Greetings, Rox fans. Here is my recollection of how last year played out in my own eyes. Just as all hope seemed lost in the beginning of September with the best Rockies team I have ever seen due to the efforts of the incredibly tough NL West, we started to make our run.
I had to leave for school in San Luis Obispo, CA after the first week of September so it was tough for me to leave Colorado since we had our first chance at a .500 season for the first time in a long time.
Now, as a Rox fan in a Broncos world, it’s a little disappointing to see football season start and the Denver Post baseball coverage dwindle, especially when the Rockies are headed for a stupendous finish in any Rockies fans eyes. When I get to California I am forced to follow from afar online and thus comes the best month and a half in my life.
In SLO town, we get KCAL 9 (the Dodgers station) and so I am all over the Rox schedule and when they play the Dodgers because I will be able to watch them on television. Hearing Vin Scully is also something every true baseball fan needs to do because every word out of his mouth is pure magic. So after our win over Florida and starting our DH against LA I was ready for my first Rockies baseball in a while.
To me, Helton’s game winning walk-off was the most emotion I have ever seen out of him (including the later games against SD and Arizona in the NLCS). You just somehow knew that Todd would not be denied again. The electric run around the bases, the enthusiastic helmet throw, and the pure "mountain man" look Helton portrayed that season as he made his jump onto home plate. His demeanor just speaks that this is my team and now is our time. We go on to sweep that 4 game set against LA and we are on a roll.
Now, the biggest series we have had all year. First up, Peavy. We own him, and Trevor Hoffman (but we have bigger plans for him later). Watching the game at the local sports bar amidst SD fans (man San Diego is an awful sports town). An absolute gem by Morales (what game isn't a gem by this time?). I am fully ready to wipe the faces of all the San Diego fans at school who think that this year’s Padres team is the next coming of Christ. The sweep! Still proudly wearing Rockies apparel that desperately needs to be washed. I see the magic numbers and we aren't eliminated but I can see we are going to need some major collapses. But wait, all we do is play the NL West, if we win out we will probably win the division, but I've seen this before, the Rockies blow it.
Yes! Another series against LA. TV here I come. By now we have leapfrogged the Dodgers and are in third place just behind SD. By now my Rockies are bullet proof. That was the least stressful sweep I've ever watched as a fan. Everyday at school my friends say “they’re gonna lose today, you can’t win forever”. Just wait I say to myself.
OK, last series against the D-backs (later to have a wonderful nickname). We are only two games out of first. If we win out we will win at least the wildcard, if not the division. But Webb awaits; I appreciate Brandon Webb because he beat us fair and square. But not now! The End. Game Over. Two games out with two to go for the wildcard. We have to win out, and San Diego has to lose out to Milwaukee. Ugh. All the while exchanging texts with my friends and calling my mom each night of this run to discuss the day’s events.
I have now acquired MLBTV for a free trial (which is just about all that is in this poor college student’s budget). I can watch the last series as well as follow SD-MIL. Sweet, good thing I'm doing so poorly in school to follow all the baseball games on every day.
Second to last game. Hoffman comes in. All time saves leader. Switching between games trying to see every pitch on MLBTV. Gwynn Jr. comes up. Of course being the baseball nut I am, I know that there is a statue of Tony Gwynn in front of Petco Park. Obviously the irony is just asking for the kid to do in his father’s old team, and he does. We win, no biggie, just starting back where we left off.
One game out and one to play. Good thing the MLB had that emergency coin flip to decide that whoever ties at the end of the season will come to Colorado to play us in our house. It just makes it even more amazing that we are in this position that even baseball executives hadn’t planned for the possibility.
