Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Triumphant Homecoming

Yes, I finally made it back to my beloved Coors, and the results were nothing to argue with. In fact, it was (yet again) a great night, as it seems to be every time I get down to the stadium in LoDo. I could happily live there -- give me a blanket and I'll crash on the bullpen grass or something -- so it was a thrill to get back after going to the Mets/Rockies and Yankees/Rangers games earlier in the year. It was baseball, and you can bet I had a blast at all three, but it wasn't quite, well, home turf. And so the fourth game that I attended this year was my first time back; I bought tickets for this Wednesday because I simply couldn't wait for the end-of-May Cardinals series. So I decked myself out in all my Rox gear -- Atkins shirt, black and purple Rockies jersey, black skirt and fingernail polish, Rockies necklace and hat, purple toenail polish and black flipflops -- and picked up my sister from school at 3:30. We drove down the hill, dealt with the usual horrendous I-25 traffic, and got to the stadium around 4, where we actually managed to score five-dollar parking. This is a good thing, especially for students with limited budgets such as myself (and too much of it gets blown on baseball anyway) so we traipsed up 20th to Gate E and waited for the ushers to let us in. When they did, we collected our Ladies' Night voucher (there is a reason we go on Wednesdays, and that is to score free tickets) and coupons for one-dollar hot dogs. Saving money is always a nice thing, so we wandered into the bleachers and watched the end of Rockies batting practice. I dared my sister, who is deeply, deeply in love with Matt Holliday, to yell at him, but she didn't. Ah well.

When the Rockies jogged in and the D-backs started hitting instead, we relocated to the concourse behind the bullpens and plotted to take over Coors for a day so we could go sit on the grass by the fountains that they shoot off whenever the Rockies hit a home run. We should take over Coors for a number of reasons, but that's a long story. When they opened the rest of the concourse, we headed to the Diamond Dry Goods store in an attempt to chase down a black Atkins shirt for my older sister's 21st birthday present. (You learn something every day, and until quite recently, I was unaware that my sister, who's young for her age and generally seems to disdain the concept of dating, was sweet on Garrett. But evidently she is. Can't blame her, as I am too, just a bit. Shh). We did not locate the shirt, but we did find the issue of Rockies magazine in which my (younger) sister's sign is featured. (Sorry for any confusion; my younger sister is the one that I am referring to in regards to the game and my older sister is still at college in Georgia). There she is on on page fifteen with Jamey Carroll in the foreground, so she bought the magazine in addition to a Rockies hat and then we decided to head down to the first base line and prospect for autographs. We hung out and admired the field and skimmed through the magazine until Chris Iannetta showed up, promptly dropped the catcher's gear he was carrying, and began to patiently sign for a line of fans.

Okay. I know I generally blog objectively about baseball, and that is what I like to do, as my passion is first and foremost for the sport and not for the guys. I am not a feather-head female fan who just goes to the game to be a bimbo, but let's admit it, for a very straight woman, there are certain aesthetic compensations. So, therefore, allow me to say that Iannetta is very, very good-looking, and let's leave it there. I always go in terror of devolving into too much girlyness, and I get extremely irritated if anyone thinks I'm only interested in the game for the guys. But I am allowed to notice, and I did. I took a picture of Chris with my sister, and he signed my hat and the page of the magazine starring the sign. It was funny -- he's very quiet and intense and went about the autographing as if planning a battle. She gave him the magazine and said, "Can you sign there?" pointing to the top of the page. "Yeah, I can do that," he says seriously, signs, and asks, "Is that good?" Aaah, well. I was going to ask him if he was starting, but someone else did, and he said that he was. Finally. Clint Hurdle's "rotate Torrealba and Iannetta until one of them gets hot" strategy seems to be, "play Torrealba until he gets hot." Iannetta is currently batting south of the Mendoza line, it's true, but has a much better eye and OPS than Torrealba, and he's a young guy who needs the playing time to refine his game; Torrealba is a veteran and you know what you're getting out of him. Sorry, but one of my current axe-grinding campaigns is to play Iannetta already, and Hurdle, naturally, keeps frustrating me.

Side note: I do not think I was the only one who noticed that Iannetta is gorgeous. Just as I took the pic of him and my sister, she said, "Look behind you." I did, just in time to see an absolute raft of teenybopper girls descend the stairs and migrate to him like a pack of succubi. Ahem. There was also a girl with large sunglasses, pouty lips, a bright orange sign that read, "Garrett Atkins' Biggest Fan!"and a hopeful look. (I wonder what she would have said if she knew that I happen to possess both his autograph and a picture with him. Heh. But Garrett wasn't playing, so she didn't get a chance to see her sweetie. Darn. If I see him or Cook again, I'll be like, "Hey, remember that one lonesome Rockies fan you signed for in Shea? Um... that was me.")

