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On December 10th, 2015, the Colorado Rockies signed MLB veteran and free agent first baseman Mark Reynolds to little fanfare. The reactions around the internet and in the newspapers ranged from “oh here we go again with these middle-ground moves” to “well, that’s kind of interesting.”
Few, if any, saw Reynolds holding down the best batting average on the team for much of the first few months of the 2016 season, and even fewer saw the impact he would make with his glove.
“Sometimes you just have one of those years where everything is going right for you,” he told BSN Denver. “I feel like I’m making more contact this year, and when you do that, more balls find holes.”
Of course, Coors Field is a factor and Reynolds brought that up as well: “You get a few more bloopers here. I think the big thing is the outfield and the outfielders have to play deep.”
That can explain a few points of batting average, but Reynolds offers a different explanation for why six of his eight home runs on the season have come in the last 24 games.
“Normally home runs come in bunches,” he says. “I wasn’t pressing I just kept sticking with my approach and everyone kept telling me ‘home runs will come, just keep swinging.’ And they’ve been coming so hopefully they keep going.”
You don’t carve out a career going strong in its 10th year without being able to handle the bat, and Reynold’s power has always been the promise that can light up the eyes of coaches and GMs. But these days, his glovework is getting just as many rave reviews as his work inside the batter’s box. He attributes his dedication to digging out groundballs to sympathy he can draw on from his own experiences.
“Earlier in my career, I played third. And having a first baseman over there that can pick you up, made you less timid to try to make certain plays. And I take pride in that. I want those guys to feel confident throwing the ball to me. We’ve got three good infielders and I’m just trying to help them out as much as I can over there.”
No Mark, you’ve got four good infielders.
He also says he isn’t trying to fill in the footsteps — or the empty place in some Rockies’ fans’ hearts — left by Todd Helton, but that he instead tries to focus on the things he learned from his mentors at first and making sure that having his teammates’ back is always at the forefront of his mind.
“I played with Derek Lee and Tony Clark and those guys are like 6’5. I’m not quite that tall so I told the guys if they throw it over my head I can’t help them,” he laughed. “But if they keep it down, I can give them a chance to get an out.”
And Reynolds is fine being a leader on the field and letting guys who have been with the Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado) for longer take the reigns in the clubhouse. “I think being a new guy you have to tread lightly in that area until you get to know the guys and they get to know you,” he says.
He has a ton of MLB experience, though, so naturally, he is going to have some wisdom to offer. “I try to keep guys calm,” he says, “help them realize its a long season. I made [Trevor] Story carry my stuff around in spring training. Make sure he realizes he’s still a rookie and he’s still gotta earn his keep. Just little things like that. But for the most part, CarGo and Nolan take care of the other stuff.”
It is worth pointing out that Arenado is still just 25 and is playing in only his fourth season in Major League Baseball. It is also worth pointing out that he has in Mark Reynolds not just a reliable target at first and a little lineup protection, but also an experienced and deeply respected veteran legitimizing his attempts to lead the Colorado Rockies to the next level.