— -- For a man of few words, Trevor Story has quite a flair for making first impressions.
Through his first 10 games as the Colorado Rockies shortstop, Story has captured the attention of teammates, opposing pitchers, fans in the bleachers and headline writers who can't resist the temptation to engage in wordplay with his surname. He's a wondrous amalgam of hand-eye coordination, bat speed and backspin with a hint of an uppercut.
Judging from a casual encounter with a franchise icon in late January, Story also has the ability to make an impression on his way to and from the batting cage. Former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who made five All-Star teams and hit .316 over 17 seasons before retiring in 2013, was in Scottsdale, Arizona, for a team fantasy camp in January when he met Story, who is solidly built for a shortstop at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds.
"He looked like Troy Tulowitzki with broader shoulders," Helton said. "I told him, 'You know you've got to be able to catch ground balls and go to your left and right?' And he said, 'Yes, sir, I can do that.'"
While Story takes pride in his defense -- and wins points for politeness -- his glove work is essentially an afterthought at the moment. Houston's Tyler White, St. Louis' Jeremy Hazelbaker and San Francisco's Trevor Brown have sprung some painful traps for pitchers in April, but Story has gone above and beyond expectations by cramming a half-season's worth of highlights into a week-and-a-half. It's a stunning turn of events for a young player who would probably be in Triple-A Albuquerque right now if Jose Reyes weren't sidelined by a suspension related to a domestic violence case.
Story hit the ground trotting. He launched two home runs off Arizona's Zack Greinke on Opening Day and amassed seven long balls in his first six games to break the MLB record of six shared by Willie Mays, Mike Schmidt and Larry Walker. The onslaught prompted the Baseball Hall of Fame to call with a request for Story's helmet, batting gloves (both of which Story obliged) and bat (which he politely declined).
After Story encountered a speed bump Tuesday, with a hitless four at-bats and three strikeouts against Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants, he was back at it Wednesday, with two triples that probably would have been gone if the Rockies hadn't raised the Coors Field fences over the winter. Story singled in four at-bats in an 11-6 win over the Giants on Thursday to take a 1.332 OPS into this weekend's series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Although no one envisioned a power binge of this magnitude, Story provided a hint in the Cactus League that he might have something special in store. He hit six home runs -- including two off the batter's eye in center field and two monster shots to the opposite field -- to seize the starting shortstop job with a pine tar grip.
"He's mature beyond his years," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He's been so composed right from the beginning of spring training. He knew he had an opportunity coming into camp, and with some kids, it's too much for them. But with Trevor, I think it elevated his game. It brought out the best in him."
Story is a grinder
Story is no Trevor-come-lately. He committed to Louisiana State University out of Irving High School in Texas, and the Rockies considered taking him with the 20th overall pick in the 2011 draft before going for Oregon pitcher Tyler Anderson with their first selection. When Story was still around at No. 45, the Rockies pounced and signed him to a $915,000 bonus.
When Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt watched Story in the Area Code Games and other showcases, he saw a fundamentally sound player with enough tools to stay at shortstop or make an easy transition to second base. Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez were the top shortstops in that year's draft, and Story was generally considered a notch below them in the pecking order.
"I thought he was a grinder," Schmidt said. "He was a good athlete and an above-average runner, and his bat was going to play for you in the middle of the diamond, either at short or at second. It wasn't real flashy, per se, but he played the game the right way."
Scouting departments scour backgrounds for insights into players' makeup or work ethics, and in Story's case, the most telling influences were easy to find. Story's father, Ken, is a firefighter in Texas, and his mother, Teddie, is CEO of a charitable foundation. When Trevor traveled to Denver to sign his first pro contract, Teddie accompanied him on the trip, but Ken couldn't come because he had to work.
"That kind of tells you something about the values that were instilled in him," Schmidt said.
Story's trek through the minors was a mixed bag of successes and setbacks. He hit .233 with 183 strikeouts for Class A Modesto in 2013, and the Rockies made him return to the California League before promoting him to Double-A ball. He struck out 630 times in 2,061 minor league at-bats, so contact can be an issue at times.
The common themes, at each spot, were Story's understated leadership and ability to relate to teammates in all corners of the clubhouse. Like Paulie Bleeker, the teenage distance runner in the movie "Juno," Story has mastered the art of being cool without trying.
"Because of his work ethic and how he is as a person, he has an ability to connect with his teammates and draw them in," said Duane Espy, the Rockies' organizational hitting instructor. "They want to be around him and hang out with him, and he's not trying really hard to do it. He's just being himself. It's a unique quality."
Story loves his routine
Story works like a demon. During the offseason, he spent about 90 percent of his time in Scottsdale working out with fellow prospects David Dahl and Ryan McMahon under the supervision of Espy and minor league coaches Tony Diaz and Jeff Salazar. The three players typically arrived at Salt River Field around 9:30 a.m. and spent several hours lifting weights, swinging the bat and sharpening their skills in the field. They met five days a week until after the New Year, when they added Saturdays to the schedule.
Throughout the winter, Espy marveled at Story's disciplined and rigorous approach to hitting. Story took swings off a high tee and a low tee before moving on to an extended soft toss routine. He took his hacks against pitches in, out, up and down in the zone and was similarly meticulous once he stepped in the cage.
"Through all the trial and error, he's figured out how to be the best version of himself," Espy said. "That's the beauty of it. If none of us were around to help him, I think he's got a pretty good grasp of what he needs to do."
Of Story's seven early home runs, four came against fastballs. He has also gone deep off sliders from Zack Greinke and Brandon Maurer and a curveball from Colin Rea, so opponents are still searching for ways to neutralize him. According to FanGraphs, Story saw fastballs 52.0 percent of the time in his first nine games, good for 154th among MLB hitters. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera was 155th at 51.9 percent.
If you're looking for yellow caution flags or harbingers of regression, those 15 strikeouts and two walks in 41 at-bats are potential sources of concern. The Giants had some success against Story by expanding the strike zone and getting him to chase pitches off the plate. Then again, a hitter doesn't have much margin for error when he's trying to maintain a slugging percentage in the 1.000 range.
"He had one bad game [against Samardzija], and people were like, 'What's wrong with Story? Has the league figured him out?'" Weiss said. "That's been going on since he had his big first game on Opening Day. Pitchers have been trying to get him out in different ways -- and he's hit everything."
San Diego bench coach Mark McGwire, who watched Story go deep three times against the Padres last weekend at Coors Field, thinks the Rockies' shortstop is poised for success because he has a "great support system" in place. Weiss, McGwire's former Oakland teammate, is a former AL Rookie of the Year who understands the value of consistency and an even temperament in a shortstop. Also, Story is in a lineup in which he slots comfortably in the No. 2 spot, right behind Charlie Blackmon and in front of All-Stars Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado.
At one point last week, Gonzalez joked that he is coming to the plate with the bases empty so frequently that he might finish the season with 40 homers and 40 RBIs, or "ribeyes," as some big leaguers like to call them.
"I don't want to make him mad or take his steaks," Story told reporters in Denver. "But I guess that's a good problem to have."
It's also a nice turn of events to arrive in spring training as a perceived long shot to make the 25-man roster and then be a national sensation by Jackie Robinson Day. Two weeks into the season, the Colorado PR staff is working hard to make sure the media attention surrounding Story doesn't become overwhelming. Who could have envisioned that?
"I always had confidence I could play at this level," Story said. "Sometimes confidence wavers, but I think belief is a big part of it. I believe that I can play here."
He couldn't have done anything more to make a positive first impression. For a major league hitter, nothing says hello quite like kissing a few baseballs goodbye.