10/22/07 5:00 PM ET
Heart of the Order: Matt Holliday
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Holliday was a star quarterback at Stillwater (Okla.) High School. How good? His father, Tom Holliday, then the head baseball coach at Oklahoma State and now the associate head coach at North Carolina State, sent a tape of his son to then-Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt. Matt was being recruited for both sports.
Wannstedt saw a young John Elway or Dan Marino. But Holliday said no thanks to football and college, and signed with the Rockies. It could have had to do with being limited in football at a young age.
"We had those rules that if you were over a certain weight in football, you had to play the line, and I was always way over," he said. "The only way you would do it was fake punts and fake kicks. I was always the punter. They'd hike it to me and I'd throw the ball or I'd run." Holliday still loves the sport, but he gets his fix at home, where he has set up a big-screen TV in front of his exercise bike in the garage and can watch his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.
Holliday's passion is his family. Usually after games, his 3-year-old son, Jackson, is in the Rockies' clubhouse swinging a plastic bat, with various teammates tossing him a plastic ball. On dad's command, Jackson can break into side-splitting and credible imitations of hitters such as Todd Helton and Gary Sheffield. Holliday and his wife, Leslee, welcomed another son, Ethan, on Feb. 23.
Holliday realizes life isn't all about sports. He and Leslee had a scare early in Jackson's life when doctors made a preliminary diagnosis of congenital scoliosis, or a curvature of the spine. The family prepared for surgery, but physical therapy has improved the condition.
Away from the park, Holliday has cooking skills about which he is modest. But after a phone call to Mom and Dad, he is able to pull off a good imitation of his grandmother's lasagna.
The Rockies nominated Holliday for the Roberto Clemente Award, which honors community service as well as sportsmanship and teamwork. Some of his donations were publicized, but Holliday is known for making donations of time and money that he doesn't make public.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.