After a scorching rookie season and a sophomore slump, Troy Tulowitzki wants to emerge this year as a leader in the Colorado Rockies clubhouse.
"I want the guys to look at me in this locker room and say. 'He has that leader mentality and he is a good player because he works his butt off and takes this game seriously because he cares, not only about himself, but the team,"' Tulowitzki said.
Two years ago, the shortstop didn't even know he was going to make the club until the final few days of spring training.
He went on to play a pivotal role in getting the team into the World Series, leading all National League rookies in at bats (609), plate appearances (678), games (155), hits (177), doubles (33), runs (104), total bases (292), walks (57) and RBIs (99).
He also became a vocal leader in the dugout, manger Clint Hurdle said.
"That falls with his personality," Hurdle said. "He picked some times where he became vocal and then backed it up. He obviously produced at a very high level."
After getting a 6-year, $31 million contract in the offseason, Tulowitzki got off to a feeble start in 2008.
His batting average shrank to .152 with only one home run and 11 RBIs in the opening 26 games before he landed on the disabled list for 46 games with a torn tendon in his left quadriceps.
He lost another 13 games after he slammed his bat to the ground in a June game and it shattered, lacerating his right hand with a splinter.
"I was hungry starting last season," Tulowitzki said. "I wanted to become a superstar. I felt I was on the verge of becoming of the better players in the game. I took a step back. Every year you want to take a step forward and become that player you strive to be."
Tulowitzki went back to doing the things he did well as a rookie, being more patient at the plate, waiting for the right pitch and staying relaxed.
Across the final 62 games, he had a .327 average, five home runs and 30 RBIs. He improved his season numbers to a .263 average, eight homers and 46 RBIs.
"After the All Star game I just let the game come to me instead of trying to get four hits every single game and not being happy if I didn't. I wanted to put quality at-bats together and be a team player and not an individual," Tulowitzki said.
"The struggles helped me put things in perspective. It made me realize this game is not easy. I knew that but at the same time it humbles you and makes you hungry again."