Part XI: Coors Field
It was a wonderful break from baseball… for about a week and a half. I ended up watching a Broadway musical in the front row, got to swing dance at one of the best venues NYC has to offer, and hosted a game show event at the Trivia Championships of North America. It was here that I started telling people about my journey, and how much fun it was. It was here I met another huge baseball fan, Sam Medley (Melting Blue Research), who has actually been to more ballparks than me and got to visit some now-demolished old stadiums like Tiger Stadium. He loved my passion for doing this trip, and wanted to help me out on my quest of someday visiting all the ballparks. He mentioned that he would be going on vacation and would not be using his Rockies tickets for the game. He then asked if I would like to use them!
Ballpark 9: Coors Field, elevation ~5200 feet
The game: Reds @ Rockies on August 15, 2014
After thinking about this for a second, I took him up on his offer and now had to think about how to get there and where to stay. Luckily, I have another game show friend, Bill Schantz, just outside Denver who is also a big Rockies fan. Not only would he get the extra ticket, but offered up his place to stay for a couple nights. How awesome! I then decided to drive there since gas prices began going down, and plane tickets on short notice were not cheap. Simply put, this was a very long drive, but I saved a ton of money on this one. Since I received these tickets (and the next few games) for free, I won’t have an extensive section on ticket prices like I have in the past. However, for this park, I heard the Rockpile tickets (albeit far away) are still one of the best deals to watch a game for only $4 normally!
The drive to Coors Field was a very tough one because of quick-moving storms that had entered the area. It was a spectacular lightning show going to downtown Denver, but that meant batting practice would be rained out. That made me a little sad because I’ve never seen it there, and the ball jumps in that thin mountain air. However, I couldn’t let myself be sad for this one…
…because it was Todd Helton weekend! This was the weekend where the Colorado Rockies would retire their first number in history (#17). Entering the ballpark, Bill and I received a really cool Todd Helton bobble head for his weekend. Throughout the ballpark, there was plenty of merchandise for this special weekend. However, the Rockies forgot to stock other items, but more on that later. In the outfield seats, we can see where the retired numbers are, and clearly visible behind a black drape is what appears to be the outline of Helton’s number.
The food: Since this was Todd Helton weekend, I couldn’t think of a better place to eat before the game than the Helton Burger Shack located under the left-field scoreboard. This place actually had a pretty decent combo deal where you can buy a Helton Burger, fries or onion rings, and a drink (shake, medium soda, or bottled water) for only $14. Separately, all of those items cost between $16.25 and $17.50, so only a couple dollars are saved, but for what you get, it’s still not a bad price. I ended up getting the burger, onion rings, and vanilla shake. The burger was pretty good, but the shake and onion rings are what made this combo a great buy. Yes, the onion rings are that big.
The fans: Despite being at the bottom of the standings and going through a rash of injuries, many fans came out for this one because it was a special weekend honoring Todd Helton. More than a handful of fans were wearing the #17 jersey, or were gushing about the teams from last decade. Despite the stormy weather, this was a pretty decent crowd and great for them coming out for this one.
Before the game, I had been looking for my usual hat that I get from stadiums I had not previously been to. Unfortunately, none of the stores had the hat I was looking for in my size. For the record, I was hoping to get the black cap with a purple bill, but their stock was quite low all around. There were very few hats in my size. Instead, they opted to devote a whole section of their team store to “Retire 17” merchandise, which I am more than okay with. However, they shouldn’t forget about other parts of the store. C’mon Rockies, make it happen! At least I happily settled for my second choice, which was the all-purple hat.
After eating my food under the elements, it was finally time for some baseball, and some of the clouds were beginning to clear. This storm packed quite a punch, and it left my seat a little damp when I sat down. That was the last bad thing to happen for the rest of the night because what I saw next absolutely took my breath away. Just before the start of the game, Bill and I made our way to our field level seats, and we had a perfect view of a rainbow beginning to form. In a few minutes, this rainbow began to form fully. Before we knew it, this beautiful rainbow cascaded over the right field concourse of the ballpark. In all my years of attending games, I’ve never seen a rainbow form over a stadium like this. For about a minute, I just took in the nature of this beautiful rainbow and appreciated it.