Pads lose and we get the job done again. Todd Helton does his little "Phil Mickleson Masters win jump" and we are off to the first play-in game since '99. And here come the stats about play in games and what not. Blah, blah, we have Dragon Slayer pitching (I still don't know how he wins games, he has awful stuff). We own Peavy and I am sitting in our University Union at school watching all day. Peavy is getting shelled, and so is Fogg. Students are trickling in and out as they go to class. I am in contact out by out with my friends via text message. Nope, I attend no classes today. After the grand slam, I am dealing with the SD hecklers, lame. It’s a great game, some good pitching, and exciting plays, pitchers getting in and out of jams. But now it is getting dark; this game is taking forever (and can those awful commentators from TBS shut up?). Most everyone has left and I am sitting by myself with just one SD fan next to me. Holliday shows his defensive skills allowing the Pads to tie the game up. Bring on the relief pitchers. I’ve been calling all Hurdles moves before he makes them, but we are getting down to it and no! we can't bring in Julio! Have Atkins pitch or something! Please! We all know how that inning goes. My best friend at school in Washington broke his hand when he hit a lamp after the home run. The fan next to me says nothing, just makes a quick phone call to let his friend know the Pads just pulled off the win.
Hoffman comes in. That inning lasted 10 seconds if it lasted all of my life. Bang, Bang! Holliday crushes one, game over! Oh, just short! Tie game and runner on third with less than two outs. Baseball statistics says that this game is over. Nothing can stop us. My friend calls (who is at the game sitting right field upper deck, you can't see anything from there, I hate those seats). "What just happened" he says, I am screaming and several passer by students and janitors are giving me strange looks. Whatever, we are going to the Playoffs! Text messages start pouring into my phone. "OMG!" A walk to Helton and Mini Me himself comes up. I can't even settle in my seat because Carroll bloops one over first base. Padres are playing no doubles defense so I know it will be caught. I don't even have time to think if Mike Gallego will send Matty. Here he comes! That is the worst slide I have ever seen in my life. The ball comes in. Everyone is looking. Barrett drops the ball. All eyes are on Tim McClelland. Those were the longest seconds of my life. SAFE! I cried right then just as I am now writing this sentence. Everyone is calling me. I pick up from my mom who is at the game with the rest of the family. I can't hear anything. My sister yells something in the phone. Fireworks are going off and I am running in my bare feet all over campus. I can't believe what just happened! Its destiny, its Todd, it’s something I could never have felt before.
I am talking to my mom and tell her to buy as many tickets as she can to the playoff games. She asks “What if we don’t make it to the NLCS, we’ll lose a bunch of money from those fees”. I tell her to not worry because this team will never lose again. There is no way, The Rox are too hot right now to be stopped. We have also started discussing my traveling back to Denver if the Rockies make it to the World Series. It’s a while in the future, so talks are not too serious yet.
Next stop, Philadelphia. No one gives us a chance, the TBS guys don’t know who our players are and can’t pronounce their names correctly, and we can’t possibly keep winning. Well they were all wrong. A Matsui grand slam in the second game just means that anything is possible. I am again at school watching these games and communicating with friends and family. We get to the third game and hopefully Jimmy Rollins knows to keep his mouth shut because I think all of us here know who the most powerful offense is. Oh, this is why we don’t play October baseball in Denver. The forecast is nasty and the field is soaked. My family is at the game and I get home and put on the game (in SLO), but it’s not on; what’s going on? TBS finally comes back on and all the lights are out at Coors Field. Crazy. I watch for awhile, but I have a Triathlon dinner to attend to at a local winery in town. But I must follow my team, so I keep sneaking out of the dinner to get updates, until finally when I am sitting at my table listening to an alumni speak I get a message “Rox sweep”. Yes!
However this isn’t just a normal night because at midnight today I have my 21st birthday. What a present! I go out with all my buddies at school and they make sure I have a birthday to not remember. Sometime later, when somehow I get home, one of my roommates comes home and tries to wake me up (as I am passed out on the living room floor). He succeeds and I ask “where am I?” and he says that I am indeed at home. I go on to explain that it’s good that I am home because I am safe at home, the Rockies are going to the World Series, I didn’t get arrested, etc. My roommate says that I talked about the Rockies forever; I’ll have to take his word for it. My drunken premonition was about to come to fruition, however.
A fun thing that I was doing at this point (if you recall these, props to you) was printing out all these fold out cut and glue characters from the Denver Post website and displaying them all over the house in California and at school.
