Editor’s Note 6/11/19: After this story was published, Carlos Gonzalez was acquired by the Chicago Cubs, the team that is facing the Rockies at Coors Field this week. 

During the past decade of my life, there are few things that have given me more joy than watching Carlos Gonzalez use a wood bat to launch baseballs into the stratosphere.

Throughout his 10 seasons with the Colorado Rockies, CarGo did so in big moments time and time again. But more than that, he made it happen with one of the purest no-doubt home run swings in all of baseball. After connecting with a pitch, the Rockies outfielder would softly drop his bat to the ground as part of the same motion as his smooth but authoritative swing and begin sauntering down the first base line with enough swagger to destroy any pitcher’s ego 1,000 times over. It was one of the most satisfying things in the world to watch.

Don’t believe me? Try watching this video on a loop for 10 minutes like I just did.

Or this one.

Those swings were just part of what made Carlos Gonzalez one of the best Rockies of all time. He also had a pretty darn good glove and great arm. (The guy has three Gold Glove awards to prove it.) That stadium-brightening smile and his generally sunny disposition made him pretty easy to root for, as well. The whole package helped him become one of the most well-liked athletes in the Mile High City.

Excuse me for being a bit dramatic, but all of that makes the next thing I’m going to say sad: For the first time since 2010, the Colorado Rockies will go into their home opener Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers without Gonzalez patrolling the Coors Field grass. (The Cleveland Indians signed the veteran in free agency this past offseason.) While there is plenty to be excited about in the early stages of this Rockies season—this might be the best overall roster the team has ever assembled—there’s no denying it’s weird not having CarGo around. But we’ve got a solution to help ease your heavy heart (maybe I’m projecting a bit here). As we all cope with the loss of Gonzalez, let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember when he kept Blake Street rocking as much as any Rockies player ever.

Gonzalez came to the Rox before the 2009 season in a trade with the Oakland Athletics. That year, he immediately contributed on a team that would make one of the few postseason runs in franchise history. He also had an absurd 10 hits in 17 at-bats during the 2009 National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The following year, Gonzalez became one of the best players in baseball. He won the National League batting title and finished third in MVP voting. The Rockies would come just short of making the playoffs, but the then-24-year-old’s career year kept fans enthralled well into September.

The Rockies wouldn’t have another winning season until 2017, but it certainly wasn’t the fault of Gonzalez, who continued to rack up All-Star appearances and come through with clutch moments. In my estimation, it was during these years that CarGo won the hearts of Rockies fans forever. While two straight years of playoff appearances may make it easy for some to forget, the team has only made the postseason five times. For that reason, fans have a special love for players that make a dismal team somewhat worth watching for 162 games a season. Despite those lean years, CarGo was always capable of producing some LoDo magic.

In his final two years, Gonzalez was relegated to a platoon role in a loaded Rockies outfield. He sputtered in early 2017, which led many to wonder whether the team would deal him before the trade deadline. But after remaining in purple pinstripes, vintage CarGo made a season-saving appearance in September. A hitting hot streak by Gonzalez helped the Rockies barely clinch a playoff spot for the first time in eight years. His trademark home run swing even showed up.

Beyond his play on the field, it was obvious that CarGo’s teammates loved him. He was a clubhouse leader who helped mentor the current crop of Rockies stars. For evidence, look no further than how excited Nolan Arenado was to welcome Gonzalez back to the team after he signed a one-year deal for the 2018 season.

The Rockies lost plenty of big names this season, DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino among them. But none of them meant as much to the organization as Carlos Gonzalez. This diehard fan will miss him dearly. With the home opener officially upon us, let’s just marinate in how awesome CarGo was one last time.

Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of 5280.com and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.