COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday never played a home game as a member of the Triple-A Sky Sox, but he left an indelible impression on the organization the last time he played here.
It was just before the start of the 2007 season, and the Rockies were in town to play the Sky Sox in an exhibition game. The day before, Colorado Springs finished putting the final touches on a new, $750 thousand digital scoreboard in left-center field.
Before letting the Rockies sluggers blast away in batting practice, Sky Sox general manager Tony Ensor wanted to make sure none of their missiles would harm his new baby. Ensor thought they should cover the scoreboard with a protective netting, but the Daktronic workers who installed the scoreboard ensured him it was impenetrable.
Apparently they had never seen Holliday hit a BP meatball. Holliday stepped to the plate and, on the first pitch he saw, hit a towering shot that didn't stop until it crashed into the scoreboard ribbon, eliciting a thunderous "bang" that reverberated onto the field. The entire square of the scoreboard Holliday hit was destroyed.
"It was like buying a brand-new car, going out to dinner and coming back to find a ding on it," Ensor said. "He rifled the ball, and it just blasted the thing right off."
The Sky Sox put a net up the following week.
On Friday, Holliday made his first trip to Security Service Field since committing the unintentional vandalism. After spending the past two weeks on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring, Holliday was back to begin his rehab assignment.
Holliday went 0-for-2 with a walk before exiting in the eighth inning.
More importantly, Holliday said before the game that his hamstring felt "100 percent."
"I think it is," Holliday said. "I've tested it about as good as you can test it."
Holliday will play two more full games on Saturday and Sunday before he returns to the Rockies.
Putting on the Sky Sox's home uni was a unique experience for Holliday. Unlike most big league players, who spend months -- sometimes years -- toiling away in Triple-A before making the big leagues, Holliday played just six road games with the Sky Sox in 2004 before injuries to outfielders Preston Wilson and Larry Walker forced the Rockies to call him up.
This was Holliday's first official game as a member of the Sky Sox, and fans arrived at the stadium extra early to watch the two-time All-Star take cuts in batting practice. Even a few of the players were caught with their jaws dropped as they watched ball after ball clear the outfield fence.
"It's been really neat having him around," Sky Sox outfielder Chris Frey said. "There's more of a big league feel out here. We usually don't have this many people at the stadium watching BP."
After finishing second in the National League MVP race last year, Holliday was off to another All-Star caliber start this season before getting injured. In 46 games, he hit .321 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs.
Holliday has held up his end of the bargain, but many of his teammates have struggled en route to a last-place record in the NL West. Holliday said the reasons for the Rockies' disappointing start has nothing to do with trying to live up to the expectations that go along with being the defending NL champs.
"I think the lack of execution on the baseball field has cost us several games and has affected where our record is now," Holliday said. "I think expectations and all that stuff is stuff that goes on outside the field. When you get on the field, you've got to play the game the right way. You've got to make pitches. You've got to get hits in crucial situations. That's how you win games. If you don't execute those things, you're not going to win whether you have expectations or a bull's eye on your back."
Holliday's bull's eye will only grow larger as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd hasn't said publicly that Holliday is on the market, but if the Rockies continue to slide, O'Dowd may be more inclined to shop his star player.
Right now, trade rumors couldn't be further from Holliday's mind.
"I don't really think too much about it at all," he said. "I'm here to play baseball. Those are things out of my control. I play for the Rockies. That's my approach to it."
There's good reason for Holliday to keep his focus on baseball. Despite all that's gone wrong this season, the Rockies were just 10 games back of the first-place Diamondbacks in the National League West after Friday's games.
"We've got almost four months left, so we can do some damage," he said. "If we get things going in the right direction again and the pitchers pitch like they have the last couple of games, we can get this thing turned around a little bit.
"It's not a lost season yet."
Jeff Birnbaum is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.