Retired: Tulowitzki Had the Drive -- But the Body Wasn't Willing
Troy Tulowtizki is a baseball lifer.
The game is his passion.
It always will be.
That was underscored on Thursday. Tulowitzki finally had to give in to the ailments that have impacted his career for the better part of the decade, and announced his retirement -- as a player. Emphasis on player.
Any doubt about that was eliminated within minutes after Tulowitzki publicly announced that he no longer had the physical ability to play the game, and the University of Texas confirmed a report that has been circulating for months -- Tulowitzki would join the Longhorns baseball staff as a volunteer coach.
“While this chapter is now over, I look forward to continuing my involvement in the game that I love … instructing and helping young players to achieve their goals and dreams," Tulowitzki said in the announcement of his retirement. “I’m saying goodbye to Major League Baseball, but I will never say goodbye 2 the game I love. Thanks again 2 all of you!”
Money is not a concern. Tulowitzki earned more than $168 million during his baseball career.
His devotion to the game is.
“For as long as I can remember, my dream was to compete at the highest level as a Major League Baseball Player … to wear a big league uniform and play hard for my teammates and the fans," Tulowitzki said. "I will forever be grateful for every day that I’ve had to live out my dream. It has been an absolute honor."
Tulowitzki retired as a Yankee, the team of his childhood dreams. He signed with them after being released by the Blue Jays in the off-season, and his Yankee career consisted of only five games before his body betrayed him once again and he found himself back on the Injured List.
But he will always be known as a Rockie, the team that made him the seventh player selected in the 2005 June draft, and slightly more than a year later had him in the big leagues, playing shortstop, and becoming a key factor in the Rockies 2007 late-season surge to the post-season, which ended with what is so far the team's only appearance in a World Series.
He was the young guy with the emotional commitment that at times made his veteran teammates smile, like the day in May of that 2007 season when the Rockies suffered a tough loss, and after the media had entered the clubhouse, he threw some gear and screamed, "I have never been on a loser and I'm not going to start now."
He wasn't. The Rockies enjoyed one of the most memorable September dashes to the post-season that year, including a Game 163 against the Padres to decide the NL Wild-Card.
He was so driven by his focus on the game that the rest of life at times seemed to escape him. While he became an openly committed father, when word first broke that his wife had given birth to a son, Tulowitzki expressed concern that if there was media attention to the birth, fans might question his focus on the game. It ate at him that teammates would talk about their families at the ballpark or that would turn attention to their religions.
It wasn't in a hateful or degrading way that he would express displeasure, but rather just events that underscored his total focus on the game of baseball, a game that provided him with the chance after he received his signing bonus from the Rockies to buy a home for his father, who had never owned a home but who had never declined a chance to help his son grow as a baseball player.
One thing stood in the way of Tulowtizki being able to fulfill his lifelong dream of being one of the game's all-time greats -- his body.
He played hard every time he stepped on the field, and his abilities were recognized in the early days of his big-league career, before the injuries took their toll.
Five times from 2010-15 he was an All-Star. He was honored with a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award in both 2010 and 2011.
He leaves the the game high on various all-time lists of accomplishments with the Rockies. He is fifth all-time in games played, home runs and hits, sixth in career batting average and seventh in RBI.
For what he did, however, one can only wonder what he might have done had his body been kinder to his career. Tulowitzki appeared in more than 131 games only three times in his career -- all three times coming in the first five full seasons his career.
There was a furor when in late July 2015, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich traded him, Tulowitzki adding to the rage when he complained that the Rockies had not consulted him before shipping him to Toronto. But the underlying factor was that there were growing concerns about Tulowitzki's physical state. He had appeared in only 264 games combined from 2012-14.
As it turned out, starting with 2012, he would play in only 594 games in the final eight years of his career, having missed the entire 2018 season and making only five appearances on the field in 2019.
A player who wanted to be the guy who delivered in the clutch finally had to give in to a body that wouldn't let it happen.
But the fact he wasted no time commiting to be a volunteer coach at the University of Texas shows that for all that Tulowitzki went through in the last eight seasons, his love and devotion to baseball never waivered.
He may not be going to play another game.
He, however, is not walking away from the game.
It's part of his DNA.