Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Best Day of 2007

.... is Saturday, June 2. I'm not even kidding. If there's going to be another contender for the best night of this year, they're going to have to put up a damn impressive show to come close to touching the awesomeness that unfolded tonight. I'm sitting up at 12:43 AM, pretty tired and completely happy, writing this down since I want to get down every detail before I forget anything. My two sisters and I went to Photo Day/the Rockies game today, and what can I say, it was absolutely marvelous. I could have asked for absolutely nothing more, and it's left me with that kind of happiness that sinks into your bones and rests like a glowing marble in your chest and makes you happy when you even start thinking about it. If I ever am at a loss for happy thoughts during my continuing job training next week, I know what will do the trick. So here's the blow-by-blow, and I am determined to spare no detail, since I want to remember them all for myself. Very long, but what hey, I want it all down for posterity.

The Photos/The Guys

My older sister just got home from college yesterday, and as an early birthday present, we gave her an Atkins shirt and a ticket to accompany us (me and my younger sister) to Photo Day. So my older sister, Darcy, and I left home around 2:20 in the afternoon, decked out in Rockies gear (Atkins shirt and Rockies hat for her; Hawpe shirt, purple and black jersey, logo necklace, and signed hat for me. Yes, I take my baseball seriously). Then we drove down to pick up my younger sister, Gillian, from work, and headed down to Coors Field from there. The traffic on the normally congested I-25 connector was actually moving, which was only the first herald of all the greatness to come. We got down to the field so early that the signs for parking weren't even up, so we parked in our usual spot and saved five or ten bucks on it. (Gillian was worried that we were going to get ticketed or towed or something, but of course not. The day was destined to be perfect, so it didn't happen). We wandered up toward the stadium, picked up our tickets from Will Call, and went to Gate C, where they were just starting to let people in. Gillian and I were anxious to get going, so we dragged Darcy down and stepped onto an actual major league field. Yes, for Photo Day, they actually let you head onto the field and walk around the warning track. If I had a religious experience when I walked into Shea, then standing on the dirt of Coors Field itself damn near blew my circuits. I just walked around, looking up at the wall, as Gillian steered us to one of the numbered stations for photos. (As it turned out, this didn't matter, as the guys just made their way down the line). But we stood there in the sun, excited, three girls in Rockies gear who love their team, waiting for their boys to come out, and in due time, they did.

It was just cool to see the guys in white come out of the dugout and start spreading across the field toward the line of fans on the warning track. I was so busy tracking who was going where (Gillian wanted Holliday, Darcy wanted Atkins, they debuted a little to our right) that I almost didn't see who was walking straight toward us. Right: Carroll, well we know that guy, but not high on our list for pics. Center: Baker, oh cool, we remember him, maybe he remembers us. And on the left: OH. My God. Brad Hawpe is walking toward me. Do not do something stupid. Have to admit, I got a little weak-kneed there for a second. But I recovered.

Brad took a picture with the girl next to us, before he reached us and smiled. "Hey guys, how are you?" he said, and naturally, since Hawpe is my boy and I was wearing his shirt (albeit underneath my jersey) I got to go first. There was only one moment all day in which I was not thinking, and that was when Brad Hawpe and I had our arms around each other, grinning into the sunlight of a perfect day as Gillian snapped the picture. Then she got to go with him, and our brilliant time was officially begun. Jeff Baker, who was there as well, remembered us from Thursday, where we talked to him and got his autograph. "Hey!" he said enthusiastically. So we introduced ourselves to him, and he introduced himself as well, as if we didn't know. "You guys live in Denver?" he said. "No, Evergreen," we said. "About how far?" he asked. "Forty minutes or so," we said. He was terrifically nice, hung out for a little bit and chatted before moving on, and generally made us very happy that he'd remembered us, but the good times were coming fast and we had to keep up with 'em.

Right at that moment, Garrett Atkins (who is really a big guy... I think I knew that) came up to us, and I said, "Hey, Garrett, I don't know if you remember me, but I was the one Rockies fan in Shea Stadium." He grinned a little bit and went, "Yeah, I remember." Since I already have a picture with him, I got Darcy (who has a fairly sizeable crush on him and refused to go with him alone) and Gillian (who agreed to do it with her to ameliorate her nervousness) to pose with him. Just as I was taking the picture, Ryan Spilborghs grabbed Garrett by the shoulder and popped his head up in the frame, grinning like a cheese, so we got two for the price of one. I smiled at him (I think he remembered us too) and said, "You starting tonight, Spilly?" "Naw, I'm sitting," he answered. "You three are all Rockied out!" This was a reference to our gear, which had garnered a number of comments. (Later, someone remarked, "I'll take your pic... I think you guys really like the Rockies." My answer: "Yeah, just a bit.")

