On Monday night, Connor Joe will take the field for the Colorado Rockies, playing left field and leading off as the Rockies open a three-game set against the San Diego Padres.
When Joe runs to his spot in left field to open the game, don’t be surprised if he takes a moment to soak up the environment. After all, Monday not only marks his 29th birthday, but also the first time he has celebrated his birthday on a Major League field.
And yes, after a battle with testicular cancer and earning a second chance in the Majors thanks in part to a work ethic that has been praised by Colorado manager Bud Black, Joe is taking today and every day with the joy of someone stepping onto the fresh cut grass of a baseball diamond for the very first time.
Here’s why Connor Joe says this birthday with the Colorado Rockies will be special for him.
Joe said that he doesn’t have any annual birthday traditions, but the big day has often included some form of athletic competition. Growing up, Joe says anything from flag football to laser tag to bowling filled up the day. Today, it revolved around batting practice and joking around with Rockies teammates near the batting cage.
The newest Joe birthday athletic feat is, of course, done with the smile that is a signature part of Joe’s persona, one that Rockies fans have embraced with fervor.
“I really learned not to take anything for granted. Birthdays, big days, I don’t care. Celebrate the small victories as well as the big victories,” Joe said before Monday’s game. “It’s a blessing, man, and to be able to celebrate it out here in the sun and the beautiful Denver area. You can’t beat it.”
Since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on July 20, Joe is slashing .319/.360/.623 with six homers and 18 RBI. He’s also reached base safely in 24 of his 26 starts in 2021, putting up a .303/.381/.475 slash line during those opportunities.
And yes, Joe is excited to spend his 29th birthday playing the game he loves and surrounded by the fans who have embraced his playing style and exuberance for the game.
“I’m so grateful for all the fans, and the way they’ve embraced me at Coors is tremendous,” Joe said. “Around the locker room, there are a couple of guys who say they’ve never seen someone embraced like I’ve been. I don’t know what it is, or what I did to deserve that, but I’m really grateful for it.”
So is this the best birthday ever?
“To be at a ballpark in the big leagues? I don’t think you can really compare this to past birthdays,” Joe said as a smile flashed across his face. “Yeah, it’s a great birthday.”