The trade this winter between the Colorado Rockies and the Pittsburgh Pirates was not the first of Connor Joe’s career. It was, in hindsight, one the hardest he’s had to deal with during his 10 years as a professional.
“I had been traded a couple of times. And they say like the first time it’s the toughest right? But this time was really tough,” Joe said in front of the visiting dugout on Monday. “Being here for a couple seasons, having the staff and the clubhouse embrace me like they did and then having the fans welcome me and take me in — and they were so great to me and my family — so this one was really tough.”
Only a few years after being drafted 39th overall by the Pirates in the 2014 MLB Draft, he was traded to Atlanta. From there he didn’t last any longer than a season with any organization as he moved around, spending time with five organizations in less than two years.
Then, during the winter following the 2020 season on a high school field in San Diego, manager Bud Black came out to watch some players and recognized the talent that had yet to fully come to fruition during the previous seven years.
“The opportunities that Buddy and (GM Bill Schmidt) gave me allowed me to establish myself as a big leaguer. It gave me a bunch of confidence, showing that I can be successful at the big league level,” Joe shared with the Denver media. “I think the way that the staff and the team let me be myself was big for me. I kind of found that I don’t have to be someone I’m not. The ability to be myself and the comfort of showing up into that clubhouse and doing what I need to do to be the best that day was really refreshing. It was really special.”
Joe took time to discuss his current situation with the Pirates, similar to his role with the Rockies, playing the corner outfield spots and some first base. Following a decisive 13-4 win on Monday night, Pittsburgh moved to 10-7, tied for fifth-best in the National League.
The 30-year-old hit fifth in the order and drew a walk in his first plate appearance to spark a six-run second inning from which Colorado could not recover. He went 0-for-4 after that, but still maintains a .297 (11-for-37) with a home run and four runs batted in this season.
His age might suggest he has more of a leadership role, but Joe defers to the truly experienced heads of the clubhouse like 43-year-old Rich Hill, former MVP Andrew McCutchen and 14-year veteran Carlos Santana.
As for the rest of the roster, they are young and they are exciting to play alongside.
“The young guys bring this infectious energy and I’m having a lot of fun celebrating on the field, celebrating the dugout like when I do something cool on the field to come into the dugout and see how excited the guys are for me is really cool,” Joe explained with his trademark smile. “Celebrating the wins in the clubhouse, like, the music is really loud. We’re having a lot of fun. I think the young energy is awesome.”
The warm reaction from the 20,322 fans at Coors Field on Monday night was much more subdued than the last two seasons when Joe would step to the plate and hear a raucous chant of JOE! JOE! JOE! Still, the fans miss him dearly and that’s something he cherishes to this day.
And it’s something he’s been thinking about since the day Schmidt called him about going back to the Pirates.
“Right when I got traded, I looked at the calendar and really worked hard to make the team so I could be here for this trip, honestly,” shared Joe about Denver. “We have business to do obviously, but like I told myself that it’s not often a place can make you feel this special and it does. The people here make me feel special. So I make it a point to embrace it and take it all in and enjoy every moment.”