The two of them meandered on and just then, Gillian's absolute favorite ballplayer, Matt Holliday himself, arrived on the scene. She was having conniptions that he wouldn't be there because of his flukey little self-inflicted injury. (For the record, there are conflicting reports about how he did it. The Rocky Mountain News says that while trying to bang himself on the head with his helmet, he accidentally sliced himself with the brim of it. Matt takes umbrage with this, says it portrays him as a selfish player, and insists that it was an accident of braining himself on a ceiling when jumping off a step. Who knows what actually happened). But Matt was smiling and happy and Gillian just about overloaded when she got a picture with him. (I got one with him too).

Jeremy Affeldt and Tom Martin wandered by around this point, and since neither of them are a) starters or b) good, we didn't get a photo with them. (For the record, I think Jeremy was disappointed). But we shook hands with both of them and introduced ourselves, and they asked how we were doing and we said that we were really happy to be there. We also talked to Brian Fuentes briefly. Then we peeled off and headed further down the left field line to where Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta were making their way along. (We saw Hurdle around here, but intentionally skipped him). We got to Iannetta first, where Gillian said to him, "I'm the girl who asked you about The Elegant Universe." (In case I forgot to tell you, on Thursday, she asked him if he'd read it and he smiled and went, "Yeah.") "Yeah, I remember," says Chris with a smile, and then Darcy was actually persuaded to take a picture alone with a player, which is kind of a milestone for her. But she did it all on her own, and since Gillian and I already have pictures with him and have talked to him before, we just introduced ourselves and shook. On a random note, Iannetta has the world's largest hands. I mean, my hands aren't that small, but they were just swallowed up in his grip. Then we got to Tulo, who we were really hoping to track down because he is awesome. So he got to us, and gave us a big grin and went, "Hi!" He's very hyper, energetic, brash, and outgoing, and the funny thing was, we all introduced ourselves and he did the same thing each time. "Hi, I'm Gillian." "Troy!" (Handshake, smile). "I'm Hilary. "Troy!" (Handshake, smile). "And what's your name?" "I'm Darcy." "Troy!" (Handshake, smile). Both Gillian and I got a picture with Tulo, then we decided to head back to right field to get those who were trying to escape from us.

We got there and I got a chance to track down Aaron Cook, which I've been hoping to do since I got back to Denver. "Hey, Aaron, I don't know if you remember, but I was the one Rockies fan in Shea," I said. "Hey, yeah, I remember!" he said. "By the tarp, right?" "Yep," I said. "Did I give you a ball?" he asked. "No, you just signed my hat," I said, and showed it to him. "Right on!" he answered. "Who was with you? They were in Mets gear, right?" I was surprised that he remembered that as well, but told him that it was my friend (Mary) and her boyfriend (Steve). "Back in Colorado now, awesome," said Cookie. "Yep," I said. "Well, thanks for coming out and supporting us!" he said. "Oh, no problem," I said, and he meandered on. It was a beautiful day and everyone just seemed completely laid-back and happy, friendly and engaging and easy to talk to. It made me love the Rockies even more than I already do, and while I get frustrated with them so often for not playing up to their potential, they're now my friends as well and that's a terrific element to have. Honestly, I think we talked to almost everyone, even if we didn't get a picture with them, and introduced ourselves and whatnot. But the photos weren't quite done.

Taylor Buchholz came by and Gillian and I got a picture together with him. Then Jason Hirsh came along and remembered Gillian right away when she said she was the sign girl. "And the calendar too!" he added. "So I'm told," said Gillian. "What, you don't have one?" said Hirsh, stunned. "No," she said. "Call the front office!" he suggested. "You tell them you're on the front, they'll probably give you lots." The whole time they were talking, he had his arm up ready to put around her, and then he did. I stepped back to get all of him in the picture -- he's a humongous guy, I tell you, and yes, I am still a bit in love with him. Around this time Holliday came back and said, "Didn't I see y'all over there?" with a laugh. "Yeah, we moved," Gillian said. "How's your head?" He laughed and said, "Great." "You playing tonight?" I asked. "Sure am," he said with another smile. (Baker was also back, and waved at us and grinned. "You starting at third, Bake?" I asked. "Yep!" he said).

