My dad taught me how to ride a two-wheeler, bait a hook, blast a .22, and drive a minivan. He did not teach me how to field a grounder or how one might keep score. I had to learn that myself. As a kid, one of my younger siblings would run around the four bases after making contact with a pitch from another sibling- clockwise, I might add- in attempt to knock down the remaining kid who was the catcher. This was our knowledge of baseball, and we learned it from watching A League of Their Own one night.
My dad taught us the fundamental stuff, like how important God, family and education was. Sports was something he never really immersed us in- even though I was old enough to remember, I can't recall the Broncos winning a Super Bowl. He told us though, that "you gotta support the home team", if you're going to support anyone. Occasionally, we would go down my grandma's house to watch some Monday Night Football, or sometimes the radio was left on a broadcast of a Rockies game, but none of us paid attention to what happened. Attention was not wasted on sports teams "that never really did anything for us"...until that fateful year.
It was April 2007. I had decided in my heart to start paying attention to baseball, and chose the Rockies thanks to my correct upbringing in choosing the local team. My fandom started out small. I read the Rocky Mountain News every morning when I woke up and read all the articles about the Rockies. On the days after I knew was a big game, I would scramble out of bed anxious to see if they won. I kept it a secret. I never told anyone that I was interested in our local major league baseball team, but every day they won I couldn't help feeling happy, and the days after they lost I would mutter "aw, man". Eventually my brothers and sister started noticing my muttering, and would make fun of me for my patheticness.
In August, my dad got some free tickets to a Rockies game. They were in section 114, and I couldn't hide my enthusiasm, even though the game wasn't until Labor Day. Not only had my siblings begun to notice, but my dad did also. "I didn't know you were a Rockies fan," he said to me one day in my parent's walk-in closet, full with a lot of junk including a 2004 ALCS shirt his buddy had given him, and numerous hats, at least four of which were Rockies hats. "Uh, yeah...," I shrugged sheepishly. He took a hat and handed it to me. It was his only purple Rockies hat, for most of them were the black with purple CR hats. This one was beautiful: the most beautiful deep purple color with a silver and black CR logo. The strap was Velcro adjustable, and the MLB logo was on the side. I had my first official Rockies hat.
So in September, I attended my first Rockies game (I had gone to a game in April 1995 during the strike, but that didn't really count, and I couldn't remember it anyway). Even though the weather was hot, the game was awesome, and the Rockies ended up beating the Giants that day. My dad, sitting next to me, asked "So do you know any of the players?" I thought about telling him of the guys I read a lot in the paper: Matt Holliday- who was having an incredible season, Troy Tulowitzki- the rookie, Todd Helton, Jeff Francis...but I didn't tell him. I didn't want him to think I was starting to become a freak.
A few weeks later, the Rockies were winning a lot. "Your Rockies are winning a lot" my dad told me the morning they would end up losing against the Diamondbacks during the huge streak. But as a family, we started paying more attention to the games, and hovered around the radio through the rest of September and throughout Rocktober. We even went over my grandma on my mom's side's house to watch some of the games. But at any rate, when Rocktober ended, my life had changed, and theirs was about to.
For a while there, I was the number one fan of the Rockies and sole representative in my family. Now that sounds great and all, but it's not fun. I had a couple friends I could talk baseball with, but baseball is a game shared between generations, traditionally from father to son. I'm a daughter, which is close enough I guess, but baseball didn't come from Daddy (I suppose that makes me a mutant). Yeah, a few whiffleballs flew out of my dad's left hand in the backyard, but I still couldn't really share the game totally and fully with him just yet.
I talked a lot in the offseason. My dad and the rest of my family got sick of it, and told me to "stop talking about the Rockies: they're not even playing!". But the season started and I talked more. They got annoyed more. I guess my dad figured out that his little girl had fallen in love, and even though he could not understand or defend that, he still supported that. He would ask me how the Rockies were doing, and I would try to explain as simply as possible. He'd ask what Tulo's batting average was, just to make sure I wasn't keeping track. I would throw a number out in the vicinity, although I knew full well the exact one. He would yell at me from my room to make sure I didn't have the Rockies on the radio. He knows me too well. I'd have to turn it off and go do a chore or something.
Three years and 500-odd games listened/watched/attended later, things have changed...slowly. The Rockies, my dad, my purple hat, and I have been through a lot together. Like when I begged to go to batting practice on Opening Day and he grumbled but still took me. Or in 2008 when his bus broke down, and we had to pick him up, but still made it to the game. Or the Spilly Slam, in which my mom complained about the boringness of the whole game, and my dad complained that he had to work, so we left after the 12th. And how, at a game later that same year, he remembered my agony of missing that epic game, and decided to stay when Huston Street blew a save and the game went extra-innings (Chris Iannetta hit a walkoff home run that night). Or when he looked at me a little strangely when I yelled and screamed and cried after Game Four. Or when he put up with a jerk punk Giants fan in San Francisco because of the Todd Helton shirt on his back. Or when he took me to The Catch play, and we both ended up loving it, even though we were late, and it was below zero outside. Or when he woke up with me before the crack of dawn to stand in line for Opening Day tickets (and took me early again to BP at Opening Day).
Yeah, it's been fun. But the most fun parts are the little things- the small moments that I'll remember forever. Like singing Hey Baby and being goofballs together. Or guessing the pitch type and speed of each pitch. Making fun of Joe Beimel's routine. Acting like we're broadcasting the game. Or laying down on the Coors Field grass listening to The Who as fireworks explode above us.
Our family's way of life has changed. Everyone knows I'm a freak, and I'm not afraid to show it. Now, I even think we all talk about the Rockies way too much. But I'm glad. I have passed baseball up, across, and sideways to my family. My sister, though she'd never admit it, is way more knowledgable than the drunk behind you. I know that's not sayin' much, but it's a start. On my brother's birthday wish list is a Ryan Spilborghs jersey...right underneath a Tim Tebow jersey. My other little brother broke the plastic bat as he was hitting a piñata, because he was emulating the swing of Matt Holliday, who he got to meet when he was five. My grandma gets mad when we take her to a game and Spilly is starting instead of Seth Smith, and whenever she comes over, she asks me to turn on the radio. My dad tells her she's almost as bad as me. My mom keeps telling me that Jhoulys Chacin is awesome....like I didn't know that. I can start blathering about baseball at any given time, and not have to worry too much how simple my language is. If you'd look at us all now, you'd think we descended from a family of baseball fans.
My dad will wonder aloud, "Where did I ever go wrong that you became a baseball fan? What happened?" "There's nothing you could've done- I fell in love." My dad will shake his head. I know he still doesn't get it: how baseball is the greatest game in the world. But every once in a while, my dad will ask me if I wanna catch a game sometime, and I know it's not because he's a Rockies fan, but because he loves me.
I'm working on that first part.