04/26/09 4:21 PM ET
Modest Fowler emerging for Rockies
Impressive catch Saturday shows outfielder's skill, speed
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
The 23-year-old rookie center fielder wowed all watchers again Saturday night with what's becoming something of a routine. In the seventh inning of a one-run game, Fowler ran down a deep Russell Martin drive headed toward the right-field bullpen at Coors Field, catching up to the ball and catching it against the fence to maintain the margin and keep the Rockies within striking distance of a comeback.
"I saw the ball go up," Fowler said, recalling the play. "I knew it was going to be either back at the wall or over the wall. I sprinted back there, tried to get there, and the ball hung up long enough."
Fowler remains modest about the way his skills come into play on the field, and his sincerity rings true in an age where players too often find themselves choosing between self-promotion and canned cliches.
"I'm just trying to go out and do my job," he said. "I don't know how it looks. I'm not trying to make it look spectacular or anything. I'm just trying to make the play."
But for the 6-foot-4 former high-school All-American from Atlanta, there has been no shortage of those ready to sing his praises.
"He's got more than adequate arm strength, the gait, the ability to go get a ball, great first-step quickness, and then just tremendous plus speed to actually go run a ball down," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You hear that term once in a while, 'He outran the ball.' He's a guy that can fall in that category. He can outrun the ball."
There are outfielders who make it look easy by virtue of their perfect positioning, appearing to benefit from a bevy of balls hit right to them. But to do what Fowler does, to "outrun the ball," takes a combination of a good read, a good route and a relentless pursuit that doesn't slow down for warning tracks or fences.
"That's one thing that tells a lot about an outfielder," Hurdle said. "Some guys hit that dirt and slow down. Some guys hit the dirt and they maintain speed and they know what's coming. They make the catch and they hit the wall and they bounce off and they throw it in. That was just as impressive as the catch."
Of equal importance, Fowler is making an impact at the plate. He has walked in four straight games, showing signs of having the discipline necessary for success in a leadoff hitter. He leads the club with four of its nine stolen bases, and he's shown power, connecting for extra bases on 10 of 17 hits on the season, including a pair of home runs and a third-inning double in Sunday's finale with the Dodgers.
"He's getting there," Hurdle said. "He's working very hard at it. He's aware of everything that goes with being a leadoff hitter. Is he a perfect leadoff hitter right now? Who would expect him to be? The experience and the opportunities are going to make him better from better both sides of the plate."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.