Trevor Story emerges as Rockies’ voice, in and out of clubhouse

Last winter, I was talking with Cory Sullivan, the former Rockies outfielder who’s now a TV analyst for AT&T SportsNet. The subject was leadership, team chemistry and star shortstop Trevor Story.

“Trevor is one of the few elite players who have the leadership gene in him,” Sullivan said. “When it does come out, he is going to be unstoppable. Typically, leaders are role players, but with Trevor, it’s screaming to come out.”

Sullivan was spot on.

It’s easy to see what Story’s doing on the baseball field, where he was batting .306 with .999 OPS entering the weekend series with San Diego at Coors Field. His nine home runs, 29 runs scored and eight stolen bases led the team.

But more than that, Story has become the voice of the team, both in the clubhouse and in public. That was apparent Thursday when Story talked to the media about the Rockies’ decision to postpone their game at Arizona to protest racial injustice in America. Story was honest and articulate, his emotions were raw.

I asked him what he thought about those fans who think the Rockies should just play ball and not comment on social issues.

“I think, ‘just shut up and play your sport’ is very simple-minded,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s doing a great job of putting yourself in other people’s shoes.”

Wednesday night, while the Rockies decided to play against the Diamondbacks, Matt Kemp, who is Black, chose not to play. Story had the guts to admit that the team made a mistake.

“Yesterday was tough,” Story said Thursday. “Honestly speaking, mentally I wasn’t all the way there. Realizing the hurt that Matt is going through, that the Black community is going through, was weighing on my mind. That was all I could think about yesterday.

“After reflecting on it, that’s the way I felt. It bothered me to my core that we kind of missed the opportunity.”

Speaking to the media is not something that a lot of players enjoy, particularly when it comes to tough topics or tough times. And I don’t know if Story enjoys talking to us — I’m sure he gets tired of it — but he recognizes that it’s part of his job. It’s a responsibility he takes seriously.

In a “normal” year, he makes himself available in the clubhouse. During this strange year, he’s frequently made time to appear on the Zoom interviews that allow us to cover the team as best we can.

The players’ first obligation, of course, is to their teammates and sometimes it’s not easy to deal with the media when the team is losing. Things can get chilly, even hostile. It’s one of the reasons why, during a normal season, I try to interview players away from their teammates. It establishes a comfort zone, allowing me to get a truer measure of the pulse of the team and the player doesn’t have to be worried about speaking frankly.

Story, whether on the record or off, whether in front of the camera or off, is always thoughtful and even-tempered.

I asked manager Bud Black if it really matters that Story has emerged as the team spokesman.

“I think it matters and I admire it,” Black said. “I think it shows that he’s willing to step up and answer questions during a tough time. I think it’s awesome because I know that there are questions to be asked, and need to be asked, of players and starting pitchers.

“I think it shows the growth of Trevor and where he is now in his fifth season and his place on this team. It’s about him knowing his responsibility.”

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