FanPost

The Gift - My Rocktober Story

Hey folks. Some of you all might remember I used to be the lead Rockies blogger over at Most Valuable Network. I ended up leaving MVN last year and haven't really had a chance to do any long form writing in a while. This is the first thing I've done since December - with everybody else sharing their Rocktober memories, I was suitably inspired. I hope you all enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed the hell out of writing it.

 

The worst thing is that it's never gonna feel as good as it did then, those 21 days where we all walked around with CR caps and idiot grins, those days when all the time and energy we'd expended got repaid tenfold, those heady times when the Rockies - our Rockies - were the greatest team in baseball, the lead story on SportsCenter, the feel-good , out-of-nowhere tale that even Hollywood would have rejected out of hand as too far-fetched.

We can't relive that feeling. No matter how hard we try. It was there for 21 days, and then gone, and it left us with NL Champions shirts and flags and coffee mugs and other miscellany, all pleasant reminders of those times, but none of them coming close to capturing just what those days felt like.

All we can do is hold on to the memories. Not just the big ones, either - the little ones, because while those were what made it special for all of us, it's the small stuff that made is special for each of us as individuals. Like these...

***

On the night of September 21st, 2007, I lay awake in a hotel room in Monteagle, Tennessee, compulsively flipping my cell phone open every five minutes under my blanket so as not to wake the three others in the room sound asleep as the clock neared midnight. Without a reliable wireless internet connection at the hotel that the DePauw University football traveling party, which I was a part of by virtue of being the team's play-by-play announcer, was staying at, the mobile internet on my cell phone was my lone lifeline as I checked in on the Rockies-Padres game in San Diego that night. As the game went from the 9th inning to the 10th, and further on into extra innings, I faded into sleep myself, unable to keep going after having endured a six-hour bus ride that afternoon. Around the 12th inning is when I think I finally faded out, my phone resting on the nightstand next to me.

I bolted awake at around 5:15. Instinctively, I reached for the phone. Instead of showing the live updating box score, my mobile internet now displayed the AP game recap: "Brad Hawpe homered in the top of the 14th inning..."

The next day was a blur. DePauw beat Sewanee 14-10. There was another bus ride, six hours back through the Nashville and Louisville city limits on the way back to West Central Indiana. It was my 21st birthday, and the Rockies were playing the Padres, and with what little cell phone battery I had left, I kept hitting the refresh button on the live boxscore. Ryan Speier worked out of a big jam in the fifth and I silently rejoiced. When the game ended, I couldn't be silent anymore. I turned to my broadcast partner and said, simply, "One and a half out with six to play. This is incredible."

***

Trevor Hoffman came on to pitch the ninth inning in Milwaukee and I prepared to write a eulogy for the 2007 Rockies season. I was searching for the song and lyrics that could best fit the feeling of losing something that we had never really had in the first place. I found "I Know It's Over," by the Smiths.

I know it's over
And it never really began
But in my heart it was so real

I pasted it into a Word document, ready to start writing. Then my dad called. We began commiserating, and the Brewers began rallying, and Tony Gwynn Jr. stepped to the plate.

The 1,051 miles of separation between my dad and I evaporated instantly. We were both on the couch together, watching, hoping for the miracle that we both knew deep down wasn't going to happen... TIE GAME! And I could no longer feel the soil falling over my head.

My dad and I stayed on the phone through the 10th inning, and the 11th inning. The Brewers loaded the bases. As the next Brewers hitter approached the plate, my dad asked, "What is a Vinny Rottino?" I barely had time to answer before whatever it was drove in the game winning run.

We were still alive. I closed out of Word, choosing not to save my work.

***

The tiebreaker game... those are no small memories. I will say until I draw my dying breath that it was the greatest baseball game ever played, that Atkins' double was a homer and that Holliday did indeed touch the plate. But my favorite part of that game happened in the fifth inning, when Tulowitzki doubled and Holliday came to the plate. If you have a copy of the game on DVD or iTunes or whatever, watch that at-bat. If the chants of "M-V-P!" don't raise the hair on your arms, you don't have a pulse. And right in the middle of the bridge from V to P, Holliday laces one into center field to score Tulo and tie the game.

I just watched it again to see if I still got chills. Yep.

