Tulo, Blackmon have contrasting All-Star styles
Rockies shortstop is all business, while outfielder enjoys interacting on social media
MINNEAPOLIS -- Rockies four-time All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was everyone's go-to guy to help explain the Rockies' difficulties and how they affect his future.
During National League player interviews Monday, he diplomatically discussed the impact of Derek Jeter on him, and whether he had the wherewithal to handle being part of the generation to replace the Yankees' Captain as a face of Major League Baseball.
Rockies outfielder and first-time All-Star Charlie Blackmon rarely had more than three or four interviewers at a time. Noting the crowd at the table beside him, he positioned his smiling face with the throng around Tulowitzki in the background and shot a selfie.
The Rockies' All-Stars have contrasting styles.
Tulowitzki is all-ball. In Denver he prefers his fan interaction to come through his play. His face-to-face, picture-and-autograph dealings rarely come outside mandatory team functions. The celebrity-studded functions that surround All-Star weekend go on without him.
"You know me," Tulowitzki said. "The fun of coming to the All-Star Game is talking to the best hitters in the game. As far as all the other things that surround the game, I don't do that."
Blackmon loves the game every bit as much as Tulowitzki. That doesn't' stop him from not just having a Twitter account, but a persona -- @Chuck_Nazty, with a logo emphasizing his bushy beard serving as his profile pic. Here's an example:
Hey Thoreau, if you're trying to sound deep and meaningful, twitter isn't your medium. If I'm on twitter, I'm not looking for life's meaning- Charlie Blackmon (@Chuck_Nazty) July 2, 2014
After arriving in Minneapolis on Sunday night, he took in the VIP All-Star Bash featuring Nelly, B.o.B., Jermaine Dupri and Vice. But his star-gazing involved baseball.
"I met Frank Thomas, which was really cool," Blackmon said. "And it was weird. I saw [Pirates All-Star starter] Andrew McCutchen, and introduced myself. For a second I forgot that he knew who I was."
Blackmon is of the same baseball world as Tulowitzki, but he doesn't mind letting the world into his world.
"The game is way more fun when you're winning, when you're playing well and when you're producing, so I try to do everything I can to be in that position," Blackmon said. "That's the part I enjoy, when preparation becomes production.
"And then you can't forget we're playing a children's game. We get to run around and have the best job on the planet."
It just may be that Tulowitzki, who has never come anywhere close to social-media participation, has a bigger world to keep at bay.
Tulowitzki broke in with the Rockies in 2006, was a key player on the '07 National League champions and the '09 playoff squad. But it's been losing seasons since, with last-place finishes the last two years.
This year's Rockies are 40-55, and unless they get their stuff together, they are on the way to squandering a sublime season from Tulowitzki. He leads the NL in hitting (.345), on-base percentage (.435), slugging (.613) and OPS (1.048), and is tied with the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton for the lead in homers (21). Tulowitzki has said that if there isn't a turnaround, he'll talk to the Rockies at the end of the year and decide if he wants to push for a trade, but that hasn't stopped the questions that can be answered only by winning.
"More than anything, I want to be with a group of guys that are professionals that come to the field every single day to win," Tulowitzki said. "I'm not saying guys I play with don't, but at times, I have to work with younger guys and teach them how to win. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to play that role and guys knew what it took already. But that's my job right now, to teach these young guys."
But even a leader has a lot of little boy in him. The thrill of being the shortstop opposite Jeter in his final All-Star Game brings a twinkle to Tulowitzki's eye. In many ways, Tulowitzki is the kid who watches his idols -- guys identifiable by a single name -- and can actually execute their moves on the field.
"I like to say I'm a mix between a lot of good ones, or at least that's what I try to do," Tulowitzki said. "Nomar. A-Rod, Derek. My goal is to try to be all those guys mixed in one. Hopefully, people see that."
People see Blackmon's look and his wit, but may miss the Tulowitzki in him.
Tulowitzki's injury history requires him to partake in exhaustive pregame preparation and postgame maintenance, but Blackmon spends just as much time on his body. Tulowitzki's exhaustive knowledge of opponents allows him to be the driving force behind the Rockies' defensive positioning. Blackmon is in front of the screen looking for ways to cut the learning gap, since this is his first full season after three injury-interrupted years.
Blackmon's otherworldly April, his struggles through May and June and, finally, his upswing before the break have him at .306 and leading Major League leadoff men with 14 home runs.
While Blackmon approaches the game with a refreshing amount of wonder, he is working on believing in himself, which is necessary for consistent success in the big leagues. A question about a 30-30 season with home runs and steals (he has 18 of those) took him aback.
So did the All-Star invitation by player vote, at first. Blackmon was self-conscious because veteran first baseman Justin Morneau's solid season didn't get him in.
"You realize the players voted you in," Blackmon said. "If I'm sitting back thinking about who I want to respect my baseball-playing ability, it would be the other players. For them to vote me into this game, it makes me feel honored to be here and something I deserve."
When Blackmon took the selfie with Tulowitzki holding court in the background, he said he'd love to be in his teammate's shoes someday.
"He can be, but that's going to be up to Charlie," said Tulowitzki, who said Blackmon had no reason to apologize for being an All-Star. "Some people continue to work and get better, make themselves an All-Star every year. Some people get satisfied and say, 'I made an All-Star Game, one or two, and I had a nice run.'
"Now if you give me my gut feeling, that's not going to be Charlie at all. He comes to work every day. I like his chances."