The game: Oh yeah, there was a game to watch! This was the first game I didn’t write in my score book because of the rain, and I didn’t want to get my book wet. Instead, I opted for the $1.50 scorecard which wasn’t too bad. Matt Belisle got the spot start for Franklin Morales on this game because Morales’ wife went into labor. When we heard that bit of news on the radio on the way to the stadium, we were thinking this would be a high scoring affair.
How wrong we were… only ONE home run was hit the entire time I was there. It came in the 2nd inning when Nolan Arenado smashed one to deep left off the Reds’ ace pithcer, Johnny Cueto. Coors Field does feature a fountain that shoots water in the air whenever a Rockies player hits a home run. That was nice to see! In the next two innings, the Reds scored two runs to take the lead, 2-1. However, Colorado tied the game on a Corey Dickerson double to score Justin Morneau.
It remained tied through six innings, and then one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen happen at a major league ballpark occurred. There was a loud fanfare, and then three people in odd costumes came out to race. At first, I could not recognize what these costumes were, and then I asked Bill, “Are… are those dental things I’m seeing out there?!?” Yes, I was witnessing the Tooth Trot where the three contestants were nicknamed Bristles, Toothy, and Fresh. I know Milwaukee has the sausage race, and Washington has the Presidents Race, but the tooth race? If you think this is hard to believe, I have the pictures to prove it.
As I began to take in this place, I noticed the purple row of seats in the upper deck. That row of seats indicates where the elevation is exactly 5280 feet, or a mile high. This might be one of the most clever features of any park I’ve been to because it immediately indicates how high this place really is, and symbolizes the stadium in the “Mile High City.” Some would say that those seats are a nod to the Rockies’ first home, Mile High Stadium, for the franchise’s first two seasons. Either way, I loved this touch for the retro-classic ballpark.
Now entering the 9th inning, I really thought this one could go very late as the game was still knotted at two. However, Kristopher Negron notched his career-best fourth hit of the night (capping a 4-for-4 evening with a sacrifice bunt) and 10th RBI of the season to give the Reds a 3-2 lead. Then it was Aroldis Chapman time. For those unaware, Chapman currently holds the record for fastest pitch recorded this century at 106 mph. In other words, this guy throws some serious heat. He easily got the first out, then walked Charlie Culberson. Chapman’s fastest pitch on this night was clocked in at 103 mph. That elicited a few gasps from the Coors Field crowd. On the last play, Mike McKenry grounded into a double play and gave the Reds the victory. This was one of the rare times where Aroldis Chapman didn’t record a strikeout.
After the game, I went around to the right field side, and took the customary picture with the scoreboard. However, my friend Bill thought I should try on his Rockies jersey at some point, and I had promised I would. So, not only did I have my new Rockies hat on, but the official jersey, as well! I don’t know why, but I’m totally digging the purple pinstripes on this sweet jersey. Too bad they don’t make ’em like they used to.
The end of the night featured a return trip to the team store to explore some more, and I had to laugh at the sign that had 20% off any gear with Rockies players that were currently on the disabled list. After making our way outside, Bill asked if I wanted to see and take a picture of the front facade of the ballpark, and I didn’t hesitate with this one. It was a busy night out, and that’s because it was a Friday night in the LoDo (Lower Downtown) district. There were plenty of night clubs and restaurants to attend after the game, and this place has an extremely active night life! Anyway, after getting through some of the crowds, I got my picture at the front facade and deemed this night a great one.
Overall, this ballpark has very affordable seats for those of you on a budget, and the nightlife is a big plus for those of you who like to catch a couple drinks after a game. There are a few quirks in Coors Field that make this place unique in the major leagues. The thin mountain air makes any game exciting to watch and always lends itself to the possibilities of seeing some high scoring games… unless the opposing pitchers are Johnny Cueto and Aroldis Chapman. I would definitely come back here, and still want to see a batting practice take place here. Once again, very special thanks to Sam Medley for the tickets, and for Bill Schantz for taking me in for a couple nights and showing me around his home ballpark. It’s a great one! Oh, and thanks to Bill for letting me put on his jersey for the sake of a picture!