Category Archives: colorado

Ballparks in Colorado.

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, COLORADO

Number of states: 28
States to go: 22

Number of games: 1
First game:  August 11, 2008, first game of DH (Colorado Springs Sky Sox 6, Portland Beavers 5, 8 innings–scheduled for 7)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

My first minor league ballgames were in Colorado, at Mile High Stadium, 

But, according to the rules, my quest to get to a minor league game in each of the 50 states didn’t officially begin until 2003, so this necessitated a trip to Colorado Springs in August of 2008.  I was taking my bride to my 20-year high school reunion in the Denver suburbs, and it was very easy to take the jaunt down I-25 to see our local team, the Portland Beavers (who my wife rooted for vociferously) take on the Sky Sox.

There, we found a great ballpark in a highly unfortunate location.

It’s not the ballpark’s fault that it faces east (as is the convention for ballparks everywhere) and

therefore does not afford a view of the Rockies.  Indeed, it’s not really the ballpark’s fault that it’s located quite a ways east of the city and of the mountains, and therefore doesn’t really have any natural Colorado feel to it at all (eastern Colorado is not what one thinks of when one thinks of Colorado).  But the view beyond the outfield fence of endless tract housing is depressing to say the least.  When I’m pinned between strip malls and condominiums, I don’t have any feel for where I am.  The rule for ballparks is the same as the rule for real estate, and Security Service Field strikes out on three pitches when it comes to location, location, location.

However, the ballpark itself was quite lovely if one didn’t look beyond the outfield fences.  It has many touches I enjoy.  Visiting ballplayers walk past the kids’ area to get onto

the field, thus allowing for autographs.  The kids on the grassy hill are sedate and watching the game, probably because the Sky Sox, while not immune to promotional shtick, put baseball first.  And the retired numbers from past Colorado Springs teams are an especially nice touch–they bring us back to a local level that tract housing can’t.  So does the US Olympic flag flying under the state flag.

Security Service Field is a pretty small ballpark for AAA, which I like.  Rarely does a fan get a chance to be so close to AAA talent–and a ballpark of this lesser scale (it felt like a class-A or AA ballpark) is a pleasant surprise in the high minors.

Sox the Fox, the Sky Sox’s mascot, was simply wonderful…as energetic as any mascot I’ve ever seen.  He started the day by doing a

backflip off of a golf cart and didn’t stop moving the entire afternoon.  He actually did a couple of things that made me laugh–rare for a mascot.  I say this even though he gave me some grief for wearing a Mariners hat.  I was in the front row behind the dugout (prime mascot territory) and he removed my hat and pretended to urinate in it.  A little blue humor never hurt anyone.  But it was his athleticism that most impressed me.  He’s as good as I’ve seen.

This particular day featured a doubleheader for the Sky Sox…my pregnant wife’s second doubleheader in four days.  (The first wasn’t a scheduled doubleheader…it

was created by a rainout the night before.)  Thunderstorms gradually rolled all around us, with ominous, distant thunder leading me to wonder whether we’d be able to get one game in, let alone two (which were both slated for 7 innings).  Sprinkles occasionally would hit near us in what was as close to a muggy day as anyone can get in Colorado’s dry climate.

At some point during the fifth inning, my bride turned to me and asked the following:

“You know what would be better than watching a baseball game under the clouds?”

I shrugged.

“Watching the Olympics in our hotel room.”

Pregnancy, altitude, and doubleheaders don’t mix.

But still, my bride was a fantastic trooper.  The game went into extra innings (meaning the 8th), and in the top of the 8th, the skies opened up.  The thunder wasn’t too close, and the umpires were eager to get at least one ballgame in, so the game continued in the downpour.  Everyone in the ballpark headed up to the sheltered area behind home plate…and almost nobody left, either because they didn’t want to miss the end of the game or because they didn’t want to run through the rain.  Colorado storms usually don’t last too long, and this one passed quickly, but still, most of the crowd headed home, including Michelle and I.

Still, I give the crowd and the Sky Sox credit for a good experience and a nice ballpark.  It’s just a shame that experience and ballpark couldn’t be next to mountains instead of next to suburban blight.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel: 4.5/10
The Sky Sox do well to get the score this high, actually.  I’d have no idea where in the U.S. I was based on what I can see from the ballpark, but Colorado-themed concession items and retired Sky Sox numbers prevent this score from going far lower.

Charm:  2.5/5
Again, when I walked into the place, I thought this score might be a zero, but the Sky Sox put on a very nice show.

Spectacle: 3.5/5
A bit too much for AAA ball, but oh, that mascot was something else.

Team mascot/name:  4.5/5

“Sky Sox” is a fine name for a Colorado team, and Sox the Fox also a fine name…and the guy in the outfit earned this score with all his running and jumping.

