TAMPA, Fla. -- Revenge was at the forefront of Troy Tulowitzki's mind when he showed up at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Monday afternoon, and it took him very little time to exact it.
Just two pitches into his first spring training game in two years, the New York Yankees shortstop deposited a pitch just over the right-field wall, narrowly hooking it inside the foul pole.
The leadoff homer was his way of making sure the Toronto Blue Jays,convinced Tulowitzki's best days as a ballplayer were long behind him, understood just how big a mistake they made by cutting him two months ago.
And if he wasn't sure his actions were enough, Tulowitzki did his share of talking after the Yankees' 3-0 win.
"That was the team that basically told me I couldn't play anymore," Tulowitzki said. "You guys know the story. You know what happened. So yeah. No doubt about it. It was definitely extra, extra special."
Tulowitzki called the solo shot "the biggest spring training home run I've ever hit."
The intense, raw emotion he spoke with was on display when he rounded the bases, too. Tulowitzki could be seen shouting loudly as he ran the bases, and he did the same when he came back to the dugout, where he was greeted with high fives and hard pats on the back by teammates.
"Oh, I've been thinking about that at-bat for a long, long time," Tulowitzki said. "So yeah, I got a little pumped up there. But anybody who tells you you're done, you're going to have a little extra fire."
Following two injury-plagued seasons, the Blue Jays released Tulowitzki, 34, in December. They continue, however, to pay him $38 million over the next three seasons. Although he's with the Yankees on a league-minimum $555,000 deal, Tulowitzki is still getting paid more by Toronto than any other player currently on the Blue Jays' roster.
His injury troubles began in 2017, when an ankle sprain cost him much of the second half of that season. Last spring, his heels were the problem. Tulowitzki was forced into having surgery on both to fix bone spur problems. Ultimately, it cost him the entire 2018 season. As a result, Tulowitzki hasn't played in a regular-season game since July 28, 2017.
"All the rehab that I was doing and all the hours that I put in trying to come back from my surgery, there were a lot of people that said, 'Forget about it,'" Tulowitzki said. "There were people who said I'd never make it back on a baseball field again."
Just after he was cut last December, Tulowitzki held workouts that drew interest from multiple teams, including the Yankees, who flew back to where he was training in California to look at him a second time. After that workout, they decided to give him a chance to be their regular shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery.
"He's had that kind of an edge to him, with something to prove really since the first day we put eyes on him this winter," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Again, we're a long way from this thing playing out and seeing how he responds to everything. But the one thing we know we've been looking at, is he's a healthy player.
"To see him go out there for the first time in a long time, and I'm sure there are some jitters and some nerves and all that go with it and a guy of his stature, but to throw that at-bat out there first time and then handle a couple of [defensive] plays -- one really tough play, and to make it look very Tulo-y -- I'm happy for him because I know this day was a big deal."
As for the 19 regular-season games he has coming up against the division-rival Blue Jays this season, Tulowitzki said: "Can't wait."
Throughout his rehab, Tulowitzki said one person has served as motivation above all else: his 5-year-old son, Taz, who was in attendance Monday.
"He was 3 the last time he was watching games, and he [doesn't] remember that," Tulowitzki said. "So to get back out there and have him see me again, that was probably what I thought about each and every day."