I began writing this post Sunday afternoon with the Rockies comfortably in front of the Cubs, 4-1. The resultant five innings, however, changed the perspective on my pie-in-the-sky Opening Day piece.
LaTroy Hawkins has gotta get out of there (update: he since has!). The praise he's received is that he "limits walks and doesn’t give up the long ball." He no longer does this. Hawkins broke my heart.
Every season there is one game after which I can’t sleep at night, and it’s frustrating to a personal level because it's often that one game that makes me realize the Rockies are, in fact, a bad team. Last year it was that Ryan Howard walk-off-fueled loss in Philadelphia. You remember that one; old, decrepit Howard comes out in the ninth and hits a 590-foot (estimated, of course) home run to rally the Phillies. The bad news as it relates to the present is that game was in May, whereas this was the Rockies' third home game.
I tried to keep the depressing out of my fluff piece, but I couldn’t do it. Sorry Rockies fans, that’s where I’m at right now. But I'm going to suck it up, as every good ballplayer does after the inevitable failures the game presents, and give you what you came here for: a Rockies Opening Day review!
With the glitterati descending on LoDo, Opening Day was the party it was promised to be. Don’t believe me? Check this out:
We walked around LoDo for quite a while (disclaimer: I don’t drink, never have, therefore I did not go to any of the bars or the assembled drinking going on around all of the establishments. Plus I had my kids with me so wouldn’t be allowed in anyway). That said, we still found a way to have fun. I even met a local celebrity. Yep, the Milwaukee Sausage race guy.
Alright so it wasn’t really him, but supposedly he was connected to free pizza at Abe’s. Also of note, we’ll keep a celebrity watch here – now I don’t know who was in that limo, but beyond the sausage guy, I personally had sightings of Corey Gardner (remember from those slanderous political commercials) and the Horse himself, John Elway. I was too slow in taking photos of these characters, but I was able to get a snap of Cargo and the boys warming up.
The party took over Blake Street, where I spent most of my time at the inflatable jungle gyms that lined the stadium. It turns out kids like bouncy castles – a lot. They also like air-float tee ball and radar gunning. Who knew? Well I knew, so I planned about an hour to spend talking shop with other moms and dads while the kids bounced around. Time well spent, I assure you. Remember at this point we were 3-0 with a world of non-Hawkins possibilities before us. We were drunk with optimism.
Eventually I made my way into the stadium and it was just as I remembered, only better. It always is on Opening Day. The grass was extra green – you might say that is always this way on the "other side." Actually this is not just a cliché, as the Rockies installed new grass in the offseason, so it literally was greener on this side. The ballpark was already pretty full, so I took a few snaps of the ambient crowd, as well as the decorations.
Looks great, right?! After caving in to severe subordinate pressure (the opposite of peer pressure), I took the children over to the Buckaroos playground in left field. I was delighted when my son said, "hey dad, come check this out!" We were able to see Rockies staff members setting up the (rather large) flag ceremony in the parking lot behind left field. Here are a few photos, which I (unsuccessfully) tried to panorama together. Don’t worry, you’ll get the fulleffect here in a bit.
With game time approaching, we wanted be in our seats for the opening festivities, including introductions of the players. We made our way back down the first place, oh I mean base, line. We watched the players warm up and tried to assuage their attention, but no such luck. Still, it was quite the site to watch the boys do what they do best.
Then, the pageantry started. In case you were wondering, yes -- there was a fly-over. In fact, later in the game the pilots of these aircraft appeared on the third base dugout to waive to the crowd. Now being a writer for Purple Row is among the coolest jobs ever, but I got to thinking, how would it be to be a fighter pilot? Alarm goes off, you pop out of bed and are like, "wait I get to fly supersonic jets for work today?! Where’s that shower?!" I failed in my attempt to take a photo of the flyover, a difficult task when they’re moving at say, mach four speed.