Aesthetics:  1.5/5
Ballpark is OK…the view really, really dull.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  4.5/5
The Sky Sox did a fine job.  I especially featured the large, prominently-displayed lineups on the concourse.

Fans:  4/5
I can’t blame them for going home after the first game…to be fair, we did too.  (But also to be fair, they weren’t pregnant.)

Intangibles:  2.5/5
Lots of good here, but I’m afraid what I’ll remember is the tract housing.

TOTAL:  31/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

An incredibly dramatic ending.  Cedric Bowers uncorks a wild pitch in the downpour in the top of the (extra) 8th inning, scoring the Beavers’ Peter Ciofrone.  But the Beavers’ Edwin Moreno couldn’t seal the deal, as Sky Sox catcher Adam Melhuse crunches a 2-out walk-off home run to give Colorado Springs the victory.

(Written August 2008.)

Coors Field

Coors Field, Denver, CO

Number of Games:  15
First Game:  May 10, 1995 (Rockies 8, Giants 5)
Most Recent Game:  August 9, 2008 (Padres 8, Rockies 3)

Straight up:  I love Coors Field.  This may be sentimentally impacted by the fact I grew up in Denver or the way I’ve seen it change downtown Denver from a place that everyone deserted every night to a place that I can actually go hang out with friends.  I have fun memories of meeting my mom at her work and walking the two blocks

to the game–serious, serious family outings.  But I suspect I’d love it anyway.  The pine trees in the bullpen, the pavilion in left field, the views of the mountains…you could be nowhere other than Denver when watching a game.

The talk has died down recently, but in the first few years of the Rockies’ existence, and in 1995, Coors’ first year, a lot of people talked about offensive statistics in Coors Field being somehow illegitimate.  I remember Mark Grace predicting that the person to break Roger Maris’s home run record would probably be a Rockie.  He was wrong, but that’s not the point–the point is the uproar it caused among some media and fans.  Well, before I continue, I would like to defend Coors Field and the statistics of the players who play there.

–First off, you never hear people talking in reverse, about the horribly deflated pitchers’ statistics of Astros or Cardinals or Marlins or Dodgers or whatever. 

“Sure, Nolan Ryan pitched 7 no hitters, but they were all at sea level.”  “Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968 isn’t legit.  Do you think he could have done that if he’d played in Atlanta or Yankee Stadium?”  “Sandy Koufax did all of that in a pitchers’ park!  Let’s add a point to his ERA before we truly compare.”  Ridiculous.

–Second, a whole lot of players have inflated batting statistics from hitting in bandboxes.  The Polo Grounds was only 257 feet down the right field line.  Mel Ott’s career numbers are therefore unfairly high, and Ott would not have succeeded as well in another ballpark.  Should we give him an asterisk?  No.  Neither should we tinker with Andre Dawson’s 1987 MVP award for the Cubs or Jim Rice’s career home run numbers.  You play where you play, and you can’t penalize a player for exploiting his environment.

–Third, Coors Field already has very, very deep dimensions…over 330 down the lines and quite deep in the alleys, 5-10% more than most other stadiums.  Scientists tell us the ball travels 5-10% farther at a mile high than at sea level.  I will grant that people will hit the ball more often at Coors, because curves

don’t curve as much, sliders don’t slide as much, and knucklers basically don’t knuckle at all.  But what are you going to do, back the foul poles up to 360 or 370?  Make Coors lead the league in triples and inside-the-parkers instead of in traditional homers?  Again, ridiculous.

–Finally, let’s take the case of Andres Galarraga.  Some believe Coors saved his career.  Remember when Galarraga hit a home run of over 500 feet, way up into the third deck (and still rising), that original estimates put as the longest homer ever, longer than Mantle’s?  So do I.  It was at sea level.  In Florida.  Off of one of the best in the biz at the time, Kevin Brown.

So let’s stop talking about this altitude crap, okay?  Okay.  (UPDATE 2009:  The use of the humidor has totally removed all relevance from this argument I wrote so testily in 2001, of course.)

Now that that’s

off my chest, let’s talk about Coors again…

Dad had season tickets the year of my semi-obligatory Overeducated Generation X Member’s Return To The Parental Home.  I sold bets at a dog track (yes, really) and generally was surly and eagerly awaiting saving the money to get out of the folks’ basement.  The trips to Coors were among the few bright spots of that year.

We sat in the 25th row, just to the first-base side of home plate most days, right behind what clearly were seats set aside for family and friends of the visitors.  Somebody’s cousin from Colorado Springs or somebody’s buddy from Boulder was always in front of us, silently rooting for the opposition. 

