I always bounced around between baseball teams when I was a fan as a young kid. My earliest memory involves being a fan of the Blue Jays because of their logo initially, and later because that was my first Pee Wee team. The next year, I played for the Expos, so that became my new team. And that was when I really started watching and paying attention baseball of the major league variety -- as a six-year-old who loved collecting cards, wearing hats and carrying my mitt wherever I went.
A year later, it was the Cardinals. I must have sensed the self-righteousness even as a seven-year-old kid, so I bounced back to the two Canadian teams, calling them my own -- or, at least, as much as an elementary school kid in Utah could. I was elated when the Jays won the World Series in 1992 and enjoyed fawning over the stats of young Expos stars Larry Walker, Marquis Grissom, Delino DeShields and others.
Then, as the 1993 season began, I read in the local paper that Channel 12 would be carrying games of the Rockies, one of two expansion teams that year. The only knowledge I had of the Rockies was through baseball cards; I owned the first two in existence and thought the team had a sharp-looking logo, so I felt at least somewhat of a connection with them from the start. That, combined with the always-cherished opportunity of being able to watch more baseball vaulted Colorado into the same level of esteem I had for Toronto and Montreal.
I watched about five games during the first couple of months of that season. If I recall correctly, the contests were televised only on Saturdays. But I loved what I saw; I always liked Andres Galarraga from my days as an Expos fan, and I remember reading so much about David Nied and his potential that even when he performed poorly, I still felt like I was watching a star. Beyond that, it was baseball -- on MY television -- and it was beautiful. Amd when my dad told me that he and my uncle planned to take my brother and I on a road trip from Salt Lake to Denver to see my first big league games, I was overcome with elation.
The Rockies were slaughtered 6-0 and 18-1 in the two games I attended at the old Mile High Stadium, but it was still an unforgettable experience. The Rockies were my one and only from that point forward. I remember feeling excited about how much they improved in their second season, and a year later, jumping around my bedroom when they clinched their first postseason berth in a win over the Giants at Coors Field.
Then there was the arrival of Todd Helton, the Rockies' first homegrown star. Anybody who remembers the hype he received would also remember that there was no way this guy wasn't going to become a future Hall of Famer someday. And we were right. Watching Helton in those lean years still made the Rockies exciting, particularly when he chased .400 in 2000 while emerging as perhaps the hitter in the game not named Barry Bonds, and easily a top-five player in the league overall. I was so excited about Helton, even early in his career, that I wore No. 17 one year in high school when my traditional No. 6 wasn't available. A decade and a half later, I couldn't be happier about that decision.
As Helton began his decline, a new era of the Rockies was born. Anybody who paid close attention to the club in late 2005 and early 2006 knew that something special was on the horizon. Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe took some of the weight off of Helton's aging shoulders on offense. Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook began to emerge as the best 1-2 punch the Rockies ever had. And, for perhaps the first time in franchise history, the talent in the minor league system was universally recognized as one of the deepest in the game. The result?
Holliday, Helton, Atkins, Hawpe, Troy Tulowitzki and company gave us the best run of baseball we've ever seen. At times during the previous decade or so, I had stopped paying attention to the Rockies at certain points. But 2007 changed all of that. And, how could it not? The Rockies cemented their place in my mind and heart as a team that was capable of anything at any given time.
Despite a disappointing 2008 season, my Rockies fandom was at an all-time high. And that's when I found Purple Row: the best place for Rockies discussion anywhere, on the web or otherwise. And when, at the end of the season, Russ and Rox Girl decided to expand their staff, it was a no-brainer for me to try to get on board. Fortunately, they liked what I had to offer enough to accept an invitation to join the staff. But that was just one reason 2009 was unforgettable.
The Rockies did it again; a 74-42 finish to the season meant another postseason appearance. Sitting at home watching Franklin Morales strike out Alcides Escobar to clinch the Wild Card for the Rockies is still fresh in my mind, as are the postgame celebration sounds of "Boom Boom Pow" by the Black Eyed Peas and "All the Above" by Maino (featuring T-Pain). Both of those songs wouldn't have a chance at cracking any of my playlists ordinarily, but their association with another exciting Rockies season earned them a spot in my iTunes library and in my heart.
After that season, I began to take my writing a bit more seriously. I'd always wanted to be a sportswriter -- even when I was that eight-year-old kid who was a fan of the Expos and Blue Jays -- and I figured I was cheating myself by only doing what I had to, and little else, for Purple Row. What I noticed was that, even when things weren't always fun in terms of rooting for the team on the field (especially when it completely botched the end of the 2010 season), I loved every bit of writing about it. That began to pay off a couple years later when I earned a spot on the SB Nation news desk, and later, an opportunity to cover the Rockies in person -- a complete game changer for me.
The 2012 season was a nightmare on the field for the Rockies, and in September of that year, things began to unravel off the field as well. After a situation in which the team declined a request for an important Michael Cuddyer interview from former Denver radio host Peter Burns (hope you're doing well with ESPN, Pete!) because of his negative coverage of the team, I wrote a scathing article that got the attention of the Rockies' public relations staff. After spending an hour or so on the phone with Jay Alves, I came away with a much better impression and understanding of the club's "gatekeepers," thanks in no small part to Alves' offer for Purple Row to receive limited media credentials.
Having access can be overrated, sure. That has been written about and commented on ever since blogs became a legitimate part of the sports news and information cycle. But that access is also every bit what you make of it; it can help you gain an understanding of how certain things and people inside an organization work, and in my case, it can also make you better at your job overall. First, it certainly helped me become more comfortable in intimidating situations when I was forced stand next to people like Walt Weiss, Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton and LaTroy Hawkins and ask questions or engage in conversations. In addition, I don't think I took the big step I needed to take as a writer until I had to start working quotes into articles and mold stories together using the material gained from interviews like the ones listed above.
But the most beautiful part about all of this? I'm still no less of a fan than I was that day I walked into Mile High Stadium and saw 56,000-plus delirious fans cheering on a terrible team. I'm no less of a fan than I was when I watched Todd Helton become a star. And I'm no less of a fan than I was when the Rockies were one of the better teams in the league for a three-plus-year stretch from June 2007 through mid-September 2010.
I still love baseball, and I still love the Rockies. Maybe even more than I ever have. And I have Purple Row -- and every single person who reads it -- to thank for that.