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Nolan Arenado’s Return To Colorado Meant Something

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

It doesn’t say anything good about the current state of the Colorado Rockies that hosting the All-Star Game likely represented the high point of the season for the home fans. Even worse, the game itself was momentous for the locals not because of any heroics performed by any Rockies, but because it gave them a chance to see one of the greatest players in franchise history take the field again, wearing a different team’s uniform.

Nolan Arenado, now playing for the Cardinals after the Rockies traded him away in the offseason for a whole list of stupid, self-defeating reasons that do not need to be rehashed here, had the honor of starting at third base for the National League. This meant that the fanbase he played in front of for eight seasons had plenty of opportunities to express their appreciation for his past service, and they did not let those opportunities pass. He got a standing ovation when the lineups were announced:

He got another round of cheers when he said some kind words just before the game started:

And then he got another ovation when he came up to bat for the first time:

From an outsider’s perspective, maybe this all seemed like a little much. Sure, Arenado is a great player, but eight years isn’t that long to spend with one team, particularly in baseball, and it’s not like the Rockies ever won much while he wore the uniform. Even, I, a lifelong Rockies fan, had to momentarily resist the urge to roll my eyes at the whole thing.

That urge passed quickly, though, and in its place rose a thankfulness for the fact that this little reunion between Arenado and Rockies fans was allowed to happen on such a big stage. A baseball player can mean a great deal to the people who have spent thousands of hours of their lives watching him play, even if they never got to watch him raise a trophy or win a pennant. That’s just the nature of the sport: You can’t watch a guy play every single day for nearly a decade and not end up with some strong feelings about him (be they negative or positive) imprinted on you. For as easily as these feelings tend to develop, it’s much rarer for fans to be given opportunities to express them directly to the player in any kind of meaningful way. That’s what those trophy presentations and retirement ceremonies are good for, which works out fine if you are Derek Jeter but not so fine if you are, well, a lot of other very talented players throughout baseball history.

So it was cool to see Arenado receive so much direct adulation last night, even if all that cheering was inherently bittersweet. Arenado himself seemed to be sort of taken aback at how affected he was by the whole ordeal, and was open during his postgame press conference in a way he rarely was while he played in Colorado. “We all understand that sometimes when you do work, and you do good work, sometimes it doesn’t get noticed,” he said. “Sometimes you want to be appreciated for what you did, and that’s in every day life. You do something for somebody, and you want them to say, ‘thank you,’ I guess, in a way. Not that I want them to say, ‘thank you,’ but the fact that they did it means a lot.”

If there’s any downside to Arenado receiving such a warm welcome, it’s that it may have overshadowed current Rockies shortstop Trevor Story’s presence at All-Star weekend as a Home Run Derby participant. He’s probably going to be gone soon, too, which I guess means the fans in Denver will just have to wait for his eventual return in an opposing team’s jersey in order to express how much he meant to them.