Published: May 16, 2013
DENVER - Two hours prior to first pitch on Thursday, Nolan Arenado was doing what any rookie should be doing at that time.
Arenado was serving as the clubhouse DJ.
Steps from Todd Helton's locker, Arenado kept the veteran happy and blasted a series of country hits over the sound system. Arenado then played good music, the Beastie Boys, only to flash his versatility with a dash of foreign pop.
"A couple of the guys were complaining about the music," Arenado said before the Giants beat the Rockies, 8-6. "So I played some salsa for the Latino guys."
This is new, humbling territory for Arenado.
And for a rookie, it probably should be.
For Arenado to realize the fantastic potential that shadowed him from El Toro High to Security Service Field to Coors Field, where he's now the clubhouse DJ, the 22-year-old had to accept a sobering reality.
Baseball just got hard again.
I sense Arenado has been humbled. If not, Major League Baseball is doing it for him.
Arenado was called up from the Sky Sox on April 28, less than two weeks after his 22nd birthday.
This was it; the prized eagle had landed.
Not so fast, young prodigy.
Entering this big-time series against the Giants, Arenado was struggling, big time. Over the previous nine games, he was 6-for-32. His average had dipped to .254.
In the clubhouse Thursday, it wasn't hard to see: Arenado's usual swagger was swag-riddled.
"Right now I'm not feeling like myself at the plate. But I know that's going to be coming. I'm not too worried about it," Arenado said.
"As a team we need to play better. That will come. When we're winning it's a lot better."
Thursday's series opener with the World Series champions summed up the peaks and valleys that come with a rookie season.
On the first pitch he saw from Matt Cain, Arenado launched a solo home run into the bleacher seats between Sections 155 and 156 at Coors Field. The rookie raced around the bases like someone was chasing him.
Three innings later, Arenado whiffed on a third strike. Spitting mad, he thumped the bat with his hand and hunkered back to the dugout.
"These are the elite of the elite. When you're up here, you get caught up with different pitchers because they throw different things," Arenado said. "I just need to stay with what I do."
The Rockies clubhouse - Arenado's DJ booth - added another member of the Sky Sox on Wednesday. DJ LeMahieu joined the club after batting .364 in Colorado Springs.
The "dynamics" of the Rockies are evolving, as manager Walt Weiss put it.
"You break camp and you feel like there's some young guys you might have to protect," Weiss said. "(Then) they go out there and they prove they can handle themselves and don't need to be protected as much as you initially thought. Guys perform."
Arenado said he has fond memories of his 18 games with the Sky Sox.
"I liked the group of guys there. It was a good group. I miss those guys a lot. Those guys are my buddies."
He laughed and added, "I wasn't the biggest fan of Triple-A compared to now."
For one thing, he couldn't shuffle through LoDo and grab a steak at The ChopHouse, his favorite dining establishment.
For another, he couldn't walk to his office, Coors Field, from his downtown apartment.
"I've had a few people come up to me at dinner and say hi," he said. "But no one really notices me."
One thing Arenado has noticed: Quite suddenly, baseball got hard.
Give it time. With Arenado's talent, it figures to come easier again.