Tulowitzki, grateful to live 'my dream,' retires

ByColey Harvey ESPN logo
Friday, July 26, 2019

BOSTON -- New York Yankees infielder Troy Tulowitzki announced his retirement Thursday in a statement released through the team.

"For as long as I can remember, my dream was to compete at the highest level as a Major League Baseball player ... to wear a big league uniform and play hard for my teammates and the fans," Tulowitzki said in the statement. "I will forever be grateful for every day that I've had to live out my dream. It has been an absolute honor.

"I will always look back with tremendous gratitude for having the privilege of playing as long as I did. There is no way to truly express my gratitude to the fans of Colorado, Toronto and New York. They always made my family and I feel so welcome."

Tulowitzki, 34, played just five games this season -- his first with the Yankees -- before suffering a strained left calf April 3.

By early June, after Tulowitzki had finally begun working his way back into rehab games, manager Aaron Boone indicated that the shortstop had traveled back home to Southern California. It was presumed he was going to take some time to mull his future.

Around that same time, the Yankees activated shortstop Didi Gregorius off the 60-day injured list, adding him back in the fold following rehab from offseason Tommy John surgery. With Gregorius back, and Gleyber Torres -- the early-season fill-in at short -- in the mix, Tulowitzki's spot on the roster appeared to disappear.

"[The retirement was] something he's been working through over the last couple of months with his family," Boone said Thursday, adding that he had spoken with Tulowitzki earlier in the day. "It sounds like he's doing well and looking forward to the next chapter."

Tulowitzki missed all of 2018 after having surgery on both heels. He also suffered an ankle injury in 2017, playing only 66 games that season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino, who also spent four seasons with Tulowitzki while both were Colorado Rockies, said he understood how difficult this decision was for his longtime teammate.

"I know he worked hard the last two years to get healthy," Ottavino said. "The injuries have been probably disappointing for him and for a lot of people, because he was so awesome as a baseball player.

"He looked good in spring training, too. He texted me when I signed, about how excited he was. I felt like we were going to have a good year. It ended quickly, but I definitely wasn't thinking about him retiring or anything like that."

Tulowitzki's first at-bat with the Yankees this spring was a memorable one. Dressed in pinstripes for the first time, he led off New York's spring-training opener with a solo homer to right. It came against his former team, the Blue Jays. After the game, he said he was motivated to perform well that day against them.

A five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove Award winner, the shortstop finishes his career with a .290 batting average with 225 home runs, 1,391 hits, 762 runs and 780 RBIs with the Yankees, Blue Jays and Rockies.

Of his home runs, 223 came as a shortstop, which ranks seventh all-time at the position.

His best season was 2011, when he batted .302 with 30 home runs and 102 RBIs for the Rockies, with whom he broke into the majors in 2006 and was the runner-up for National League Rookie of the Year.

"What I'll remember was obviously a great player," Boone said. "And a guy that played shortstop -- a great shortstop -- but played it in such a unique way, with a flair and the way he moved and played on the run and threw from different angles.

"Watching him this spring, the way I looked at it was: He looked at home out there playing shortstop. He loves this game."

That love of baseball manifested itself in other ways, too, Ottavino said.

"He's the type of guy if he went oh-fer, he would hit for as long as it took after the game until he felt comfortable," Ottavino said. "He believed in that type of baseball work ethic. Always ground balls. Attention to detail in any little thing."

Ottavino added that whenever he, his catcher and pitching coach had mound visits, Tulowitzki would regularly join them.

"He always had his two cents about everything," Ottavino said. "He would really watch the pitches that we were throwing and give his opinion on all that, too, and really be a leader in that way."

Tulowitzki spent parts of 10 seasons in Colorado, and he still ranks among the franchise's top 10 in games played (1,048, fifth), runs (660, sixth), hits (1,165, seventh) and home runs (188, seventh).

Although the smallest part of Tulowitzki's career was spent in the Bronx, Boone still is hopeful he finds his way back to Yankee Stadium soon.

"I know the guys in there love him and hopefully at some point this season we'll get to see him again," Boone said, adding that his players still exchange texts with the now-retired infielder. "He had an impact on this organization and this team this year, with the way he was in spring and kind of setting the tone for our culture in a lot of ways."

Meanwhile, Tulowitzki is joining the Texas Longhorns as an assistant baseball coach, the school announced Thursday night.

"Tulo and I had an opportunity to spend some time together and I came away so impressed with his desire to teach and his excitement to become a part of Texas Baseball," head coach David Pierce said in a statement. "Longhorn legends Huston Street and Drew Stubbs gave great endorsements on Tulo's behalf. His knowledge goes without saying but his passion and energy for the development of young men left such a meaningful impression on me. He will be a great addition to our staff."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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