WARNING: This is looooooooong and very personal. But hopefully interesting?
This past Sunday, I was privileged enough to visit the Great Cathedral of Purple Baseball, where I was witness to one Mr. Alan Johnson's major league debut. Yes, the Alan Johnson! It was a wonderful inspiring time, one which I was felt enormously grateful to be a part of. My heart raced with each center-cut fastball to Soriano, knowing that him, and the Cubs lineup, would all fall victim to the wicked 85 MPH heat.
Oh, I'm sorry, I think my sarcasm is dripping onto my shirt. Darn stuff gets everywhere.
Anyway, I wanted to actually share more than irritating sardonic Alan Johnson comments with the community. You see, this past Sunday also marked the final game that I would attend with my faithful companion. She's been with me at every ballgame I've attended since 2003, watching the various home teams go 9-13-1 in those 8 years. I remember each and every game, every lineup, every play, even every pitch that she and I saw together.
Well, mostly cause I wrote it all down. You see, my friend is a scorebook. She was $5, and I've not spent a better $5 in my life. Take a walk down memory lane with me?
It wasn't my first Rockies game ever, or even my first game keeping score (I had a smaller, less detailed book before). But on June 18th, 2003, my Big Red scorebook and I watched the Rockies down the Padres 5-3. I was just beginning to figure out my own personal scoring system, and hadn't yet found something that worked for me... caught-looking strikeouts were forward-K's, hits were pre-printed circles, and I had absolutely no clue what a put-out was, as evidenced by this rather comical attempt at proving the sheet:
But it was good enough for me. I named my own player of the game (Chacon, who went 7.2 with 4 K's and 5 H's) and was pretty happy with myself. Also, check out the lineup we ran out back in the day: Uribe 5, Payton 7, Helton 3, Wilson 8, Walker 9, Stynes 6, Johnson 2, Butler 4, Chacon 1. These were the days when we were giving every day ABs to Chris Stynes, and was even before Fuentes was our closer, and was just setting up for Jose Jimenez. I barely recall those days with the use of my scorebook, let alone on my own.
I next saw the Hurdle-led Rockies get beat by the Tracy-led Dodgers 10-2 on September 6th, 2003. I was just starting my sophomore year at Air Academy, and trying to settle in to a tougher class load. I remember this game distinctly, which is weird for me in this time period. It was a very warm day late in the season, and the Rockies were well on their way to being down 27 games in the standings at the end of the month. At this point in my life, I didn't really care; the trials and tribulations of the boys in purple didn't really matter nearly as much as the Forensics tournament I'd be attending just 3 weeks after that. It was Poetry that year, interpreting Dick Whittington and his Cat, by Roald Dahl. I can still remember giving one of my all-time greatest performances that winter; I had the entire room laughing so hard that the judge ignored the time restrictions and just let me embellish as long as I wanted. If I've ever had Rocktober swagger, it was coming out of that performance. I made it to the State tournament that year, winding up back in Denver to compete around the same time the Rockies were getting ready to head home from Tucson.
The hometown heroes, the Sky Sox, played the Iowa Cubs on May 8th, 2004, losing 10-7. I didn't realize it at the time, but seeing Clint Barmes and Garrett Atkins on the left side of the infield would be a much more familiar sight over the next few years. Garrett just couldn't break through that day, hitting 3 balls deep to right in his first 3 ABs. He finished with GIDP and a game-ending K. ...and I don't recognize a single Iowa Cub name. I was hoping to insert a "I saw so and so play before he was awesome" or something like that, but apparently that game was just... unremarkable. But I have it down in my book, forever and always.
Another win followed, as the Rockies conquered the Tigers in Interleague on July 3rd, 2004. I had just started working at Camp Alexander, where'd I'd meet my eventual future long-term girlfriend :) (she's sitting on the rock there, I'm standing right of her), and I remember being dead tired. 12 hour days working with 11-year olds was taking its toll on me, and had the Rockies fallen asleep on the Tigers I might have as well. I do remember seeing the fireworks show that followed, however, and being awe-struck. To this day, it remains one of the best fireworks shows I've ever seen. Later that month saw a Sky Sox/Tacoma 7-5 loss, where I got my first looks at Spilborghs, Shealy, Salazar, and, of course, Omar Q. I kind of miss when innings are on the line and Alan Roach announces Quintanilla, and there's a collective groan throughout Coors Field.
The late summer of 2004 saw me get my first set of wheels, a bright red 1975 El Camino. If you know me at all, it doesn't exactly fit my personality to a T. To be honest, my mom was driving vicariously through me. But dammit, I had the car with the most character in that parking lot. And yes, those are fuzzy dice hanging from my rearview. I'm a middle class white kid from Colorado Springs and I try to be just that, I swear.