What I didn’t fail at was getting a photo of the flag being unfurled during the national anthem, which was sung by a military woman. In my opinion, the national anthem should always be done by a military representative. I especially like it when it’s just a trumpet or a horn. It always means more and I never see the military mess it up, unlike what celebrities always seem to do. There will be another post here on that very topic in the future. For now check this out:
I got a pretty good shot of the (forecast downgraded) 80 balloons being released into the air (one for every Rockies win). Actually, at the time I’d say there were hundreds of balloons released but after Sunday, I downgraded the count. I’m sorry, but that’s where I’m at after Sunday.
Friday didn’t hurt, though. However, I should say Tyler Matzek was awful. His final line was way too kind. He was terrible; from the beginning, he didn’t have it. Wild. I thought it was going cost the Rockies, but it turns out they were playing the Cubs. At one point I did the math of their roster, and if you added together their batting averages for the whole team, it was lower than Arenado’s. So fortunately, the Cubs can’t hit (despite the results from Saturday and Sunday, I still believe this). However, with the fuel of MLB's best crowd, the Rockies powered through Matzek’s shaky start and managed to get a key Troy Tulowitzki double, which sent the crowd into a frenzy.
I missed the end of the sixth and all of the seventh inning (including Morneau’s historic hit) after I succumbed to subordinate pressure once again and took my boy to the toddler play area in center field, one of his favorite spots on Earth. He spoke of playing at that park all winter long, so I caved and took him there. What’s the point of doing something you love with someone you love if they can’t do something they love? I figured I could miss a few innings of ball to assure my boy had a memorable time. Plus, there’s perspective: he didn’t care if the Rockies won, as long as he got to go to the park. Not a bad way of viewing things.
As promised, the game was euphoric, a wave of happiness – or, content, that’s what it was -- washed over me. I knew the Rockies were going to win, so I just sat back and enjoyed the eighth and ninth innings, stress free. In fact, I even enjoyed the first 1-2-3 ninth inning in Rockies history.*
* -- This isn't true, even though it felt like it.
At last, the final out was recorded and the Rockies were victorious! 4-0! First place! Undefeated! All those great accomplishments. Baseball is back. It’ll be alright; whatever "it" is for you, it’ll be alright! What a game, what a day! The Rockies looked good, especially the offense and bullpen. I even caught myself saying, "these guys will be scary if they stay healthy!"
Since I wanted a few more minutes to soak it in while the stadium was comparatively empty, I lingered in good old section 118. Of course my boys wanted to high-five Dinger (hold your vitriol), so they went down toward the field to meet the legend. For them, it wouldn’t be a day at the ballyard without a high-five from Dinger. It all turned out great in the end, especially for my son Oliver. I guess his faith in Dinger was rewarded -- with an authentic, game-used Robert Manfred Jr. ball (thanks, Rockies bullpen!).
All in all, it was another spectacular showcase for the local nine. Nobody there can say they left disappointed (even the oddly silent/absent Cubs fans). A good time was had by all, especially by me and my family. I was forced to sell my tickets for the other two games of the series, so I’m already going through withdrawals. Can’t wait to see the boys back here! No matter the circumstances, I sure do love watching baseball and the Rockies (though not so keen on watching Hawkins right now).
I'll be back at the ballyard on April 20 (hopefully it’s not too late for optimism by then). Opening Day served as a high point of the immediate season – indeed, at the time we were 4-0, undefeated and on top of the world. Since then, we got it handed to us by the 2015 Back to the Future World Champs, and had our guts served to us by Dexter Fowler on a silver platter.
It’s only gonna get worse I’m afraid; though the Rockies came out on top yesterday, we had to watch the San Francisco Giants get their World Series of Luck rings. If history is any indication, we'll now have to suffer through a long West Coast road trip (y’all are familiar with our road winning percentage, right?).
Thank goodness for Opening Day. It’s the good in an otherwise Giant world.