A baseball home opener is a unique event in sports, filled with the promise of new beginnings, with both the return of Spring and baseball season. I'm happy to say I've been in attendance at the Rockies' home opener more often than not, and in the spirit of the team's 20th anniversary, here's a retrospective on all 20 of the club's home debuts.
April 9, 1993
Colorado Rockies 11, Montreal Expos 4
Kent Bottenfield vs. Bryn Smith*
*The Rockies pitcher will always be listed second.
This is one of the most memorable games in franchise history, and Eric Young's leadoff home run is one of the most memorable moments in franchise history, but EY's blast was only the beginning. Charlie Hayes hit a two-run home run later in the first and the Rockies led 5-0 after two innings. Steve Reed gave up four runs in the ninth to make the game look a little closer, but the 80,227 in attendance saw a thorough beating of a Montreal team that included three future Rockies (Mike Lansing, John Vander Wal and Kent Bottenfield) in the lineup. A great way to kick of Major League Baseball in Colorado.
It snowed, the Rockies gave up eight in the eighth and lost, there was a strike a few months later. The only thing I liked about 1994 was the song by Jason Aldean, and that happened in 2013.
The strike was over, Coors Field was open and Dante Bichette walked off. Needless to say, the 1995 opener was better than the 1994 version. Like '93's opener, this is another of the most memorable games and moments in franchise history. It's also the first home opener I missed out on attending (I was sick.) Larry Walker had three doubles in his Rockies debut, and Joe Girardi had four hits in the game. Also, I have no idea what Bobby Jones was doing pitching Opening Day for the '95 Mets.
April 8, 1996
Chicago Cubs 9, Colorado Rockies 6
Kevin Foster vs. Kevin Ritz
I know I was at this game, but I have no memory of it or of Kevin Foster, probably because he was the caliber of pitcher that gave up home runs to Walt Weiss, something he did in this game. I'm guessing sending Ritz out to pitch the seventh inning of this one won't show up on Don Baylor's managerial highlight reel.
The Rockies hit for the cycle against Burba in the first inning of this one, capped by Jeff Reed's three-run home run, and things never really got any better for the Reds from there. Vinny Castilla finally chased Burba from the game in the fourth with another three-run bomb. Burba's line for this one: 3 1/3 IP, 10 H, 10 ER, 3 BB, 2 K. Ouch. Also of note from the game, Bill Swift became the first Rockies pitcher to start multiple home openers and Darren Holmes got a three-inning save.
I do remember being at this game, I sat in the very top row of the third deck down the first-base line and it was COLD. As for the game itself, it was an old fashioned Coors Field special. The Rockies were down 9-1 at one point but scored seven in the sixth to get back in it. Ellis Burks hit a pair of home runs and Mark McGwire somehow didn't hit any. Also, it marked Todd Helton's first home opener.
April 12, 1999
San Diego Padres 8, Colorado Rockies 5 (11 innings)
Woody Williams vs. Pedro Astacio
The second extra-inning home opener in Rockies history did not go the same way as the first, as Dave Veres gave up a three-run homer to Jim Leyritz in the 11th to give the win to the defending NL champs. The 1999 opener also saw the second leadoff home run in a Rockies home opener, this one courtesy of Darryl Hamilton. Todd Helton and Vinny Castilla also went deep for the home team.
April 10, 2000
Colorado Rockies 7, Cincinnati Reds 5
Steve Parris vs. Rolando Arrojo
The 2000 Rockies home opener is actually most memorable for the accomplishment of an opponent. Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 400th career home run in the fourth inning off Rolando Arrojo. However, it wasn't enough for the Reds as the Rockies got the win behind Arrojo's six solid innings and home runs from Mike Lansing and Todd Helton.
Dan O'Dowd is a genius! At least it looked that way after the season opener in 2001, $120 million man Mike Hampton was dominating in his Rockies debut, throwing 8 1/3 innings of shutout ball against the Cardinals, scattering five hits and striking out five. Todd Walker and Larry Walker combined to go 5-for-9 with a pair of home runs to lead the offense against former Rockie Darryl Kile. Unfortunately the season, and Hampton's Rockies career, pretty much went downhill from there.
