It may have lasted just two seasons, but Connor Joe’s time with the Colorado Rockies was about as special as any player in franchise history.

There were no All-Star Game appearances or postseason heroics, not even a walk-off hit to send home the Colorado crowd jubilated. Despite the absence of those bells and whistles that typically indicate star power on the diamond, Joe represented everything joyous we love in our athletes.

He rose from an unknown minor league invite in Spring Training 2021 to a player who provided the same combination of power and on-base capabilities as Charlie Blackmon from the leadoff spot.

Joe also possessed a thousand-watt smile made even brighter through a grueling bout with testicular cancer before he ever donned the purple pinstripes. And when he blasted his first big league home run on the one-year anniversary of being declared cancer-free, that smile illuminated all of Lower Downtown.

Jul 20, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Connor Joe (9) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a two run home run in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Coors Field. The first home run of his career. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Fans rallied behind his story and positive demeanor. Organically, the chants sprang up from the stands – JOE! JOE! JOE! – to show support for the new favorite son of the summer.

More memories followed that first year. A homer in his hometown of San Diego. A leadoff dinger at Coors Field, fittingly against the Padres, too. A pair of long balls at Coors Field and a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

There were even highlights on the defensive side, such as seven outfield assists in that first season. Not only did that tie for most on the team, one was even clocked at 99.3mph, fastest in the Statcast Era (since 2015). 

Though 2021 ended abruptly with a hamstring strain, Joe entered 2022 with the same smile and positivity that put him in a place to succeed. He smashed a leadoff homer on the road twice in three games during the opening month and put together a 35-game on-base streak, tied for the seventh-longest streak in team history and longest by a Rockie since 2016.

Apr 23, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Colorado Rockies first baseman Connor Joe (9) celebrates with right fielder Charlie Blackmon (19) after hitting a solo home run during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It can be hard to pinpoint what it means to bring the good vibes to the ballpark and in the clubhouse, but CoJo had that ability each and every day he came to work. While it’s even harder to imagine who could possibly replace such a gift, it simply should not be attempted.

There’s no one like Connor Joe. 

Pirates Trade

Joe’s trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday means he’ll return to the club that originally drafted him with the 39th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. In exchange, Colorado receives one of the more intriguing prospects to come out of the 2020 MLB Draft.

Nick Garcia, a third-round selection by the Pirates, was the only Division III player taken in the five-round draft and was considered the highest riser on draft boards around the league.

Greensboro Grasshoppers starting pitcher Nick Garcia. (Kaylen Ayres/contributed photo)

The 6’4” right-hander from Chapman University entered college as a third baseman before taking a place on the mound during his sophomore season in 2019. By 2020, he was starting games as a junior and looking like a natural fit for any rotation.

In his two seasons of professional ball at the A-level, Garcia has a 3.88 ERA with 192 strikeouts in 187.2 innings pitched. He’s a strong candidate to open 2023 as part of the Hartford Yard Goats starting rotation.