One group was having a lot of fun.  It was the brother of an opposing infielder I won’t name and all his friends.  They asked us all to shout Happy Birthday to him simultaneously.  I did it.  I mean, what the hell.  But they were mostly boorish creeps.  When I’d see this player on TV later, I’d tell my dad this was the guy whose brother he hated.  He’d roll his eyes at the memory.

Twice we got foux-foux tickets in wonderful places.  Dad got tickets from the hospital in the second deck, right at first base, which included–honest to God–a buffet.  So I assembled a ham and cheese sandwich on a sourdough roll and settled into my seat, where an usher let me know that if I wanted anything else, I should just wave a menu.  Dad arrived a few minutes later and asked me what I thought of the seats.  I announced that the quality of the seats had convinced me to go to medical school.

Another time Dad’s testosterone got the best of him at a charity auction, and he outbid all comers for a set of four three-rows-behind-home-plate seats and restaurant privileges for a game against the Reds.  I took Jennifer, the namer of the original Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  Jennifer elected not to tell the then-boyfriend that she was going to a game with me, which made me feel special–like a threat.  Dad took Mom (as usual–at least I never saw him with another date).  I love being behind home plate, and hated leaving it for the middle innings to dine behind plexiglass near the top of the right-field foul pole.  Who the hell wants to watch a (live) baseball game at a restaurant?  You can’t really cheer, even home runs, since everyone’s having conversations at their table.  The plexiglass makes the game seem like just a rumor.  There’s nowhere on the table to put my scorecard.  (I announced that I was going to “score under the table.”  Dad said I could do that if I wanted, but it was best not to share such personal information with him.)  In the stands, I engage in long, blissful, not-baseball-related conversation with whomever I’m with, all while both of us look forward at the game.  In the restaurant, this feels rude…I feel like I should make eye contact with the people at the table while talking to them, so my equally unappealing options are to ignore my friends and family to watch the game, or to miss the game to talk to my friends and family.  I’m anal enough about scoring that this is actually a fairly tough call.

Lots of memories from just 12 games, lots of family and friends, and lots–I mean lots–of home runs.

All in an unmistakably Rocky Mountain setting.  It’s a great ballpark:  one of my favorites.

UPDATE 2008:  After a 10-year hiatus, I returned to Coors for a few games in 2008 as I introduced my wife to the locations of my Colorado youth.  It is interesting to re-visit this park with new eyes; all of my previous visits had been before this website existed.  The ballpark remains one of my favorites.  The way that downtown Denver peeks up beyond

the home plate stands and that the mountains are visible in the distance makes this an unquestionably Colorado experience.  The home runs have been reduced since MLB gave the Rockies permission to keep their baseballs in a humidor (soggy baseballs don’t fly as far).

I noticed some stuff in the ’00s that I would have missed when I was a regular in the ’90s.  First of all, they’ve added some art (or at least I’ve noticed it for the first time).  My favorite piece was a mural behind the batter’s eye that depicts what life might have looked like on the site of Coors Field from Native American times to the first pitch in 1995.  It’s a cool progression of history.   They’ve also added a plaque to commemorate the 1998 All-Star Game, including winning manager “Jim Hargrove,” who I guess was a last-minute replacement for then-Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove. The purple row–row 20–near the very top of the

ballpark which marks exactly 5280 feet of elevation remains in place and remains a highly distinctive touch to the ballpark.  I got to do one of those big circle-comes-to-a-close moments with Jennifer when we tried to attend a rained-out ballgame with my wife and her live-in-love-of-her-life.  The namer of the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour meets the woman who will love me forever, erotically and baseball-wise!  Great time there.

And, incidentally, if anyone wonders where Santa works during the summer, it’s in the Coors Field elevator by the left-field foul pole.  Here he is with my wife, who is both naughty and nice (after all, she’s 3 month pregnant for this photo).  Check it out…his name tag actually says “Santa–North Pole” and co-workers actually call him that.  “Ho, ho, ho!  Only 136 days left!” he told us.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Game 1 of the 1995 NLDS.  Braves 5, Rockies 4.  Chipper Jones hits two homers, including the game-winner in the ninth. The Braves turn four double plays. The Rockies do just enough to Greg Maddux to stay in the game–including a Vinny Castilla home run.  But Don Baylor goes to his bench too often, so that by the time the bases are loaded with two out in the ninth and the pitchers’ slot due up, nobody is left to pinch hit.  He uses Lance Painter, a pitcher, as a pinch-hitter, and he strikes out against Mark Wohlers to end the game.

Bryan Rekar wins in his major-league debut.

Andres Galarraga goes 6-for-6 in a game against Houston.

I see a game in which opposing pitchers, Kevin Foster and Marvin Freeman, homer off of each other.

Barry Bonds homers.