We waited a while longer, Iannetta went out to the outfield wall and narrowly avoided getting hit with a mower (we told him to do something to make himself not look so much like grass, evidently) and did assorted interesting stretches. Then Jamey Carroll showed up and began to make his way down the line, signing for everyone. The "Baseball is Back!!!" sign which engendered so much attention happens to bear his John Hancock already, but when Jamey got to us, my sister pointed to the page featuring him, her, and the sign, and asked, "Do you remember the sign from Opening Day?"

"Yeah!" says Jamey. "That was you? Looks like it was worth it, huh?" He grins, signs the magazine page and my hat, which is doing well at accumulating Rockies' autographs (hurrah) and heads on. Gillian was thrilled that he remembered it, and we were still hanging out and hoping for any stragglers when the starting lineup came onto the field and began warming up about ten feet away. They probably weren't going to sign, but I hold out hope, since I will be a very happy girl the day I get Brad Hawpe's autograph. (Similarly, my sister will expire if she gets one from Holliday... I tell you, she's obsessed). But even though game time was quickly approaching, Jason Hirsh (who really is humongous) came ambling over to the line of fans and began signing. I have to say, he is absolutely the world's nicest guy. He was talking and laughing, very articulate and approachable, clearly content to sign for everyone who was there. My sister prepared the magazine page and gave it to him when he arrived at us, and said, "Hey, you remember the sign from Opening Day?" (He had also signed it then).

"Yeah!" said Hirsh enthusiastically. "That was all you? Awesome! You ended up on the calendar too!" (I was stunned that he knew that, but Gillian was totally thrilled, as we'd heard elsewhere that she is featured on the front of the Rockies' calendar they gave out the other day). "That's great!" he said, and signed the page as well. He signed my hat as well with that big, sweet, cross-eyed smile on his face, and I asked, "Hey Jason, can I have a picture?" He says, "No." For a second, I actually thought he was serious, and was like, "Well, okay..." and then he reached out and put his arm around me, grinning like an idiot. (So I put mine around him too. It may not have reached. He's a very sizeable fellow). My sister took the pic of us, and I may be a little bit in love with Jason Hirsh. Honestly, he's one of the sweetest guys I've ever met, Major Leaguer or otherwise, and now, since he knows Gillian, we're going to go down there and wave at him before every game, at least the ones that we're there. He comes out and signs almost every day, even when the game is about to start and everyone's warming up already.

That did it for the autographs, but surprisingly, since no one had kicked us out, we ended up standing in the first row on the first-base side for the National Anthem, with Hirsh, who had naturally stayed late to sign, about five feet away from us. That was pretty cool. Then we headed up, paid only $2 for hot dogs (and about $6 for two drinks, naturally) and went back to our seats. Section 206, first row, so in other words, the first level of the second deck and our favorite spot. Our favorite right fielder was also present. I love Brad Hawpe, and I have since last year, so it was really nice to see him back in his familiar spot, bending over and doing crazy yoga positions and generally amusing us. He showed up in another way, too; more on that in just a second.

The game itself was a lot of fun. Aaron Cook came out of the gate strong and retired the first 12 men he faced before Eric Byrnes (naturally!) broke up the perfect game/no-hitter with a single to right to open the fifth. Before that, the Rockies scored a run in the first on Brandon Webb's throwing error, and another after that in the fourth, when our own Mr. Hawpe hammered one high to right field for a homer. (If you'd got it juuuuust a little higher, Bradley, you would have hit it to us). The funny thing was that this occurred about an inning after I'd requested Brad to hit it over Byrnes' head. He obliged in his next at-bat; good boy.

Cook lost the perfect game/no-hitter/shutout in the fifth, as Byrnes' single led to a 2-run double, but the game stayed tied until the bottom of the sixth. Matt Holliday powered a one-out laser into the left field corner, came around first and gunned for second, and since the fielder had already retrieved the ball, he looked like he was going to be one dead duck. But he dove in headlong, the umpire called him safe, Coors was thrilled, and Matt sat up looking bewildered, as if he too wasn't entirely sure how he'd gotten the call. (This was after my sister had screamed, "Matt, I love you!" at him as he advanced to the plate. Yeah, it's bad. But she was happy. So was I. And the rest of the stadium, anyway).

