DENVER -- Kirk Nieuwenhuis cannot recall -- or conveniently forgot -- if he skipped school in order to attend Opening Day one year at Coors Field. Raised in nearby Highlands Ranch, Colo., then later becoming a football and baseball star at Denver Christian High School, Nieuwenhuis grew up idolizing Todd Helton, Larry Walker and other stars of the late-90s Rockies.
Needless to say, tickets were in demand with Nieuwenhuis leading off Friday and playing center field for the Mets.
"I'm not sure of the number," Nieuwenhuis said, laughing. "But quite a few."
Once a temporary replacement for injured center fielder Andres Torres, Nieuwenhuis has bullied his way into additional playing time with his offensive and defensive contributions, including a leadoff single Friday. Because of it, he will remain in the lineup even when Torres returns next week, with manager Terry Collins indicating that Nieuwenhuis will shift to left.
"You've got to play a guy where he fits the best," Collins said. "Where does Andres fit the best here? Well, his most success has been in center field."
That's no different for Nieuwenhuis, even if many scouts have long dubbed the 6-foot-3, 215-pound rookie a future corner outfielder. Nieuwenhuis, for his part, does not particularly care what position he plays, as long as Collins continues penciling his name onto the lineup card.
"It's been a fun ride so far," he said. "It's only been two or three weeks I guess, but it's been a blast just to be a part of this team."