12/25/09 10:00 AM EST
Fowler's five-steal night among '09's best
Rockies speedster has place in rookie record books
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Fowler tied a modern rookie record by stealing five bases against the Padres in the Rockies' 12-7 victory that night. The last rookie to pilfer that many bags in one game was the Padres' Damian Jackson in 1999.But in the end, Fowler forgot to take home a base, a ball or anything to show for it. "I actually didn't take anything, and I probably should have," Fowler said. "But it's still in our minds. And we still have it on video, though." Video actually is the best place to commemorate the occasion. It was born of video study. A daring spirit and physical tools helped Fowler make the team out of Spring Training in a surprise development. Since Fowler had never played at the Triple-A level, the Rockies were looking at him as their center fielder of the future. But Fowler displayed blazing speed -- the product of a stride that makes distance disappear -- and better-than-expected development as a switch-hitter and defensive player. The future arrived sooner than expected. But the Rockies knew all along that Fowler would not run wild at the start of his career. There was still a learning curve. He went into the game with the Padres with four steals in five attempts. But Fowler knew that the Padres' starter that night, 6-foot-10 right-hander Chris Young, was not the best at holding runners on base. In fairness, Young does not place a high priority on preventing steals. He's always a threat to lead the league in steals against, but he also has had years when he was among the leaders in ERA, fewest hits against and opponent's batting average. Young's philosophy is as long as he can control the batter, the runner won't score and the steals are immaterial. So Fowler studied Young, not only to find ways to reach base, but to make sure he was in no danger should he reach base and decide to take off. Fowler led off the bottom of the first with a single, stole second and third and scored on a Todd Helton sacrifice fly. In the third inning, he drew a walk from Young, and again stole second and third before scoring. One inning later, Fowler heard a fan shout out that he was one steal from the record. He singled and stole second. Fowler said teammate Ryan Spilborghs wanted to see Fowler alone in the record book. "'Spilly' came to me and said he wanted six bags out of me," Fowler said. "He said, 'Dex, if you get on, I want you to steal second and third.' I said, 'All right.'" Oddly, Spilborghs prevented Fowler from stealing third. After the steal of second, Spilborghs singled. By Fowler's fifth-inning at-bat, events conspired against him setting a record. The Padres had gone to relief pitcher Edwin Moreno, so no longer could he take advantage of Young's motion. It didn't really matter. Before Fowler came to bat in the fifth, pitcher Glendon Rusch singled. Rusch was built to pitch, not run. Fowler drew a walk, but he understood the only chance he had at a record was an unlikely double steal led by Rusch. "I was like, 'Rushie, if you take off, that's on you. ... But I'm right behind you,'" Fowler said. Fowler finished the year batting .266 with four home runs, 34 RBIs and 27 steals in 38 attempts. It was a season full of memories, such as a home run off the D-backs' Doug Davis in his first Major League plate appearance, and the five-steal night. But Fowler felt one memory of his rookie season trumped those. "The night of the steals was a high point, but the biggest memory was turning our season around and getting to the playoffs," Fowler said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.