We had exactly one shot remaining on our camera, so we decided to spend it by getting all three of us together with Todd Helton. He was laughing and very friendly, just like everyone else, and when he got to us, we told him what we wanted. Todd promptly obliged. "C'mere, guys!" he said, and draped his arms over Gillian and I with Darcy in the middle. We all grinned as a helpful fellow fan snapped our last pic, and then we carefully tucked the camera in our backpack to await development. (We're probably going to have to get double or triple prints, since we'll all want one to take to school). Jamey Carroll showed up a bit later, and when we told him we'd run out of film, he said, "Darn!" We stayed there as long as we wanted, about 45 minutes in all, enjoying some pure baseball heaven -- talking with our boys, standing on the field, in a glorious summer-like afternoon -- until we at last decided that without film and the fact that the guys were heading in, we might as well amuse ourselves in the hour and a half remaining until gametime. So we headed up, got a drink, and headed for the Diamond Dry Goods store, which in itself was another section.

The Store/The Interim

Naturally, when you walk into the place, there's all sorts of Rockies goodness that scream at you, and your pocketbook, to be taken off the shelf and purchased. We ambled around, bickering good-naturedly, comparing prices, and trying to talk each other into buying things. I got a Rockies magazine and two very cool necklaces (the necklaces are silver and black with a little hurricane on them, and they look a bit like Rich Harden's if you've ever seen it. We promptly dubbed them the sweet-ass necklaces since they were so cool -- one was for me and one for Gillian). We argued about whether or not we would buy a new baseball (I actually spent an hour the other day hand-sewing our one remaining ball, which had its stitches coming to pieces, so we could play catch) and/or a pack of baseball cards. (We eventually ended up nixing both of them, as I insisted that I would pay for $20 worth of merchandise and no more. "I have to put my foot down somewhere.") Darcy bought herself a hoody (I need one of those, they're awesome) as a birthday present for herself and we'd barely gotten out of the store before she decided that she needed a sweet-ass necklace to match ours. So we went back in, still arguing about who owed who money, and she found one more hurricane necklace and bought it. Now with matching sweet-ass necklaces, we finally decided to go find our seats.

We'd used our Ladies' Night vouchers to get two free tickets, so we'd only paid for one, Darcy's. We were very pissed that we couldn't sit in our accustomed spot in the right field mezzanine, but we got to Section 332 and stopped complaining, as the seats were third deck, right behind home plate and were just fine; we could see the whole field and there was nothing to bitch about. We dropped our stuff and then climbed up to the very top of Coors, to the very last row, and looked out through the mesh at Denver beyond. I snapped a few pictures on my cell phone of us, the field, and we just stood up there and admired how beautiful it was and how unbelievably happy we all were. We took one picture that I declared I would send to the "Fans of the Game" promotion they always do. I said with certainty that there was no way they couldn't feature it, and for the record, here it is:

Left: Gillian. Center: Me. Right: Darcy.

I took one look at it and said, "We're finally gonna get on the scoreboard." We took some more pictures and then headed off to get dinner -- pretzels, hot dogs, sodas, you know, ballpark food. We hung out on the sunny upper concourse for a little, then wandered back to our seats, too goofily and incredibly happy to care about anything very much. Coors Field is my happy place and I want to be there so much that it feels as if I can never get back soon enough when I leave. We got back to our seats in time to cheer for the Rockies when they announced the starting lineups. I know that I grind the start-Iannetta axe all the time, but in the three games I've attended this year, he's started each of them, so maybe it's something about me? Dunno.

