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How Red Sox free agent acquisition Trevor Story went from the shadows of the Rocky Mountains to the spotlight of Boston

Despite being one of the elite players in the game, Trevor Story spent the first six years of his career in relative obscurity before signing with the Red Sox.Chris Tilley for The Boston Globe

Despite Trevor Story’s six-year résumé of big league excellence, he’d spent much of his career in relative obscurity until he signed a six-year, $140 million contract this past week with the Red Sox.

He’s been one of the elite players in the game. He’s a two-time All-Star shortstop who is one of four players in the majors since 2016 — along with Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and José Ramírez — with at least 100 home runs and 100 stolen bases.

Over the last four years, his contributions with the Rockies placed him among the major league leaders in Wins Above Replacement. In that measure of total excellence, Story ranks ahead of many of the game’s most recognizable stars, including shortstops Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa.

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That Story has become such an accomplished player is not a shock to those who have known him the longest. As a teenager he combined remarkable athleticism with off-field discipline from almost the moment he was drafted by the Rockies in the first round (No. 45 overall) in 2011.

“He was destined to be a damn star. All he had to do was continue to trust the process and follow the blueprint,” said Twins special adviser LaTroy Hawkins, who trained with Story in his first offseasons in pro ball. “For me, he’s a superstar.”

Yet nationally, he’s lacked the profile of such a player.

Story now stands on the cusp of what could be a very different experience. In signing with the Red Sox, he is going from the shadows of the Rocky Mountains to the spotlight of one of the most visible teams in the game.

“Nobody’s really watching you in Colorado,” said former Rockies teammate Adam Ottavino. “The fact that he signed with the Red Sox, just knowing Trevor and having talked to him, he really wants to be there. He wants to play big-time baseball and he wants people to watch him play. He’s taking the leap and signing with the Red Sox. He knows what he’s getting into.”

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‘He just wants to win’

Trevor Story seems driven primarily by sheer competitiveness.Chris Tilley for The Boston Globe

Yet there is a difference between entering the spotlight and craving it. Story’s acquaintances describe him as unassuming, fueled by competition rather than recognition.

“Becoming a movie star now in Boston is not what drives him,” said Twins assistant bench coach Tony Diaz, Story’s first manager in pro ball. “He’s a simple kid with a simple life. He just wants to win.”

Story grew up as a three-sport athlete in Irving, Texas, whose love of competition was honed as a Friday Night Lights quarterback. But he recognized where the future was taking him. Story gave up the gridiron after his sophomore year to focus on baseball, with colleges and scouts beckoning.

When Rockies scout Dar Cox went to Irving High School, he believed in Story’s skills — athleticism that he believed would allow him to stay at shortstop and a potentially elite hitter (on the 2-to-8 scouting scale, Cox recalls projecting Story as a 7, a potential batting champion) with power that projected as average or slightly below average.

But in the risky world of betting on high school players, Cox felt certain about who Story was.

“When you went to the game to watch him play, you weren’t thinking he was going to hit the ball 400 feet. You just went and saw a guy play good baseball,” said Cox. “He was going to play in the big leagues somewhere whether you liked it or not. That was the bottom line. Some guys bring it to the game and some guys don’t. He brought it to the park every time.”

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The Rockies were sold on the player and person and took him 45th overall. Despite a scholarship offer at LSU, Story signed quickly.

Despite an offer from LSU, Trevor Story decided to turn pro right out of high school and accelerate his journey to the big leagues.Chris Tilley for The Boston Globe

“I grew up wanting to win the World Series. I didn’t grow up wanting to win the College World Series,” said Story.

After the 2011-12 offseason, Story commanded the respect of big leaguers for his precocious maturity and discipline. Every day, he drove 30 miles each way to train at the EXOS facility in Frisco, joining a group led by Hawkins and Torii Hunter.

Will Middlebrooks, then in the Red Sox minor league system, was also part of that group. He recalled that he and Story were reluctant to say anything in the initial days, but the teenage Story didn’t take long to garner attention when the group adjourned to a basketball court.

“I remember [Story] taking the ball and just messing around, and he’s doing a 360 dunk like it was nothing,” said Middlebrooks. “I’m thinking, ‘Who the heck is this kid?’

“He just talked with his actions. He worked his ass off in the weight room and he was just a superior athlete. Even Torii and LaTroy were just in awe watching him move.”

Over that offseason, Hawkins — who pitched for 21 years in the big leagues — said there was “no doubt” that Story was a future big leaguer. That offseason also sold Story on what might be possible.

