DENVER (AP) — Nolan Arenado spent eight seasons at Coors Field. Never spent this much time in the visitors’ clubhouse, though.
Upon his highly anticipated return to Denver, the eight-time Gold Glove winner said he hopes his acrimonious split with the Rockies doesn’t cloud what he accomplished in Colorado.
“I really feel like I could look at my past and have really no regrets when it comes to what I did here,” he said. “I feel like I did some great things.”
Arenado played his first game at Colorado on Thursday night since an offseason trade to the St. Louis Cardinals. The deal followed years of off-field drama between Arenado and former general manager Jeff Bridich, a rift that ended up costing the Rockies the face of their franchise.
Arenado was cheered by the sparse Colorado crowd when he ran sprints in the outfield before the game. The Rockies played a tribute video on the scoreboard that lasted more than a minute, and when he came to the plate in the top of the first he received a standing ovation with a smattering of boos.
Arenado stepped out of the box, took off his helmet and tipped it toward the stands. He tapped his heart and pointed to the fans during the 45-second appreciation, and then he popped out to end his first Coors Field at-bat as an opponent.
It appeared Arenado was going spend his entire career with Colorado when he signed a $260 million, eight-year contract before the 2019 season, but his relationship with Bridich soured soon after. The two didn’t speak after the 2019 season and the star third baseman was dealt to St. Louis before spring training this year.
Bridich resigned as general manager in April and was replaced on an interim basis by Bill Schmidt, the organization’s director of scouting. Arenado said he doesn’t know if things would have turned out differently if Bridich left before him.
“I don’t know what the plan would have been regardless,” Arenado said. “They could easily want to trade me still or I would have stayed. I don’t know how it would have really turned out.”
Arenado broke in with Colorado in 2013 and made an immediate impact. His first season was the last one for Rockies great Todd Helton, and Arenado became the club’s most recognizable star after Troy Tulowitzki was traded to Toronto in 2015.
He won the Gold Glove in each of his eight seasons with Colorado and emerged as an offensive force by his third season. From 2015-19 he hit 199 home runs and averaged 124 RBIs a year, helping to lead the Rockies to the postseason in 2017 and 2018.
Arenado said it was a little strange arriving in town and going to the team hotel instead of his downtown Denver home, and entering the visitors’ clubhouse as well. He said he had dinner with Rockies shortstop Trevor Story on Wednesday night.