August 20th, 2005 saw a victory over the Cubbies 4-2, and July 14th, 2006 (about 2 months post-HS graduation) saw the Grizzlies top the Sky Sox 6-5. I could've sworn I heard the announcer say "Jayson Mix".
Before that 2006 game at Sky Sox stadium, there were other occasional games where I'd cheat on my book and go without her. I'd go with my best friend Patrick, who was never really a sports person (but then again, at the time, neither was I), so I thought it was weird to be keeping score while he was there. So I'd leave the book at home and just sit under the lights with him, chatting about school and life. Since I never had my book with me, I have no idea what game was the last one he and I went to. Three days before Christmas in 2005, Patrick was killed in an avalanche while hiking on Kelso Ridge. Part of me wishes that I did have my book at those games, now, so I could remember when the last one was. But I'm also okay with not knowing. Instead, I just remember the feel of the bleachers, the cool night air, and the great conversations. I love my book... but it can't duplicate those.
The offseason before the 2007 season was a pivotal one for me as a baseball fan. I remember watching ESPN and seeing that the Rockies had dealt Jason Jennings to Houston. I was so confused by this move... "He's our best pitcher! Our ace! Why on earth would we ever move him? Who is this Taveras guy? Jason Hirsh has a funny haircut..." Lots of weird stuff. Frantically, I scoured the internet looking for answers. Why would the Rockies ever do this? I didn't find anything useful until I stumbled across this post by Rox Girl explaining it. Suddenly, I knew more about the Rockies, the Astros, MLB, Dan O'Dowd, the Denver Post, and Jason Hirsh than I ever thought I could. I was hooked on Purple Row, and the site grew me into a true fan.
Because of the offseason spent at Purple Row, I begged my family to take me to spring training, and on March 28th, 2007 I saw the Rockies and Cubbies play to a 10-inning tie at HoHoKam Park. I was witness to John Mabry throwing the following: 3-1 count: HR, 1-0 count: HR, 4-pitch walk. It was kind of brutal. I wouldn't see the Rockies again until September 8th, 2007, just days before the run to Rocktober began. Greg Maddux roughed us up pretty bad that night, but I'd say we got the better of the Padres by the end of the season ;) .
Ahh, Opening Day, 2008, aka The One We Lost Badly To The Diamondbacks Because Mark Redman Was On Our Pitching Staff. I was there for pennant-revealing day, as well, but Francis got knocked around and we lost that one too. Oh look, we were paying Micha Bowie to pitch for us as well. Sometimes, I think I just block out most of 2008. It was a bad year for my book as well: 5/3/08 loss to the Dodgers (De La Rosa's debut game, where he racked up a 108.00 ERA before recording an out) and a 6/16/08 loss to the Braves (7-1) (though I did get the totally awesome replica NL trophy that day).
2009 didn't begin much better either, with a 4-8 loss to the Phillies. It was followed up by a most excellent 10-4 thrashing of the Dodgers, a game that's only halfway complete in my book because it started raining. 2009 did see my book finally venture to a major-league level game outside the state, as I watched Ubaldo rack up 9 K's against the Padres from section 316 of Petco Park. Beautiful ballpark, by the way, and the fans were very kind to me, despite my purple jersey :)
April 2010 tested my mettle as a fan, as I attended 3 consecutive games over 4 days. There was last year's day after home opener 14-inning ridiculously cold at the end loss (my mom's first game in years), the considerably better win the next day, and the 11-3 shellacking we gave John Maine. Wait, who did we knock around? John Ma-... uh-oh. The Diamondbacks came to town before we started being terrible, and Giambi hit a walk-off PH homer. You know, this one.
And finally, Opening Day 2011, where I had to waste a whole page just cause the Diamondbacks waited until the 11th inning to end our suffering, followed by Alan Johnson's big day! Which was actually a bigger day for my book, because I got to send it off in style. Tom Helmer, George Fraizer, and Tracy Ringolsby (Hall of Fame '06) all signed the book after the ROOT Sports pre-game show.
And with that, I'm currently accepting recommendations for a new companion. If I've learned anything about scorebooks, they need to be to be detailed, need to have a lot of inning space, and preferably... they should be Big and Red. But I don't suppose I'll ever be able to find one quite like this one (especially not for $5!).
And besides, there wouldn't be another one quite like this one. It's seen Coors Field nearly as often as I have. When packing for the trip to California, where I'd visit Petco Park, I packed my scorebook even before I packed my jersey. The corners are torn from the countless paper clips I crammed onto them to keep the wind from blowing everything around. The pages are falling out from constant flipping. The pencil marks scribbled down hastily in 2002 are smudging. And the sunscreen mixed with my hands have stained the outside with my fingerprints.
It's my book. It's all I take with me to see the Rockies, and no matter what's going on in the stands, or on the field, I keep score. Even if my new book is big and red... it won't quite be Big and Red enough.
Thanks for the half-inch memories.