Colorado Rockies All-Star right fielder Michael Cuddyer stood in the clubhouse late Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, quietly accepting congratulations.
He knew he had clinched the National League batting title, but Cuddyer wasn’t about to celebrate. Not yet.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Cuddyer, a 1997 graduate of Great Bridge High. “I haven’t had a chance to really think about it. I know I will, some day, and it will matter a great deal, because it’s something I’m very proud of.”
The batting crown officially became Cuddyer’s property Sunday.
He went 1 for 5 in the Rockies’ 2-1 victory over the Dodgers in their season finale. Fittingly, Cuddyer hustled out an infield single in the fifth inning.
When he entered the clubhouse after the game, his teammates stood and cheered.
“I told Cuddy that I think it’s great when the game rewards the good ones, and he’s one of the good ones,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss. “He’s worked really hard and he pours his heart and soul into it.”
Cuddyer batted .331, distancing himself from the field by hitting .384 in September. Atlanta’s Chris Johnson, the son of Norfolk Tides manager Ron Johnson, finished second at .321. He didn't play Sunday.
“You know what’s cool? I’ll always be in the record book for this,” Cuddyer said. “This is something that can’t ever be taken way.”
Cuddyer, his wife Claudia, and their three children, still call Chesapeake home. His family left their rented home in Denver last month and returned to Virginia.
“I love Colorado, but Virginia’s my home,” he said. “I can’t wait to get home and see my wife and kids. It’s been a long season.”
But a good season. Cuddyer hit 54 points higher than his career average of .277.
“He deserves this,” said Colorado first baseman Todd Helton, who retired Sunday after 17 seasons in the majors. “I know how hard Cuddy works. And it’s not like he’s out there bunting with two outs, trying to get cheap hits. He’s letting it go, taking his hacks.”
Cuddyer, who had a franchise record 27-game hitting streak from May 28 to June 30, said he didn’t really begin thinking about the batting title until September.
“I am most proud that I have applied myself to the game,” he said. “That’s just how you go out and do it. You go out and do the job at hand. Unfortunately in this day and age, sometimes that’s an oddity.”
In his second season with the Rockies, he’s become a team leader – in how he goes about his business.
“Cuddy plays the game the way it should be played,” Weiss said.
Cuddyer’s average is 47 points better than his previous career high of .284, which he hit twice with the Minnesota Twins.
“I didn’t think about doing this at all, to be honest with you,” Cuddyer said. “It wasn’t a goal. I think the key was that I never tried to get ahead of myself. I never let past of future at-bats dictate what I was going to do. That was the key for me all season.”
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