Things To Do in Denver

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

by: Rich Daniels

What do you do when you're out of things left to prove? If you ask Matt Holliday, there are still more mountains to climb, namely around Denver. 

At the age of 38, nothing in professional sports is easy, especially when you add starting over in a quest to get back to the top. 

Now imagine the humility it takes for a player of Holliday's caliber to return to the lowest level of the minors to start that journey.

That's just what the seven-time All-Star agreed to do when he got the notion to end his brief respite from the game in order to see if he could still have a place in the bigs. But Holliday got to play with the Rockies right away...the Grand Junction Rockies of the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

He did play in that league before...for 32 1998. Yet the man, whose last professional game was in Yankee pinstripes, agreed to go up against players half his age to start his comeback. Maybe it was to knock off the rust of not playing since last September. Maybe the Rockies wanted to test Holliday's commitment.

Regardless of the reasoning for the move, Holliday must have convinced the organization that he was both ready for, and serious about, collecting big league meal money again because his rookie league stay lasted one game, four plate appearances, one hit, one walk and an RBI. 

Holliday, having proven himself worthy, moved on to Triple-A Albuquerque to prepare for a possible call-up. 

It's hard to think that a player with career marks of 314 home runs and 1217 RBI's would be patient enough, and humble enough, to spend over a month preparing to get a phone call that might not ever come - but that's just what he has undertaken. 

Holliday arrived in the Pacific Coast League in late July and has settled into the Isotopes lineup on a near-regular basis. Thus far the experiment looks like a good gamble as he's produced a .350 batting average in 49 at-bats coming into play on Sunday. Three home runs and 14 RBI's in that short span also speak to his sustained ability to be productive.

The swing is still short to the ball although it lacks some of the zip that earned him second place in National League MVP voting in 2007 and MVP votes in seven other seasons. 

He moves slower and more deliberately than in years past but, make no mistake, Holliday is lean and in solid condition. 

It's obvious that he has maintained his fitness while away from the game. The bulk of his at-bats so far have come as a designated hitter with a few appearances at first base and even the outfield have been sprinkled in. Then there are a few pinch-hitting appearances the 6' 4" slugger has made, important because that is a critical role Holliday looks to fill if called up by the Rockies.

This is the second season in a row that Colorado has rolled the dice on a possible experienced bench bat for the playoff run. Last season the Rox auditioned former All-Star Ryan Howard at the Triple-A level to see if he might be a viable threat coming off the bench. At 37, Howard proved that he could still hit the ball a mile if he got his pitch, but he fell short on overall performance.

So far, Holliday has proven to be a more well-rounded hitter in his later years. 

When it comes to a call-up by the big club, there are subtleties to consider. 

Anyone called up after August 31st is ineligible to be on post-season rosters. 

Therefore a promotion prior to September 1st would mean that Rockies Senior Vice President and General Manager Jeff Bridich, and his brain trust, see Holliday as an asset viable enough to be part of a 25-man roster immersed in the pressure-laden playoff atmosphere.

A promotion on or after September 1st would indicate that Holliday is meant to be part of the mix that delivers the Rockies to a playoff spot but wouldn't be part of the post-season. No call-up at all would mean he gets to go back to his native Oklahoma and ponder his future once again. 

It's easy to think with the heart rather than the head when it comes to a player looking for one last shot at glory.

Call it nostalgia or even a soft spot for a superstar-turned-underdog, but rooting for Matt Holliday is easy to do when the memories of his thrashing National League pitching and careening into head-first slides in all-out effort are triggered by the sound of his name being announced.

He's not that player anymore, but Matt Holliday still has something to offer Major League Baseball and let's all hope he earns the chance to prove it. 

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