baseball and trying to build a team for the future, it makes complete sense to try to trade Trevor Story. But the average fan would look at this and they would say, “Wow, we traded Nolan Arenado, who some consider may be the greatest player in franchise history, and now we're going to trade our other star? It doesn't make any sense.”

Schreiber: But at least for this week, fans got to see the two players reunited in Denver.

By the time the derby began Monday evening, it was pretty clear who the favorites were. There was Shohei Ohtani, the star pitcher for the Angels, who's also a slugging designated hitter, leading the league with 33 home runs. To understand how rare it is to have a player equally talented in offense and defense, think of it like a soccer goalie who's also a lead goal scorer. Then there was Joey Gallo of the Rangers. He's more of a hot-streak player with the second most home runs this season. And of course, Pete Alonso of the Mets. He only has seven home runs this year, but won the derby in 2019 and was looking for a repeat. So when it came to likely winners, Trevor Story was far from the favorite. Yet on Monday night, he was undoubtedly the fan favorite.

Cheering down the first baseline was Jilian Geib. As an official scorekeeper for the Rockies, she spends most of the games in the press box. But Monday night she was in the stands with the rest of the fans.

Jillian Geib: I don't have to be here tonight. I'm not working. I'm not on the clock. But there's no way I would miss it. Like no way.

Schreiber: Who are you rooting for tonight?

Geib: I'm rooting for Trevor, hometown hero. It would be so great if he won it. I want that for him.

Schreiber: When Story came up to bat, the energy was high. He dazzled the crowd by cranking out home runs that soared into the stands on a rainbow-like arc. And in between hits, he got a special visitor at the plate. Once again, Patrick Saunders.

Saunders: One of the cool things of the night, I thought, was when Nolan Arenado was on the field. He was not in the Home Run Derby, but came up to Trevor and was kind of consoling him and then turned to the fans and waved his arms and tried to get the fans really into pumping up the volume for Trevor Story. The two are very good friends, and it was really a cool moment to see Nolan Arenado really reach out to his former fan base to pump up Trevor Stroy. I thought that was a really cool moment.

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Alana Schreiber
Colorado Rockies Trevor Story in the Home Run Derby on July 12, 2021.

Schreiber: And against all odds, Story did it. With 20 runs, he beat his competitor, Joey Gallo in round one. And the crowd loved it.

Saunders: He did outstanding. He hit the second longest home run of the night, 518 feet.

Schreiber: Ultimately, Trevor Story didn't win. The title went to reigning champ Pete Alonso. But the night didn't really feel like a competition, more just a celebration of baseball. Again, Rockies scorekeeper Jillian Geib.

Geib: The coolest part about it is there's so many different fans, like there's so many different kinds of fans, so many different allegiances I guess I would say. Everybody is just baseball fans that's the coolest part.

Schreiber: The fans weren't just rooting for their own hometown heroes, they were cheering for every home run that disappeared into the night sky. Scanning the crowd, you could see jerseys representing every team in the league. Not surprisingly, one of the most popular jerseys was Rockies No. 27, Trevor Story. For Patrick Saunders, it seemed like kind of a sendoff.

Saunders: I do think there was some emotion. There's some sentimentality from the fans thinking, yeah, this could be his last hurrah and it was their chance to show their appreciation to a really good shortstop and a really good person. And I think Trevor felt that, too. I'm sure he was nervous. He actually told me so, for a couple of reasons. One, just being on that stage in the Home Run Derby is a big deal. But also I'm sure he felt the pressure of the fact that his days as Rocky might be — and I emphasize "might be" — coming to an end here in the next few weeks. All the way around it was pressure packed night for Trevor Story, but he came through with flying colors, no doubt.

Schreiber: While the ending of Trevor's Story's story is still yet to be written, his contributions to the team will not soon be forgotten. While he might soon leave the only team he's ever known, at least he'll go out swinging.

This story is part of KUNC's Colorado Edition for July 14. You can find the full episode here.

Related Content
  • On Jan. 29, the Colorado Rockies agreed to hand over star player Nolan Arenado, and $50 million, to the St. Louis Cardinals. Colorado Edition producer Alana Schreiber talked to Denver Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla to better understand how the loss of Arenado comes at the end of a long line of poor and petty trade decisions in the 30-year history of the Rockies franchise.