Helton grounded out to move Matt to third, bringing up John Mabry, who was making the start in place of a slumping Atkins. (I also love Garrett, but let's just say that the power stroke -- and the hitting stroke in general -- hasn't been there to start the year. .237/2/15 is what you expect from a replacement, not a possible All-Star who was the second best hitter at his position last year, and you can expect that it's bothering Atkins a lot. It's bothering me too, as I want to see him do well and join his buddy Holliday in San Francisco for the All-Star game). Anyway, Mabry is terrible, and Gillian and I told him to walk, even though Webb hadn't walked anybody all night, since that would bring up Hawpe and that was our best chance for scoring. Surprisingly enough, John followed our helpful advice to bring up Sir Bradley. He fought off a number of pitches, worked the count full, and unloaded on a changeup, which he delivered into the left-field seats and sent everybody into a screaming frenzy. Seriously, it was awesome, especially since Brad was hitting .270 with 1 HR and 18 RBI coming into the game, still searching for that power stroke. But he seems to have found it -- you next, Garrett).

Brad had been cheered when he came back to right field after hitting a homer for the first time, and when he came out for the seventh, everyone cheered him again, and loudly, which prompted him to give a little grin and a thumbs-up. Cook started the seventh since his pitch count was low, but he gave up back-to-back singles with nobody out, which prompted Hurdle to summon freshly recovered Ramon Ramirez from the bullpen. He got a strikeout and then a slicing liner which Taveras managed to track down and turn into a sac fly instead of a RBI single. Then somebody (can't remember who) absolutely bulleted a laser down the left field line, which I was sure was going to drop, but Holliday came on at full tilt and gloved it for the last out. Theatrics over, the rest of the game was (mostly) straightforward. Manny Corpas whipped through a spotless eighth inning and, very satisfyingly, K'd Byrnes for the final out. (The man is a bona fide Rockies killer. Serves him right). Fuentes came on for the ninth and got two outs via flyout and strikeout before issuing a walk, which advanced to second on defensive indifference, and going to 3-0 on the next hitter. We shouted at him not to make things so interesting, as he has a bad habit of doing. It's doubtful he heard the two diehards in the second deck, but one or two pitches later, pinch-hitter Conor Jackson lifted a high bloop pop to shallow right. The game's hero came on and caught it to secure things for the Rockies, a 5-3 final.

Gillian and I headed out of the stadium and walked back to the car, just really happy to be back at Coors together, especially with autographs and talks with the guys and a Rockies win to take with us. It was a great first day back at Coors for me, as you know how long I've been looking forward to getting back, and since we got the Ladies' Night vouchers, we're going to go to the next Wednesday home game that we can. Gillian's friend's dad also managed to secure us completely awesome seats for one of the Cardinals games and the Nationals game on my birthday. Now I must ponder whether I want to buy tickets for the Wednesday Cards game as well).

I also got my pictures from the Mets/Rockies/Yankees series developed, and they're as great as I could have hoped. :D Sometime when it isn't midnight, I'll post them. Some highlights: perfect weather at Yankee Stadium, perfect weather at Shea Stadium, Jason Hirsh in the dugout, Jeff Francis being interrogated, C.J. Wilson on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard, a magical fall of golden light in the Yankee Stadium outfield during batting practice, Monument Park, me and Aaron Cook (:D) and me and Garrett Atkins. (:D :D). But that will have to wait. I think I'm going to edit the latest anthology of stories and then go to bed. So much excitement is a tiring thing.


Squeaky said...

Yes, it was fun, I just have a quarrel with ONE thing: The thing about screaming Matt I love you? that was bad? Yeah, YOU dared me, sweetie. I clearly remember you saying, "Scream Matt I love you when he comes up next." :P

sally1239 said...

Hillary - to be honest, have not paid that much attention to the Rockies, except for the league complaining about the humidor. Thank you so much for introducing me to your team & will watch out for them for the rest of the season. Am an Athletics & Cardinals fan as well. The hometown team where I live (Astros) are just not that likeable & don't really like the Tigers either (am originally from Michigan), except for Curtis Granderson, so it is cool to meet other people's teams. Found you by your link from 'Athletics Nation.' Am not sure about some of the folks in that community, some of the commentors are extremely insightful & enjoyable & some are just mean & hateful. Am one of those baseball fans that like the player, but not necessarily the team. Have you ever read 'Ladies...?' They are very funny & link to a lot of pictures. Thank you for allowing me to also relive my college days along with you (though they were a LOOOOOOOOOONG time ago). Have a great summer. Warmest regards from downtown Houston, Texas, in the shadows of Minute Maid Park (wish they would have stuck with the original name - Ballpark at Union Station - ah, corporate $$$$).