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Rice's DJ LeMahieu 'overwhelmed' by Gold Glove

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

There are batting cages all over the country, from arcades to major-league clubhouses.

There aren't many fielding cages — if there were, DJ LeMahieu would know about them.

After all, the Colorado Rockies second baseman was one of those rare kids who grew up much preferring defense over offense. And that dedication paid off big-time Tuesday night, when the Birmingham Brother Rice graduate won his first Gold Glove.

"I always liked taking groundballs more than I liked taking batting practice," LeMahieu said Wednesday in a phone conversation. "My Dad (Tom) would hit me tons and tons of groundballs.

"When I got to pro ball, I kind of moved around, short, second, third. I wasn't quite sure where I was gonna land in the big leagues. I've been at second the last couple years, and really just focused on that."

LeMahieu, 26, made just six errors this season, and, according to Fangraphs, he saved 16 runs on defense. That was tops in the National League; the closest man to him was six runs back.

He was even further ahead of Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips and Philadelphia's Chase Utley, the two veterans LeMahieu beat out for the Gold Glove. Still, it caught LeMahieu plenty by surprise.

"I thought I played pretty well defensively, but those two guys that were nominated are pretty dang-good players," he said. "Phillips already has four Gold Gloves, and Utley is Utley."

But it was LeMahieu whose name was called, meaning for the rest of his playing days, he'll now have a Rawlings gold label on his glove.

LeMahieu found out he had won shortly before ESPN's awards telecast Tuesday night. His friends back home in Michigan, though, didn't find out until the show aired. And once it did, the calls and text messages started piling up at a frantic pace — including multiple ones from Channel 7's Brad Galli, LeMahieu's classmate at Rice.

"It was a little overwhelming," said LeMahieu, who was back in Michigan this past weekend, but now resides in Atlanta in the offseason. "Everyone was paying attention. I was hoping I was gonna win it, and it was cool to have that kind of support."

Folks back home always knew LeMahieu was special, particularly on defense. He once turned a triple play in Little League. And at Rice, they did a drill where you'd field a ball, throw it to the cutoff man and get back in line. If you fumbled, you were knocked out. One time, Galli recalled, everyone else fumbled and LeMahieu went some 25 rounds before the coach had to call it quits.

LeMahieu, in his fourth year in the majors, was one of two Rockies to win a Gold Glove, third baseman Nolan Arenado the other. It was Arenado's second in as many seasons in the big leagues. It was a nice finish to an otherwise trying year for the Rockies, who were in first place on May 7, but finished 30 games under .500 as a steady string of injuries proved too much to overcome.

LeMahieu went to LSU after graduating from Brother Rice. The Cubs drafted him in the second round in 2009 and he debuted for them two years later before he was traded to the Rockies in December 2011.