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“I gained a lot of strength and a lot of speed and some mass, too,” said Story. “That’s when I realized, ‘I feel dangerous out here.’ ”

Moving for an opportunity

Trevor Story's path to the big leagues wasn't always smooth.Chris Tilley for The Boston Globe

Story did not travel a straight developmental line. He excelled in Single A in 2012 but had his lunch handed to him in High-A in 2013. But Rockies officials took note of how Story did not shy from his failures and seemed more determined to learn as a result.

Still, Story faced a challenge beyond the need to gain further refinement in the minors. There was an obstacle to his big league future: Troy Tulowitzki.

Story had spent nearly all of his time in the minors as a shortstop, a position occupied by Tulowitzki, a Rockies icon. The two had a close relationship, with Story working out with Tulowitzki in the offseasons, but no one expected Story to displace the perennial All-Star.

And so, in 2014 and ‘15, the Rockies explored alternate paths for Story to the big leagues, giving him time at third base and, of particular relevance to the Red Sox, second.

Diaz worked extensively with Story at second, recalling how the young player “made things look easier than they actually were. There were a lot of people who thought that he could be a force at second.”

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But a position change proved unnecessary. The Rockies traded Tulowitzki in 2015. The shortstop acquired from the Blue Jays in that deal, José Reyes, was suspended just before the start of spring training in 2016 under MLB’s domestic violence policy.

Trevor Story's future likely lies at second base in Boston.Chris Tilley for The Boston Globe

Those developments created an unexpected opening at short. Story wasted no time in filling it.

“I just felt like it was my spot to take and I just ran with it,” he said.

“Within the first week of spring training, I’m like, ‘This kid’s ready to play shortstop up here,’ ” said Walt Weiss, the Rockies’ manager in 2016. “It was very evident.”

Story’s readiness to take over Tulowitzki’s spot earned respect. But having won the Rockies’ shortstop job, the 23-year-old recalibrated the sense of possibility surrounding him.

Story homered twice in his big league debut, the first of four straight games in which he went deep. He homered six times in that burst, the most ever by a player in the first four games of his career.

“I remember sitting with my wife and we’re just like, ‘What in the world is going on right now?’ ” said Story. “We just loved every second of it.”

Story was amid a brilliant rookie year (.272/.341/.567 with 27 homers in 97 games) when he suffered a season-ending torn ligament in his thumb. The Rockies, who’d been in shouting distance of the wild card, faded.

Story endured a sophomore slump in 2017 (.239/.308/.457 with 24 homers), but his excellent defense contributed to a wild-card appearance. The next year, as the Rockies again reached the playoffs, Story bounced back as an offensive monster (.291/.348/.567 with 37 homers and 27 steals), the start of a star-caliber four-year run.

Seeking more

As Boston's shiny new signing, Trevor Story has the opportunity to thrive in the spotlight.Chris Tilley for The Boston Globe

Yet outside of the National League West, the appreciation for that skill set was limited — in no small part because of the performance of Story’s team. The Rockies descended into a second-division team from 2019-21. Emptiness gnawed at him.

“It was tough. I can’t lie about that. First three years, every game was super meaningful, emotions were high, and that’s the kind of baseball you want to play. And the last three weren’t necessarily that way,” said Story. “I want to win. That has a lot to do with the decision that was made to come [to Boston].”

While the Red Sox expressed interest prior to the lockout, Story initially sought a top-of-the-market contract, a team with a chance to win, and the opportunity to stay at shortstop.

But when the lockout concluded, Story adjusted his outlook. While trying to make sense of “the biggest [free agent] frenzy of all time,” he accepted that he might have to choose between priorities. First on the list?

“Winning,” he said.

Story said he turned down more money and the chance to stay at shortstop (both of which were believed to have been offered by the Rockies) to sign with the Sox. He was guided by what he described as an overriding desire to return to October and find an environment that can bring out the best in him.

The chance to play with Xander Bogaerts and join a team that reached the American League Championship Series last year (a stage that Story has never reached) was compelling. He is, after all, not merely seeking to repeat individual success, but to realize greater pinnacles, personally and with his team.

“I’m confident in myself really anywhere I play,” said Story. “For the right team, for the right opportunity, we would make that move [to second]. And here we are.

“Honestly, I do feel like there’s more [to accomplish]. I know I’ve played really well. I just feel I have more in there. I know I do. I truly do believe that my best ball is ahead of me.”


Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.