Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row.
"You’re going to write about it?"
"I’m going to write about it," I said. "Todd Helton comes to Grand Junction."
I am a lifelong Rockies fan. It is a rare breed of person. Many current purple-clad die hards are old enough to have been fans of baseball long before the Rockies existed. Many others are yet too young to honestly be considered "lifelong fans" of anything. My earliest memories of caring about sports revolve around falling in love with the Blake Street Bombers. The Colorado Rockies became an MLB team the year I started little league and my little league was located in a relatively unknown valley where two Grand rivers meet and baseball is king.
Grand Junction, Colorado has hosted the Junior College World Series (affectionately known as JUCO) for 55 years, and it has become a part of almost every aspect of the local culture. It is the place to be the week everyone gets out of school. Baseball runs in our veins, it is our biggest claim to fame. Kirby Puckett played here!
Denver always felt like an enormous metropolis across a great divide, where my heroes in purple pinstripes played on the big stage, where Todd Helton became one of the greatest ball players of his era. It all felt so big, so far away, especially for a 6 year old. And then, many years later, we built it so they would come.
After Helton’s short rehab stint with the Rookie club he quipped, "If you’re going to get some work in, may as well do it in a beautiful place."
My day at the newly renovated Sam Suplizio Field was a testament to the opinions Todd Helton expressed in that interview. A beautiful backdrop of intoxicating natural beauty sets the stage for the simplicity and intimacy of baseball to be on display.
Siting in those stands, I recalled an episode of the long forgotten Aaron Sorkin show, Sports Night, in which one of the anchors of the titular news program mused on the poetic experience of watching a minor league game; "there is nothing like watchin’ someone play who is playing for another chance to play again tomorrow."
Sure, the prices are great, the beer and wine are locally crafted, the between innings antics featuring Homer Simpson are entertaining without being distracting, and the community of baseball savvy people can turn an already inexpensive evening into a baseball nirvana. But the real prize of attending Grand Junction Rockies Rookie-ball is in seeing guys play for their lives, for their futures, for their families. Some of them are hoping to go on to great careers and live the American dream, but many are only looking for that single moment of recognition…"Hey Rookie! You were good."
Every ground ball out features a runner blazing through first base like his aim is the right field foul pole. Each out recorded and each run scored for the home team is celebrated by the home faithful with the enthusiasm of a Spanish speaking soccer announcer. Nobody is doggin’ it anywhere on the field.
Most of us have complaints about the cushiness, fortune, and prima-donna…ness of professional athletes. The very best of the opposite of those complaints is on display at Sam Suplizio on any given summer evening in the Grand Valley. There are no millionaires positioning themselves for the next big contract or endorsement, no managers making insane moves due to ridiculous pressure or fear of being fired, just kids playing their hearts out, hoping someone will notice.
It isn’t difficult to strike up random conversations with the myriad of people you could meet at a GJ Rox game. The elderly gentlemen in front of me carried on an ongoing conversation with anyone who would participate as to the pitching approach of Eddie Butler. The scouts nearby shared the high MPH on certain pitches. The woman sitting directly behind me told of her pride in the young catcher who was staying in her house. We all stood and clamored and rabbled when he was beaned in the ensuing at-bat. And we all watched in awe as rookie sensation, David Dahl (Rockies #1 2012 Draft Pick,) won the game with his bat, his legs and his brain.
If David Dahl (#1 on the PuRPs List) was the main attraction of the Grand Junction Rockies inaugural season, Jayson Aquino (#14 on the PuRPs List) is surely set to be his follow-up act. "The lefty is 5-0 with a 0.92 ERA this summer. Last year, he made 14 starts for the DSL Rockies, leading the team in wins (eight), starts (14), ERA (1.30), complete games (three), innings (89.2), WHIP (0.86) and strikeouts (80)."
If management is doing it right, Grand Junction should continuously be the place to see the next David Dahl, the next Jayson Aquino, the next Troy Tulowitzki.
It has been said that baseball is a kid’s game. At GJ Rockies games, we as fans get a chance to watch the game being played in its purest form. It’s not always the most technically sound or the most professional play, but these guys really really want it. They want to win. They want to get noticed. They want to get better.
If you’ve got a few hours to commit to a gorgeous drive down I-70, or if you just happen to find yourself in the area, you owe it to yourself as a baseball fan to make a visit to the living future of our beloved MLB franchise.
The Future of the Colorado Rockies begins in a town surrounded by incredible geological formations. The future of the Colorado Rockies begins in a stadium where I ran track and played football and baseball as a young man while devoting myself to the brand new club on the other side of the pass. The future of the Colorado Rockies begins in the homes of a community that loves baseball.
The future of the Rockies begins here, where the kids come to show us who’s on deck.
Sigh, I was hoping we could go a little longer without another one of these reports on PEDs in baseball.
On a lighter note, Chacin passes his physical making his new 2-year deal official!