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Tall tales, small samples, and Trevor Story

Legends come from the most unlikely of places.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A strange yet perfectly normal thing happened on Saturday night. The Rockies and Padres played a baseball game at Coors Field. San Diego walloped their division rivals 16-3. It was a typical game for the Rockies, who saw their pitching staff burst into confetti for the umpteenth time. What was strange about it was that rookie shortstop Trevor Story didn't hit a home run. It was the first time that he had ever failed to do so since being called up.

The year is 2013. 20-year-old Trevor Story is suiting up for the Modesto Nuts, the High-A affiliate of the Rockies. He would take part in 130 games and come to the plate 554 times. Before the season began, Baseball Prospectus named him the 34th-best talent in the minor leagues. He was higher on the list than Yasiel Puig, Lucas Giolito, Michael Wacha, and Jorge Soler. The Rockies had selected him with the 45th overall pick of the 2011 draft. Expectations were high, especially since Story had raked in his first taste of full-season ball in 2012.

His season did not go well. Story hit only .233/.305/.394. He struck out 183 times. He reached Double-A Tulsa in 2014, but hit only .200/.302/.380. 34.6 percent of his plate appearances ended in a strikeout. Only his ability to handle himself well at shortstop kept him relevant.

Something happened in 2015. The light went on. Story mastered Double-A, and he mastered Triple-A. A Troy Tulowitzki trade and a possible Jose Reyes suspension made him the Opening Day shortstop for Colorado. The rest is history.

Story is the first player ever to hit a home run in each of his first three games in the big leagues. He's also the first player ever to hit a home run in each of his first four games in the big leagues. He leads the league with six home runs. It's a feat that's never been done before.

All good things must end, though. Story did not put the ball over the wall on Saturday. It ends a remarkable run of power and triumph. In the grand scheme of baseball, it is a small footnote, a good piece of bar trivia to use in fifteen years' time. And more likely than not, this one week will be naught but a thrilling first chapter in his career. Story has the natural tools and positional quality to carve out a fairly prolonged big league career. There will always be room for adequate shortstops with power.

But for one moment, one brief fleeting night, baseball fans tuned in to watch two bad teams play to see if Story would do it again. The Rockies and Padres are of little note at the best of times. For one night, Coors Field was a source of attention for some in the game. It wasn't to see if the Padres could somehow run up the score to 20 runs on the awful Colorado bullpen, or to see if Matt Kemp would hit a third home run in one game. It was to see if Story would hit his seventh in less than a week.

This sort of event seems to happen almost every year. Whether it's Chris Shelton launching every ball he could find in 2006 or as recent as Dee Gordon carrying a .400 batting average for much longer than expected in 2015, the small sample sizes of April baseball tug at the heartstrings and conjure up dreams headlined by the phrase "What if?"

What if Trevor Story hit another home run? What if he simply didn't stop? We know that he will stop. Everything stops and ends. Shelton was sent down just a few months later, and Gordon did not hit .400 for the year.

That doesn't stop the fan from dreaming, from watching in awe and enjoying the magical ride that is the opening of a new season and all of the ridiculous idiosyncrasies that come with it. All of the numbers start at zero. That's what makes the fact that some of those numbers rapidly ascend without any prior warning so much fun. There's no prior track record from that calendar year to look to for a cautionary word. There is only the law of averages and the grueling demands of regression. The playoffs are the only other time of year that can compare to this. The numbers once again start at zero, and suddenly Daniel Murphy is the greatest slugger in the world. It's when Marco Scutaro can become Joe Morgan.

Trevor Story was never going to hit a home run every day for the rest of his life. We all knew it deep down inside. It was a begrudgingly grumbled concession of the flawed nature of mankind. We wished only to see how long he could ride the lightning and further the reach of history. From now until another rookie is embraced by the gods, Story will be in the record books as owning the greatest slugging start to a career of all time. It may not matter for who he is deep down inside as a player, but it matters to the fan; it matters to him. Story will be able to tell his children and his children's children about the time he came up to the big leagues and refused to stop hitting home runs. His grandchildren will roll their eyes and complain to their grandfather that they've already heard this crazy yarn a million and one times and chastise him for telling such a tall tale.

Story will be able to hold that to his heart for the rest of his life. Rockies fans will be able to claim that they witnessed history on occasions besides Rocktober. Baseball as a whole will wistfully grin and remember the time that for just a few days, a rookie named Trevor Story made us feel like wide-eyed children once more.


Nicolas Stellini is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. He also covers the Yankees at BP Bronx. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.