Denny Neagle's first home opener at Coors Field didn't go quite as well as Hampton's. He gave up six runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings. The real issue, however, was the Rockies offense, which was shut out for the first six innings by Roy Oswalt before Todd Zeile and Larry Walker hit home runs in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, to make the game look closer than it actually was.
It took until the team's 10th anniversary season to get a pitchers' duel in a Rockies home opener, and it was between Byung-Hyun Kim and Shawn Chacon, because of course it was. This was actually the beginning of a good season for Chacon, one in which he earned a trip to the All-Star Game and finished with a respectable 4.60 ERA. The Rockies then tried to convert him into a closer, an experiment that was a complete disaster.
The Rockies won this one thanks to a complete meltdown in the seventh inning by D'Backs relievers Mike Koplove and Jose Valverde. The Rockies scored four runs in the inning without hitting a ball out of the infield. There were no Diamondbacks errors, either. In the inning, Koplove and Valverde managed to allow an infield single, walk four (one intentionally), hit a man, and uncork two wild pitches. Arizona had a 4-3 lead going into that inning, but never recovered.
This game featured the Rockies' second-most famous walk-off against Trevor Hoffman courtesy of rookie shortstop Clint Barmes' two-run home run. I can't help but think that game may have been in the back of Hoffman's mind when this happened. Outfielder Dustan Mohr strained his calf celebrating the win and had to be put on the DL, turns out that was more of a harbinger of things to come for the Rockies in 2005 than the opening day win.
April 3, 2006
Colorado Rockies 3, Arizona Diamondbacks 2 (11 innings)
Brandon Webb vs. Jason Jennings
Regardless of the result of the game, this will always be one of my favorite home openers because it took place on my 18th birthday. On the field, it was the second consecutive home-opening walk-off, though the fielder's choice off the bat of Brad Hawpe was less dramatic than Barmes' home run the year before.
This was a rather inauspicious start to the most successful season in franchise history. Neither Brandon Webb nor Aaron Cook pitched all that well, but it was Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins that wore goat horns in this one. The Rockies held a 6-5 lead when Hawkins entered the game in the eighth inning and promptly loaded the bases for Eric Byrnes, who gave Arizona the lead for good with a two-run single. Though the Rockies did manage to get a bit of revenge in the NLCS.
The Rockies' first home game in the defense of the NL pennant and they send to the mound...Mark Redman. This game probably should have been the first clue that 2008 wasn't going to go quite as well as 2007.
After the disappointing 2008 season and Matt Holliday trade that followed it, there was some anxiousness among the Rockies fanbase headed into 2009, and the team came out in its home opener and pounded the defending World Champs. Holliday's replacement, Ryan Spilborghs, had a pair of doubles, Garrett Atkins hit a home run and free agent acquisition Jason Marquis threw seven solid innings. Unfortunately, it was a performance they were unable to replicate against the Phillies in October.
The second opening day shutout in Rockies history came courtesy of Jorge De La Rosa, who allowed just one hit in seven innings, striking out nine. San Diego starter Clayton Richard also pitched well, allowing three runs in seven innings of work, but the Rockies put the game away in the eighth against reliever Sean Gallagher with an RBI single from Miguel Olivo and Clint Barmes' three-run home run.
April 1, 2011
Arizona Diamondbacks 7, Colorado Rockies 6 (11 innings)
Ian Kennedy vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
If you want to find the beginning of the end of Ubaldo Jimenez's Rockies career, this game isn't a bad place to start looking. After a season in which he posted a 2.88 ERA, started the All-Star Game and finished third in the NL Cy Young Award voting, Jimenez gave up five earned runs in six innings in the 2011 opener while only striking out one batter. Also, there isn't a much more frustrating way to lose a game than on a wild pitch in extra innings.
They got shut out...in their home opener...by Barry Zito. This is the point at which I determined that the 2012 Rockies were likely going to be very, very bad, and they were.
There they are, all 20 Rockies home openers. The Rockies are 11-9 in their first home game of the season. having scored as many as 13 runs in 1997 and as few as 0 in 2012 and allowing as many as 12 runs in 1994 and 1998 and tossing shutouts in 2001 and 2010. This all brings us to tomorrow:
The Rockies will be looking to snap a two-game opening day losing streak as Jeff Francis, the man with the second-most starts in franchise history, starts his first home opener against Jason Marquis, who started and won the 2009 opener for the Rockies. At least it can't be worse than 2012's opener, right?