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My Rocktober Story: Family

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Ten years ago the Rockies helped me and my family transition

One of our favorite things to do as Rockies fans is to remember Rocktober 2007. Earlier this season we asked how our readers became fans. While there were plenty of respondents who have been with the team since inception, almost every single one of them marked the 2007 team as a major touchstone, if not the genesis, of their fandoms. I’ve been known to pen a few articles about Rocktober myself, specifically my experience attending the tiebreaker game against the Bud Black-led San Diego Padres.

But there is more to Rocktober than Game 163. In fact, without Rocktober, I’m not entirely sure how my family would’ve navigated my transition to college.

I began my freshman year at the University of Colorado-Boulder in August, 2007. I was only about an hour away from home but it felt further. Maybe it’s that “I’m 18 years old so I’m pretty much an adult” feeling or being the youngest of three, but the independence was real. As classwork piled up and new friendships were born it was easier and easier to forget about home.

This might be a good thing for some people but not for me. I consider myself especially fortunate in that I’ve always had good relationships with my parents. I also wanted to steer as clear of my hometown as possible so I felt this tension: How do I maintain the relationship when I don’t want to go visit and college is taking up most of my time?

Fortunately, we had the Rockies.

We went to several games that summer before I went off to school, and one or two after classes started. Texting was still expensive and cumbersome (Remember T9?), so we kept in touch with phone calls during games. After a 10-2 loss to the Florida Marlins on Sept. 15, the Rockies were 76-72, 6.5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West, and 4 games out of a playoff spot. My dad and I speculated if they had any chance of making the playoffs. “Maybe if they rattle off a 12-2 run,” he laughed.

They won their next two games, but it was Todd Helton’s walk off home run on Sept. 18 that got my dad and I talking. “They’ll have to keep winning.” When Brad Hawpe hit a 14th inning home run in Petco Park to cut the deficit to 3.5 games, we allowed ourselves to believe that maybe, just maybe, there was something going on with this team. We were on the phone the following Sunday after they cut the Padres’ lead to just 1.5 games, wondering how the Milton Bradley injury was going to affect the last week of the season.

The thing about baseball is, even if you’re watching it together in person, there’s room to talk about the rest of life. If you’re on the phone late at night watching the Rockies pull away from the Dodgers while the person on the other end of the line is going through his nightly work routine, it’s inevitable other things come up.

We talked about classes (some hard, some dull), roommates (better than decent), friendships (finally found a solid group of folks), my health (“I’m almost out of Mountain Dew”). Looking back now, I realize I had my dad on a nearly nightly basis talk me through managing my schedule heading into midterms, how to get help from professors, how to manage my bank account, and a hundred other little things that you don’t know you need help with when you become an adult until the problem hits you square in the eyes. It’s a good thing the Rockies had so many late night west coast games during that streak because otherwise how would I have figured all these things out if I couldn’t call my dad while he worked third shift?

My mom was at the tail end of treatments for cancer when I left for school (she celebrates 10 years cancer free this October). It was hard to watch her fight, but it was a fight she won. We talked more on the weekends and when going to games, but she left the debates on who was going to finish second to Troy Tulowitzki in Rookie of the Year and Matt Holliday in MVP voting to my dad and I; she loved the game and she loved us, but she let us love the minutiae.

We all went to Game 161. The Diamondbacks had clinched the division on our turf the night before but we took vengeance with a 11-1 throttling. All the drama was out of the game by the fifth inning; the Padres had already blown their chance to close us out of the playoff picture that afternoon. We had to wait for the drama the next day. I was on the phone watching Manny Corpas secure the Rockies’ 13th win in 14 games—one game better than my dad predicted—and begged him to run to get in line for tickets to Game 163. We went. We saw. We conquered.

I may have missed a class or two to watch those afternoon games in Philadelphia, and we definitely talked for 30 minutes about Kaz Matsui’s grand slam. We didn’t try for NLDS tickets after that experience, though watching the team celebrate the first playoff series win in franchise history at Coors Field would’ve been fun. Nothing made us happier than berating Eric Byrnes for his “outplayed us” line—except his face in the dirt when the series ended.

I watched the game with some friends, many from outside Colorado, more happy for me than the men on the field. I took a few friends down to my dad’s work—I wanted to see him, and my friends thought we should get the first Rocky Mountain News that declared the Rockies were going to the World Series. When I got there we hugged like it just happened. An employee who begged off work for the night to go to the game showed up and told us what it was like to be there. “You owe me one!” my dad told him. He took the brand new “National League Champions” hat off his head and put it on my dad’s and said, “We’re even.” He took the hat and put it on my head.

I missed the first few innings of Game 1 due to a midterm, and after I finally got to a TV nobody on my floor talked to me for the rest of the night. I threw my hat in disgust when Matt Holliday got picked off first in the eighth of Game 2. Like many we tried and failed to get World Series tickets. As such, there was only one place to watch the first World Series games in Colorado.

That’s how I ended up at an Applebee’s in Parker, Colorado, on Saturday, Oct. 27, sitting between my mom and my dad, my sister waiting tables. Baseball means family, and family events mean you have to come home. No, the Rockies didn’t win that or the next game. But I got to experience it with my parents, which was the next best thing to being there.