John F. Russell: Coors Field is the perfect place to build lasting memories
Steamboat Springs — I can’t imagine a more welcoming place than the gates that lead into Coors Field at 20th and Blake streets in downtown Denver.
Sure you have to get past the ticket taker who opens your bags and looks for suspicious items, and, of course, you will have to pass through a metal detector, but those are just minor inconveniences to the welcoming nature once you get into the ball park.
As I stood there, in front of those gates, waiting to walk into the ball park for the first time this summer last Saturday afternoon, a smile crept across my face.
Heading out to the ballpark is a tradition that has been a part of the Russell summer for the past several years. Truth is, while the Rockies rarely seem to contend for the National League West title or a playoff spot, the idea of spending a summer day eating over-priced nachos and drinking an ice cold diet Pepsi that costs more than a 12-pack at City Market is something I’ve always look forward to.
For me, there is something about spending the day at the park — something that fills my heart and takes me back to a time when baseball was just about the only thing I thought about in the summer.
I loved the game, but when I was a child, the idea of watching a Major League team take the field in Denver never crossed my mind. The idea that Denver would even have a Major League baseball team seemed more like a dream than a possibility.
Back then, the Majors were something that happened in other places. Places like Los Angeles, New York and Cincinnati where the Big Red Machine, and I loved the Big Red Machine, pumped out my childhood heroes like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Pérez. But I had to watch those teams on television.
It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I got a chance to head to the ballpark with my dad to watch a Major League baseball team play in Denver. By then, those players had long since left the game — in fact, if I remember correctly, Pete Rose had been banned from baseball for life.
But going to the ballpark still takes me back. As a child, I grew up watching the Denver Bears and later the Denver Zephyrs at the old Mile High Stadium.
My first Rockies game came at Mile High Stadium and thanks to a pair of free tickets I got to sit directly behind home plate for the first eight innings. Sadly, when the Rockies stepped up to the plate in the bottom half of the ninth inning, the squad trailed by 11 runs, and I headed for the gate to beat the crowd out of the stadium.
It was a huge mistake, and is sadly one of my last memories of watching baseball in Mile High. I can still remember watching the end of that epic game from an alleyway near the old south stands. The Rockies made a massive comeback and won the game with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
But my memories of Coors are actually really good. I’ve learned the hard way that the team is not always going to win, but the Rockies are almost always entertaining.
They have put together a few fun-filled runs that will bring a smile to any baseball fan’s face, including the team’s unlikely journey to the World Series in 2007. The team also made playoff appearances in 1995 and 2009.
But most importantly, the Colorado Rockies bring Major League baseball to our state and provide baseball fans in Colorado, Wyoming and several other neighboring states a reason to head to the ballpark.
I was thrilled to get the chance to go to Coors Field on Saturday, and as always, the Rockies were a big hit.
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