Since nearly all the LDS series were sweeps it didn’t make for many interesting series. Arizona dominated their series and we were headed to another showdown with Arizona. But we had to wait several days until then. I can’t wait! Francis is dominant in game one, and the Rox are doing their own trash talking on the field while the D-bags fans are busy throwing garbage at our players. Punks. Then my favorite part of the series. Oh, Eric Byrnes, you should really keep your mouth shut. What good could possibly have come from saying that down 2-0 in the series and headed to Colorado that you are outplaying the Rockies? Tulo summed it up best. “You can outplay us the whole series but if we win the series, I don’t care”. Torrealba’s shot to give the Rox a lead in the third game was a eye opening realization that we were going to the World Series. I have worked out with a friend in the airline business to fly standby in between games two and three of the WS. For the fourth game, I head to a friend’s house at school who is from Colorado as well, but doesn’t follow baseball at all and is understandably a huge Broncos fan. We watch and I explain all the nuances of the game and all the players and the whole bit, but by the end of the game I am so nervous that I am pacing even though there is a commanding lead in the ball game. We get to the ninth, with the game way closer than it should be and Byrnes comes up, BOOOOOO! It’s so loud every time he comes to the plate. A bouncer through the hole on the left side, but Tulo is there! He make a Jeter-esque play and makes the strong throw to Helton. Byrnes dives for first, OUT! OUT! OUT! Helton raises his arms, Byrnes is face down in the dirt. I am crying again. This play absolutely sums up everything I was feeling at this point; the strong throw from the new kid on the block to the old grizzled veteran and the enemy of my team face down. Just absolutely amazing. Still crying. My family calls from the game and we cry and scream and all that.
Now the ticket fiasco is one for the ages, and during the first day I was occupying about 4 computers in the library trying to buy tickets, and didn’t get any. Second day, I did the same thing and employed friends to help. One of my professors had his entire lab try to buy tickets during class, but to no avail. The tickets are all sold out and we were shut out. I’ve never been angrier in my life. I am flying back to Colorado for the World Series and I can’t get tickets. I have never hated fair weather fans more in my life.
OK, I’m all ready to fly home and watch the Rockies win the World Series, but the Cleveland-Boston series has to finish up. I desperately want the Indians to win because I am scared and hate the Red Sox (my dad is from New York and has been a Yanks fan all his life). Boston somehow wins the series on a bad call from the umpires, I still look back on that today as a “what could have been”. Oh well, we have won 21 of 22 games over the last month, I don’t really see us losing 4 games in one week. Well, I make it Los Angeles, but a bunch of flights have been cancelled, and so I’ve been bumped from all my flights. What am I going to do? After hours and hours figuring out option I get a flight that gets into Colorado Springs (not DIA) at 1 am MST. I’ll take it and get to fly first class! I get picked up at the Springs by my mom and we talk Rockies all the way home and then hit the sack.
Tomorrow is game 3, we will make our comeback. I get great news. Someone at my mom’s office has a ticket to game 5 he’ll sell at face value! I’m going to go anyway! During the day before game 3 I take my friends out to get them apparel to dress in. We also make a complete set of the Rockies dolls from the Denver post and also build a scale Coors Field for the players to stand on. We have the Red Sox mascot hanging all crumpled up and dead. The whole house is decorated in rally towels and posters (we were very superstitious). For game 3 I head to LoDo to watch the game on TV. With friends we decide to go to Rock Bottom, it takes us until the third or fourth inning to get seated but the staff is nice by letting us hang out in the restaurant and watch while we wait to get seated. We watch the game, the atmosphere is so electric, and I am disappointed when we lose but the excitement is unbelievable. For game 4, I have a party at my family home in Denver. Friends come over to watch the game, and it is a bit somber but we watch and hope and hope some more. It doesn’t end the way I wanted it to, but maybe that will make it all the sweeter when we become World Series champs someday in the future.
I will never forget that month and hope all those fans that got sucked up in the hype and excitement will learn what it means to be a true fan.