The Game

The game started, Jeff Francis came out of the gate dealing (four perfect innings) and Helton blasted a bomb to dead-center in the bottom of the first to ensure that he was never working from behind. Francis lost the perfect game in the top of the fifth, and had to deal with traffic in the sixth and seventh as well, but he ended up with yet another strong seven-inning showing and only one run allowed. He's really been the "Jeffrey Franchise" that the Rockies expected and needed, and it was fun to watch him pitch tonight. Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, the Reds' top homer threats, both looked absolutely silly against him (he had an insane number of swing-throughs tonight; they just couldn't get a bead on that changeup or slider). Manny Corpas' punchout of Griffey in the eighth gave Junior the golden sombrero, and while striking out Dunn isn't that difficult, Francis did it twice for a total of six Ks on the night. The Rockies got their other two runs on a single and stolen base by Kaz Matsui followed by a perfectly placed bloop single from Holliday, and in the bottom of the eighth, Spilborghs (pinch-hitting for Francis; thank God it was him and not Finley) laced a double and scored when Willy Taveras bunted and the Reds reliever threw the ball away. Corpas had a perfect eighth in which he buzzsawed easily through three up, three down, and Fuentes came in for the ninth. Aside from a walk, he was great, and the Rockies ended up winning 4-1.

We were really into the game the whole time, rocking out to the music, cheering for the guys, shouting assorted encouragements or reproaches at them according to what they did, and threatening Baker that he could no longer be our friend after he grounded into three double plays. Each time, Brad Hawpe came up, got to first (two singles and a walk) and got erased. It was just a little frustrating; maybe somebody hexed the third base spot on the Rockies and it isn't Atkins' fault after all. At least when he plays, he only gets himself out.... Love ya, Garrett, but try to pick it up so we don't have to watch Baker do that again, no matter how much we appreciate him for talking to us. We got a little nervous in the sixth after seeing three straight Rockies starters turning into the Hindenburg, but Francis flashed some balls of steel and escaped. And by the way, about our picture? I was right. During the seventh inning stretch, they flashed the Verizon "Fans of the Game" on the scoreboard, and there we were, featured second. We cheered and whooped and high-fived each other.

We danced in our seats and enjoyed the hell out of the game and Gillian and I were happy to see what a great time Darcy had. She's very young for her age (21 next Sunday) and she's very transparent emotionally, so you know if she's happy or not, and she was. We all were. It was a ridiculously good night. The stars were aligned for everything, even moving traffic and free parking, as mentioned. Fuentes ended the game with a groundball to second, and everyone got up and cheered and headed out. It might have been just me, but it seemed as if there was a lot more fans who were actually wearing their Rox gear, so there was plenty of shirts, caps, jackets, etc., on display. It was nice to hear Coors make a lot of noise and get behind their guys, who may or may not always deserve it in terms of their play, but at least they're all terrifically friendly and polite and just great human beings. It made me love them more, and remember why I put up with all their shenanigans.

The only slightly worrisome thing was that Tulo came out of the game in the fifth with tightness in his groin and Carroll took his place. Tulo is an integral component of the team both offensively and defensively, so I really, really hope that it's nothing serious and he'll be back in there tomorrow or the next day. The lineup can't go long without the spark that their rookie shortstop provides, so happy thoughts in Troy's direction. Still giggling about the way he introduced himself three times in a row, as if we might not know.

In conclusion, and as you can see since I've taken so much time to write this all out in excruciating detail, I had a friggin' FANTASTIC time tonight, and if it's not one of the best nights of my life, then it's at least by far the best of 2007 to date. We three deserved a night out to have fun and celebrate the end of the year after all working so hard in school, and oh man, we had a wonderful time. It'll make me happy to think about tonight for a long, long time, and that's not something that happens every day. And our fun-filled weekend isn't even over quite yet -- me and my sisters are going out for a night downtown tomorrow again, attending a 7:30 performance of Wicked. That in itself is going to be great -- I've heard the show's awesome and I'm looking forward to it.

Okay, it's 2:38 in the morning and it's time for me to hit the hay. I've been up so late writing this down because I hope I never forget it. Awesomeness to the tenth power or so, and hey Rockies, you just made my day, month, and possibly year as well. Win tomorrow, bastards. (Some things never change).


Redhawk said...

Wonderful post. I love how you capture the magic of baseball, & the magic of love of your sisters.

Reading this through your eyes, was better then if I had actually been at the game myself.

From the Purple Row

MattTheRock said...

I knew I recognized you guys at one point... That game rocked. Wish I had remembered about picture day, that would've been awesome.

Matt from Purple Row

Squeaky said...

It was absolutely splendid...I can't really say anything besides what you have.

And I love that picture, me with the goofy smile and everything. no fat lip could have stopped that game from being perfect!!!