Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Returning to Coors Field

For the first time in over a year, I made it to Coors Field for a Rockies game on Monday.  Though I missed the real excitement by one day (yesterday's game had a little bit of everything), the opener of the Astros series had a couple innings worth remembering.

First off, the Rockies - after much mocking by me and my fellow attendees for their abysmal offense - managed to score six runs in the first inning.  This offensive explosion proved enough to win the game, though the home team, in another shocker, managed to tack on to the lead in later innings.

All was not peachy in Rockie-ville, however, as J.C. Romero and Josh Roenicke combined to surrender 4 runs and record one out in the ninth inning of what had been a 9-1 game.  Rafael Betancourt was summoned to close out the game, which he did promptly by retiring two batters in, roughly, seven and a half hours.

The final out was a strikeout of former Rockie Clint Barmes, who batted with two runners on base and a chance to bring the game to one run.  Even as a die-hard Rockies fan, a small part of me secretly wished that Barmes would have hit the ball out.  As one expects with Barmes, however, occasional power comes with frequent strikeouts and popups, and so the game was hardly in doubt.  Betancourt, especially, is the kind of pitcher that Barmes struggles to hit well, and while he had a battlers at bat, he never seemed likely to square anything up.

The details of the game, of course, were nothing remarkable.  Instead, the reason I mention it in this space is because of the chance to return to Coors Field.  Recently Rob Neyer sung the only slightly over-exaggerated praises of the park I grew up in.  While even I'm hesitant to call it the best of the last 50 years, there's no doubt that it's an amazing stadium.  The views of the mountains alone are enough to separate Coors from most any other ballpark.

Unfortunately, we sat away from the mountains, instead finding ourselves behind the left field foul pole.  Our slightly-obstructed view of the infield meant that Mark Ellis was hard to see.  Which is fine, because he still barely feels like a Rockie to me (though an offseason resigning seems plausible, if unfortunate).  On the other hand, we had an unparalleled view of Eric Young Jr., who continues, for some reason, to play out-of-position in left field.  Though, as fellow attendee Joe observed, Eric Young Jr. is out of position no matter where he plays, so there is that.

Me and the view from our seats.

As for ballpark banter, my favorite incident was our critique of a nearby fan's unfortunate sign.  It read "CarGo's #5 Fan."  Clever, at first blush, because Cargo's number is, of course, 5.  Not clever because it lacks the usual fanbole (fan hyperbole, per Joe Posnanski) of always using superlatives.  Perhaps, we discussed, it could be an ironic sign?  But the other side of the same poster-board said that it was the fan's first game at Coors, which suggests, instead, an unintentional faux pas in sign construction.

With Eric Young Jr. continuously in view, we hatched a plan for how to improve the sign.  Eric Young Jr. wears the number 1 - because, hey, that's what 5'10''* utility infielders/outfielders/fast-guys-who-don't-play-defense wear.  Combined with EY Jr.'s status as the son of Eric Young - of first Colorado home run fame - and you have the much better sign: "EY2's #1 fan."  Much, much better.

* Standing next to Dexter Fowler, Eric Young looks like a small child.  Dexter is 6'4'', though he only weighs, per baseball reference, 10 pounds more than EY.  Also, for some reason Dex can't steal bases.

The original sign showed its weaknesses in particular when Cargo came up with the bases loaded in the 8th inning. As Joe observed, "Cargo's #5 fan must be really excited, right now."  "Yes," I responded, "but there are four people more excited."

Perhaps all of this sounds irrelevant.  But that's exactly the point.  Watching baseball on television (or, anyway) for the past year, I forgot how different it is to watch in person, with friends.  There's a vitality to the experience that is lacking even on the most vivacious Purple Row game thread.  The game is alive.  What you lose in ability to see strikes and balls on television, you gain in the ability to watch the defense.  What you lose in announcing (which, frankly, is little with the Rockies broadcast crew) you gain in the quips and jabs of surrounding fans.

To those of you who live near baseball stadiums, this is not news.  But living in Hawaii - despite its many virtues - makes you forget the magic of baseball.  Even a mediocre, meaningless August game at Coors Field is enough to remind my why I love the sport, and why, even in the leanest and meanest times, I'll always be a Rockies fan.  In the end, it's not about the Rockies at all.  It's about being there - about feeling and seeing the game around you.  And, in my case, it's about Coors Field, because that's where I learned to love and understand the game, and the place that will always define my fandom.  Even if I live the rest of my life in the Bay Area, the Rockies will be my team because Coors Field is my baseball home.  And it was good to be home again, if only for one game.

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