My first year of Little League was my last. Maybe it was how the game caused grown adults to be so overcome with emotion over the notion that their child was the best. Maybe it was my own struggles with anxiety that made me feel as though my athletic shortcomings were being put on full display. Largely, I think it was just a disinterest on my part. I enjoyed playing baseball about as much as I enjoyed watching baseball for the first 13 years of my life, which was not a great deal. Flash forward to today and baseball has become an arguably unhealthy obsession for me. What led to this change?
I should point out that I am only 20 years old (181 days younger than Julio Urías at the time of this writing). I have been a fan of baseball for less than half of my existence. That isn’t the case for the rest of my family. Most of my relatives were born and raised in Michigan, and have been lifelong Detroit Tigers fans. This is true for my father, and he certainly gave me the opportunity to have an interest in the game. Tigers baseball would play on the car radio whenever it came on. This interest didn’t rub off on me, at least not initially. The 2011 postseason was when things started to change. I found myself with nothing better to do than watch the ALCS between the Tigers and the Texas Rangers. And I was captivated. The 2011 ALCS probably doesn’t hold many memories to those not fans of the Tigers or Rangers, but these games knew how to draw me in. Apart from Game 6, these games consisted of the offenses for both teams trading runs back and forth. There was rarely a dull moment, and I was simply hooked on baseball from that moment. A League of Their Own and Moneyball were two movies that also had a big impact on me. They each showed me that this game can be more than just a battle of testosterone. Anyone can have an interest. It didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman. It didn’t matter if a scout thought you looked the part. There were ways to view the game that I didn’t think possible when I was playing Little League. It was almost an entirely different ballgame.
The Tigers remained my team for 2012 and 2013, so I suppose I must make sure to emphasize the caveat that 2017 is only my fourth full season as a fan of the Colorado Rockies. When I was a Tigers fan, they were really the only team I paid attention to until late-2013. This was around the time of Todd Helton’s final game at Coors Field. I watched as Helton hit the final home run of his career and the Rockies caught my interest. I began researching the history of the franchise, from the improbable run of 2007 to, well, quite a few sub-.500 seasons. I saw the Rockies where they were at and I wanted them to have success.
That’s a nice story. That’s how I became a baseball fan, and eventually a Rockies fan, but what is it that keeps me a Rockies fan to this day, and why am I convinced that I will be for the rest of my life?
Far be it from me to claim that I alone somehow predicted three years ago that the Rockies would be a successful team in 2017, but you and I knew when we looked at the young talent in the major leagues and minor leagues that there were pieces ready to break out sooner rather than later. Nolan Arenado was heading into his prime, and even when the team went 134-190 from 2014-2015, Nolan was getting better and better offensively, and making highlight reel plays at third base look routine daily. Charlie Blackmon was breaking out and ready to be one of the best center fielders in the game. The pitching at the major-league level was still rough, but we had Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson getting after it at Tulsa in 2014, with Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland not far behind in Asheville.
I have also been hooked by some of the veterans that have been a part of Rockies teams over the last several years, even when Dan O’Dowd was still at the helm of the decision making. Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, and Ryan Raburn were players that I loved to root for, even if things didn’t always work out as hoped. Of course, as we’ve seen this season with Mark Reynolds, some of these low-risk, high-reward signings have panned out infinitely better than we could have imagined.
For the brief time that I have loved the Rockies, there have been off-field stories that have made me feel deeply involved with the players as well. Tyler Matzek’s journey is one that I have followed closely. His excellent 2014 campaign that turned to eye-popping walk numbers across five different levels from 2015-2016 was painful to see. And his fight with anxiety was reaching its peak around the same time my own fight was. I saw a professional athlete playing my favorite sport seemingly fighting the same battle as I was at precisely the same time. This no doubt transcends the Rockies and the game of baseball for me, and I desperately want to see Tyler Matzek be successful with whatever team he plays for, or whatever he ends up doing in life.
We have a new story this year with Chad Bettis. Having lost both of my grandfathers to cancer, I am looking forward to seeing Bettis return to the major leagues this season and help the Rockies reach the postseason this season and many in the future.
I recognize that I have presented a lot of reasons for my Rockies adoration that revolve around individual players and unique circumstances. So, what if all these guys that I mentioned played for the Toronto Blue Jays, or what if all these circumstances occurred on the Milwaukee Brewers? Would I be a fan of them instead? I don’t think so. And I don’t think it’s just because my favorite color is purple either. As Nolan Arenado was recently quoted as saying regarding all the players who have been through so many losing seasons, "We never wanted to leave." The current Rockies roster wants to win this thing together.
When I see the Colorado Rockies, I see a team that I want to have success. I see an organizational philosophy that I believe in. I see everything that made me love the game of baseball. I will always be a Rockies fan. I only wish I had known it sooner.