My back pocket was buzzing. Mary had gone for a between-innings walk with the Rockies and Reds tied 2-2. I’m not much of one for cellphone use during a baseball game, much less at a shrine like Coors Field, but I knew that vibration meant Mary had felt my thirst all the way from the end of the concourse.
She’d found something tasty and boozy and wanted to know if I was interested in sharing.
Time was, a waitress used to come ask me the same question. Same answer: hell, yeah. See, we were season ticket holders the first year the Rockies existed, watching baseball in a football stadium (Mile High) with 83,000 of our closest friends. (I feel sorry for fans who’ll never experience that. Worst team ever. Happiest 83,000 fans ever. Shortstop Freddie Benavides, wherever you are, God bless you, son. You sucked … but you were a rock star.) We sat through the polar vortexes of the time, my beloved wife beside me, refusing to leave before the ninth inning was over no matter how cold it got. Visitors 19; Rockies 3. “Never give up!”
I’ll never forget it: 1993, upper deck, directly behind home plate, the fat guy behind us in those tiny seats cupping our ears with his knees. We got to fifty-three home games that inaugural year, 20 or so wins, and unbridled excitement. Last place, woooo! We exist!
Then we moved to Baltimore.
My bad. Baltimore Sun, my first job as a manager (a great opportunity, one I should never regret): My first day on the job was April 4, 1994. Opening Day in Denver. MY Rockies went on without me. My father-in-law sent me a souvenir cup. It’s still sitting wherever I threw it.
Twenty years ago.
So, yeah, now we don’t live in Denver anymore. We just visit. Every year, without fail, because I’m a spoiled brat and a hopeless Rockies fan. It’s Coors Field, OK? Pretty much the coolest stadium ever at its opening. Wanna eat bull’s balls? They got that (Rocky Mountain Oysters). Haven’t had the hunger or the nerve. “The Art of the Ball”: Are you kidding me? Coolest frigging street art ever. My wife hates Denver, but something has always changed once we pass into Coors Field. She hates the politically Cro-Magnon beer maker Coors, too. Still…
I am married to the best sports partner in America. But as a casual attendee now vs. a 53-game-a-year babe, she wants to be pampered. Me too. Twenty bucks per for 50 games? Screw that. Two games a season. We could afford “club seats” with waiter service. And Rockaritas. Keep bringing them!
My in-laws are smarter folk. Not about the Rockies — again, my bad â€¦ for getting them mixed up with this crew — but about the cost of attending. So, grandstand seats, smartly located beneath the second deck lest one of those crazy, fleeting, sheeting rainstorms strike. (My colleagues at the Rocky Mountain NewsÂ used to call me Rain Man. At certain times of the year, it rains for like 50 seconds every day at about 2 p.m. Drenching, inescapable rain, then â€¦ sun. My late-lunchtime walk would unfailingly conclude with a sprint across Colfax Avenue just ahead of the hail. Oh, don’t get me started on the hail. Denver’s weather is the most awesome in the world. It’ll thrill you. It just might kill you. But wow. Sunshine most or all of about 320 days a year.
In the “cheap” seats, you gotta get your own refreshments. Mama has peanut brittle, peanut butter crackers, assorted leftover chocolates and cheese straws in her purse. But Mary’s mom doesn’t imbibe. Never has. And so the fluids are on us.
The Rockarita was what they originally called the pre-mixed margarita-ish concoction that the waitress used to bring. Now it was just another cocktail, from another bar/money pit on the spacious concourse. And Mary had found a bartender with a heavy hand on the tequila bottle. Let the pampering began.
It also happened to be one final heroic moment in Todd Helton’s career, as he blasted two dingers that night and the Rox went on to a very rare victory. The drinks were cold and the company was warm — and cheese straws, am I right? — and we were in Mecca. The cheap(er) seats, but still …
It’s tough to start the season knowing that your team has little shot to contend (big shout-out to Duke Jackson for thinking maybe, perhaps otherwise). But baseball with the Colorado Rockies has never been about that anyway. We were dying for a team. We got a team. And we’re living, and dying, with that team. We’re 0-1 today, having lost 10-1 last night in Miami to a dude throwing an unhittable slider. Did you see Carlos Gonzalez’s moon shot off his fastball, though? Worth the price of admission to a Rockies fan. And here we go again.
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