***

The night the lights went out at Coors Field, I was on another bus, a return trip from Birmingham, Alabama, where DePauw had beaten Birmingham Southern. Again, my phone was my lifeline. I never saw Ubaldo Jimenez baffle Phillies hitters. Never saw the stadium go dark. Never saw Jeff Baker's grounder through the hole. Never saw Manny Corpas pump his fist as the Rockies wrapped up their first playoff series win ever.

It was all in my head. And when it was over, I snapped my phone shut, turned to the Sports Information Director in the seat across from me, and said simply, "We're in the NLCS. This is unbelievable."

***

During Game 1 of the NLCS I was supposed to be hosting a bi-weekly sports talk radio show. That night's discussion was periodically interrupted with descriptions of the big plays (without the written consent of Major League Baseball).

As Game 2 extended into extra innings, I made myself a cup of hot tea to soothe my throat and packed my suitcase for a trip back home to Denver. Willy Taveras drew a bases loaded walk and I set aside my tea and cracked open a celebratory Coors Light. It was 1 AM in Indiana.

Every time Josh Fogg induced a double play in Game Three, I leapt off my couch at home, now surrounded by my family as I watched. Yorvit Torrealba hit a homer off that fat piece of crap Livan Hernandez and for the first time during that magical run, I got to high five and hug somebody.

***

I was at Game 4. Made it in the stadium just in time, my brother and I sprinting four blocks with tickets from StubHub in hand to get inside Coors Field in time to see Franklin Morales warming up and 50,000 people waving their white towels over their head.

I stopped my brother on the concourse, in the right field corner, which provides a great view of the crowd. We looked at the towels waving and listened to the music pulsate through the ballpark and I saw the place I love the most in the world the way I had always wanted to see it.

"Look at this place. Look at this f***ing place."

I turned to my brother.

"Unbelievable."

***

When it was over, when Eric Byrnes had done his faceplant and a dogpile of black jerseys had formed and people started throwing brooms in the air in jubilation... I can't even do that moment justice except to say I wish I could live it over again every day. I looked at my dad's face and I saw him look like a little kid. I wrapped my brother in a bear hug so tight I thought I'd break him. And then the high-fiving and hugging of total strangers started - what experience other than sports can make us do that without thinking? - and there was more cheering and towel-waving and fireworks all blurring together into one glorious visage.

There was a woman standing next to me - I'd figure her to be in her late 30s - wearing a Casper Rockies cap and sobbing. I mean there were a flood of tears coming from the seat next to me. She had come alone. I turned to my right and gave her a hug, and simply said, "This is unbelievable."

The next day I went with my brother and mom to Sports Authority to get the NL Champions t-shirt. There were about 15 other people surrounding the merchandise tables that afternoon. Each person had the exact same look on their face - that idiot's grin, that look lie we'd all hit Scratch-and-Win and bedded a supermodel the night before.

***

The World Series wasn't nearly as much fun, but at least we got beaten by a superior ballclub. Never any shame in that. But that moment in the 9th inning of Game 4, when Jamey Carroll turned on a Jon Papelbon fastball and sent it screaming towards the left field fence... that instant the ball hung in flight, looking like it could tie up the ballgame... that was the last moment of the gift we had been given, that unshakable belief that the Rockies could pull it out. That game died in Jacoby Ellsbury's glove. But the gift never did.

***

There's a box in my closet at my parent's house. It's not my house anymore - I live alone and work in northern Wyoming these days. But it's my box, and it's full of everything I've got from the 2007 season. Game notes and press passes from the season's first two months, when I was interning with the Rockies' flagship radio station. Programs and ticket stubs from June to August. Copies of every Denver Post edition from the tiebreaker game on through the end of the Series. The Rocktober placard and white towel I saved from Game 4. It's all in there. Realistically, once I get it back and move it to my new home, it'd be the first thing I'd save from a fire.

But that box isn't big enough. It can't fit all of those memories. I can't store the way I felt watching Matt Holliday lift the Giles Trophy in a box. I can't relive that wild scene at Coors Field immediately following that final out in Game 4.

And that's the worst thing. But the best thing is that we got to feel that way at all. Those 21 days belong to us, always. It was a gift unlike any other. A team will win a championship this year and give their fans a thrill, just like the year before and all the years thereafter. And one of these days, the Rockies are going to win a World Series, and it's going to be awesome, and special. But even that won't top those 21 days.

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).

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