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DENVER — You know that kid in school who everybody liked? Or maybe you work in an office setting and there is that one person in the office whom everyone gets along with no matter what. Even when that person is considered best friends with a person or a group you can’t stand, you still end up giving the Tyler Chatwood in your world the benefit of the doubt. This person has your utmost respect, even if their friends don’t.
When the Colorado Rockies moved on from Troy Tulowitzki at last year’s trade deadline, a number of obvious holes were left behind. Who would play shortstop? Who would anchor the offense? And most importantly, who would step in as the leader of the pack?
Based on my conversations with people in and around the Rockies clubhouse, Tulo never seemed to fully command the respect of his peers. At least not all of them. But one of the things he did receive universal praise for was a yearly tradition of inviting other players in the organization out to his complex to train for the upcoming season. The event was dubbed “Camp Tulo.”
And very quietly, without much fanfare (the way Chatty would want it) Rockies players have found a new offseason home; “Camp Chatwood.”
The still only 26-year-old groundball specialist has taken on the mantle of leading the unofficial workouts and, perhaps just as important, providing a place for camaraderie to blossom.
“It was cool. It was good to be around those guys. See who we have coming up here pretty soon. Every day we would go in there and push each other to work out,” Chatwood told BSN Denver in an exclusive interview. Golf, watching UFC fights, so that was pretty neat.”
What besides from baseball was on the docket, I ask. “Golf, watching UFC fights, that kind of thing … so that was pretty neat,” says Chatwood.
When I spoke before the season with Rockies prospect, Ryan McMahon, who also attended the festivities, he said it was “the perfect mix of fun and hard work.”
That mixture may be the key to making workouts during “off” time a bit more palatable while also doing the good work of bringing these players closer together, especially for some of the younger guys who have not yet debuted at the Major League level.
“We just tried to make it a fun work environment,” says Chatwood. “And it kinda translated. Everyone who was there had a good spring training. We all got closer. I still talk to all those guys. I know Dahl got off to a great start. It’s pretty cool to see.”
Before a history-making first week … well, first month … OK, before his history-making first half — before he was a name that inspired excitement among the masses — and before he had even played a single inning at the MLB level, Trevor Story was just one of the guys at Camp Chatwood.
“It was huge,” Story said of the experience that preceded his monster debut. “It was tough at first for me to move away from Texas. But I gained a lot of strength, a lot of knowledge, and a lot of camaraderie being around guys like that. It was nice when I made the team to see those familiar faces and have that bond. We know we did all we could in the offseason, we saw each other putting in work. That gives us confidence.”
Confidence is good. Confidence in one’s self is necessary in the game of baseball. But let it not go unnoticed that confidence in one’s teammates — perhaps better described as “faith” — is nearly as important.
Chatwood, Story, McMahon, and the recently promoted David Dahl all roomed together at the 26-year-old “veteran’s” house, and an observer of Twitter could find them out and about on the golf course from time to time. To a man, they all tell me that bearing witness to the discipline and dedication of their teammates — or soon-to-be teammates — has doubled down on the “I’ve got your back” mentality these guys bring to the park every day.
“We had a lot of guys down there and I think every one of them loved it and got the most out of it that they could,” says Story. “It was very beneficial to me and I’m pretty sure I’ll be down there again.”
When you walk into the Colorado Rockies clubhouse, a quick look around the room will reveal that there is a structure and order to where the lockers are placed. Pitchers tend to be on one side, hitters on the other. But Tyler Chatwood’s locker is placed squarely in the middle of the position players, right next to Nolan Arenado … in the spot Tulowitzki used to occupy.
This makes Chatwood feel constantly available for teammates (or the occasional bearded media member) to come pick his brain. And it’s a brain worth picking.
Chatwood talks softly but his words carry weight when he speaks. His ability to be unassuming yet command respect was evident when I asked if he thought “Camp Chatwood” would become a regular tradition for this team.
After a brief chuckle at the name he responded:
“I don’t know. I live there. So, I’ll be there every offseason, and I think most of those guys will probably come back too. I think they saw the benefits. I think as long as we keep that group together it’ll be a lot of fun. I don’t know why they wouldn’t take advantage of that. The complex is unbelievable, we’re working out with our big league strength coaches every day, and we are all in there pushing each other, and I think that’s a good thing.”
So far, the results for Story, Chatwood, and Dahl in 2016 suggest it has been a very good thing.