Rockies lend more than haircuts to community
Club's charitable effort doesn't end with Tulowitzki's mullet
DENVER -- The Colorado Rockies Charity Fund has given $1.06 million in grants in 2010. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's mullet that he grew for charity and his nomination for Roberto Clemente and Branch Rickey Awards made him the face of the team's community efforts.But this year has been about more than big money or bad hair when it comes to the Rockies' spirit of giving. Jim Kellogg, the Rockies' vice president of community and retail operations, said the Rockies are led by players who pay more than lip service to their responsibilities beyond the field. A hospital visit he made with relief pitcher Matt Daley recently was one of many illustrations of the Rockies' spirit. "We visited a young man who had been in a severe car accident," Kellogg said. "He was in a halo because of his injuries. He couldn't speak to you, except for one blink of an eye for yes and two blinks of an eye for no. It's a really difficult situation. Matt said to call him soon to see how he's doing and if we need to go back, we will. "Matt is not a superstar. He's a good player, and more important than that, he's a good person and wants to make a difference in that young man's life. We have a team full of guys like Matt."
The Rockies train their players in community involvement at the Minor League level. When they invite players to Denver during the offseason for workouts, they make charity work part of the program. By the time players reach the Majors, they understand the importance of such work and often take it to a new level on their own.Tulowitkzi has been a leader in this respect. Usually, Tulowitzki draws notice with his skills. He won Gold Glove and Slugger Silver Slugger awards for the first time this year. But Tulowitzki had fans talking at first glance in 2010 with what he called "bad hair for a good cause." He grew his hair into a mullet to encourage fans to donate to the Wins for Kids program. Fans were encouraged to donate for each Rockies victory. The program benefited the Children's Hospital of Denver and Special Olympics in Colorado. Tulowitkzi, who has lost several relatives and people close to him to cancer, became a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology's Play Sun Smart program that promotes skin cancer prevention. He also is a supporter of the Children's Miracle Network. "Troy understands his role and the difference he can make in so many lives," Kellogg said. "It's humbling to see the way he gifted as a young 25- or 26-year-old. He really gets it. He pays attention to what's going on and is very thoughtful in what he wants to do." Kellogg noted that like many big-name players, such as longtime Rockies standout first baseman Todd Helton, Tulowitkzi also gives time and service to quietly in some situations. "There are things he does that he keeps quiet," Kellogg said. "But Troy understands the importance of people seeing the Rockies as a whole getting involved." Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who matched Tulowitzki in receiving Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards and has become a team leader, also has made himself a leader in key community efforts. Gonzalez, from Venezuela, grew up speaking Spanish and is fluent in English. As a bilingual star, he has opportunities to extend the Rockies' reach into Denver. With a growing number of young Latin American players populating the roster, Kellogg sees Gonzalez as being influential in introducing more teammates to humanitarian service. Gonzalez was part of a June 11 Boys & Girls Club clinic that featured several other players from Latin America -- infielder Jonathan Herrera and pitchers Manuel Corpas and Jhoulys Chacin. "He is well-versed in both languages, but he really puts the kids who speak only Spanish at ease," Kellogg said. "He's been real good with all of the kids at our Boys & Girls Club clinics. I can only see that growing with Carlos. He says to me, 'Whatever I need to do for you, just let me know.'" Veteran right-handed pitcher Aaron Cook reached out to members of the military and their families with his Tickets for Veterans program, which provided four infield box seats per game for 20 games. Kellogg noted that outfielder Ryan Spilborghs has been tireless in his community work, and Helton, relief pitcher Matt Belisle and catcher Miguel Olivo also went out of their way to provide service to the community away from the ballpark. Also, the Rockies' staff participated in reading and volunteer programs throughout the area, and the Colorado Rockies Wives hosted grab-bag events to raise money for the Keli McGregor Fund, auctioned baskets for the silent auction portion of the Hal O'Leary Dinner benefiting the Colorado Rockies Baseball Club Foundation, contributed funds for Aramark food vouchers for the use of Care & Share program children and their families during games, and served meals at the Denver Rescue Mission on Sept. 13.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.