DENVER -- Though his eight-game hitting streak came to a halt at Coors Field Tuesday night, Chase Headley got right back to it Wednesday, turning on Juan Nicasio's 97-mph fastball and sending it over the left-field fence for a first frame solo shot to put the Padres ahead of the Rockies. The homer gave Headley a hit in nine of his past 10 games, and raised his average to .344 (11-for-32) during that span.
Headley followed with his second home run of the game in the sixth inning, a two-run shot.
The Fountain, Colo., native, who grew up watching the Rockies' Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs and saw his first big league games at Mile High Stadium and Coors Field recalls that, "Vinny Castilla used to hit at least two home runs every time I came," and has special memories of the impact Colorado had on his career.
Chief among the influences was Alan Cockrell, the hitting coach for the Sky Sox when Headley was growing up, and later for the Rockies in their World Series run in 2007. After serving in the same capacity with Seattle, Cockrell is now the Minor League hitting coordinator for the D-backs. Cockrell played in the first game in Coors Field as a replacement player in 1995 at the tail end of the strike that prematurely ended the 1994 season.
"I actually got to hit with Alan Cockrell a lot when I was in high school," Headley said. "It was just kind of a coincidence. I met him because there was really only one place to go to an indoor hitting facility at the time. He was giving some lessons. He just saw me hit one day, and said, 'Hey, I'd love to work with you, just to help you out.' So we hit just a couple times, and then I ended up going to Tennessee. And obviously he went to Tennessee as well, so when I was coming back, that was another connection, and I would hit with him over Christmas. When I was home, I'd try to get a hold of him."
Colorado hadn't produced many big leaguers in those days -- with the most notable exception of Hall-of-Famer and Colorado Springs native Rich "Goose" Gossage -- so Headley seized on the opportunity to learn from a veteran like Cockrell.
"He was one of my favorite guys I've ever worked with," Headley said. "I hadn't received any advanced coaching before that, because where I was playing, there wasn't a ton of good baseball going on. My dad and my coaches helped me as much as they could, but I never really had exposure to somebody who knew the nuances of hitting, kind of that advanced stuff about hitting. He was the first guy that really kind of took me under his wing."