In my 2008 return, Lastings Milledge hits two home runs in one game for the Nationals.

Greg Maddux picks up a win for the Padres–13 years after I watch him pitch here in a playoff game for the Braves.

(Written July 2001.  Most recently updated July 2009.)

Mile High Stadium

photodraw240

From “Ballparks of Baseball” website.  Used by permission.

Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO

Number of minor league games:  A dozen or so (no stats or results survive–just a few memories)
First minor league game:  Probably late summer 1978 (Denver Bears 8, Wichita Aeroes 5)
Last minor league game:  Probably August 1991 (Denver Zephyrs vs. Iowa Cubs)

Number of Major League Games:  4
First Major League Game:  June 5, 1994 (Pirates 4, Rockies 3)
Last Major League Game:  June 28, 1994 (Padres 11, Rockies 3, 11 innings, 2nd game of doubleheader)

Mile High Stadium was demolished in 1999.

It has been destroyed along with so many other multipurpose stadiums, but I’d have to say Mile High Stadium is probably the best multipurpose stadium I’ve ever seen.  It’s because of those awesome movable East Stands, which actually glided on water to move from a cozy football position to a more distant baseball position.  And for a time, after Coors Field opened, there were a few people bemoaning the loss of Mile High, which averaged more in attendance than Coors could seat.  But those third-deck seats in Mile High were really, really up there–quite far away, especially if you were down the lines.  And those seats in center field…my, but they were a million miles away (although I liked that they sold them for a buck).  So Coors is a definite improvement, but I don’t think there was too much wrong with Mile High.  It was wonderfully quirky, in fact…homers to left were insanely easy, but homers to right were very difficult (I think it was something like 370 feet down the right field line, and the wall quite high.)

My very first pro baseball experiences were here.  The first pro game I ever attended would have been in the late summer of my 2nd or 3rd grade year…likely 1977 or 1978.  My T-ball team headed there one night to see the Montreal-affiliated Denver Bears beat the Wichita Aeroes 8-5.  I’m 99% sure that’s the score because I remember the linescore:

Wichita 050 000 000
Denver   111  111   02X

There was a bell to signify how many runs the Bears scored in each inning, so we kept hearing “The toll for the inning…[ding!]…one run.”  All else I remember from that night was missing a home run while in the bathroom, being uncomfortably near a foul ball, and being amazed that I was out at the ungodly hour of 10PM.

I recall snippets from the next 16-17 years of American Association baseball, through Expos, White Sox, Reds, and Brewers affiliations: a ceremony to honor Tim Raines’ record 77 stolen bases in a year (1980), Lloyd McClendon hitting for the cycle, several “let’s impress the major league teams and show that we love baseball by having a bunch of people show up at the park” nights, and singing the national anthem with my high school show choir.  Darryl Hamilton was signing autographs before the game on that anthem night, and I remember how game he was, signing whatever words we asked (I had him write “thanks for the tips!”, fellow HS singer Sheila had him write an elaborate love note along the lines of “you are my life…”) and how gracefully he handled it when Sheila asked him to prom.

Those minor league memories set the table for my major league experiences at Mile High, which were exclusively during the 1994 season.

I enjoyed one of these games with friends Michelle and Robby.  Robby scores the games too, but he uses wacky hieroglyphics only decipherable to him.  Archeologists could unearth my scorebook in ten thousand years, and would have no trouble whatsoever determining exactly what Eric Young did in the eighth inning that June day.  If they unearth Robby’s scorecard…well…they’ll probably think it’s some failed architectural plan.

Mile High was also host to my only-ever scheduled doubleheader.  I figured, hey, how could it get any better than this?  A doubleheader with dad.  That there is some father-son bonding.  But there’s a problem…Rockies pitching.  The doubleheader lasted absolutely forever.  It resulted in one of only two times in my life I’ve been compelled to leave a game early…the damn 11th inning of the damn second game was positively–and unprecedentedly (see below)–endless.  So I took pity on my Dad sometime during the eighteenth pitching change of the eleventh inning and let him take me home.

As much as I like the idea of the doubleheader, and as much as I laud suggestions that scheduled doubleheaders should be made more commonplace (this will never happen, however, as owners need each of the 81 games of revenue), I have a suggestion:  schedule no doubleheaders between teams whose earned run averages, when added together, are higher than 9.  We can’t handle that many walks and hits.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

In the first game of the June 28 doubleheader, the Rockies come back from an 8-run deficit to win, a Rockies record at the time (over the year and a half they’d existed).

The Padres set a record in the second game for most runs scored in an 11th inning (since 1900), lighting the Rockies up for nine.  It’s the only 11-3 pitchers’ duel I’ll ever see.

(Written July 2001.  Last updated July 2009.)