Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Birthday Blast

Well, you know, the general Rockies-related news recently has not been that inspiring, to say the least, as they fell on their face and lost 3 of 4 to the Pirates. Yet again, they've put their own backs against the wall and need some kind of miracle run to get back into contention -- with the D-backs appearing to have a stranglehold on the division, it looks as if the only way the Rockies will taste that playoff savor is if they somehow make a sustained push for the wild card and leapfrog all the teams logjammed ahead of them. As I have noted previously, I am not sure that this will happen, but I'd settle for a winning season at this point. Still, all I wanted for my birthday was for them to win, especially since I had been planning to attend a game on this day ever since the beginning of the summer, when I discovered Gillian's friend's father could aid us in getting prime free tickets. (The last time we used them was on May 30 against the Cardinals, but we've had this game on the schedule since I came home from school. In other words, high expectations).

Well, for starters, yesterday was my 19th birthday and I had an excellent time. Got a day off from work, got to sleep in, then got up and enjoyed a nice morning. I was briefly shanghaied into being used as brute labor by my mother, who had to haul a load of books to the middle school (and just stepping into that building made me unspeakably grateful that I am a college student). Then I picked up my sister, and we headed down the hill to spend an hour or so at the Colorado Mills mall, where we lustfully eyed assorted Rockies paraphernalia in the hundred or so sports stores (no, we don't have a problem at all). We ate pretzels, wandered into accessories stores, bickered like, well, siblings (but all in good fun) and then departed for Coors Field. Upon arrival, we headed straight to the Diamond Dry Goods store, where I was given $100 ($80 from parents/sister and $20 from aunt/uncle) to pick out my birthday presents. I ended up picking out a light jacket, a blanket, an autographed baseball (well, not real, but it has copies of the whole team's signatures on it, and Gillian and I spent quite a while trying to decipher who was who) and a pennant; I now have so much Rockies stuff, which will be posted in my dorm room, that it's rather ridiculous. Someone will walk in and go, "Uh... you don't like the Rockies, by any chance?" I'll go, "No, really, how'd you guess? What tipped you off -- the two pennants, the flag, the stickers, the posters, the tickets, the photos, the blanket, the ball, the cap, the jersey, the shirts -- " At which point they will tune out and contemplate how sane, exactly, I am to be rooting for this team, which is something I myself indulge in on occasion. I am looking forward so much to getting back to NY and having my own space, filled with all my stuff, mementos of things I love and an awesome summer. :)

Still, after the shopping was concluded, Gillian and I headed to the sidelines along the first-base side. We had theorized that the combination of a) the Nationals b) the Rockies sliding recently, and c) a weekday night would lead to rather less autograph-seekers than there usually are, in which we were correct. We were hanging out, still trying to work out who was who on the ball, when guess who? -- Jason Hirsh showed up. I was very surprised to see him, as he's still on the DL, and hadn't expected him to be kabitzing around Coors on such a pretty late-August evening. Sure enough, however, there he was in the flesh; you know that he's one of my favorites and I was planning to ask him to sign my ticket "Happy Birthday." When he actually got to us, I chickened out and handed it to Gillian to ask him instead; she did, he did just that and wished me happy birthday, I asked him how it was going, he said it was good, and I stood there grinning like an idiot as he moved on down the line, patiently answering questions about when he's going to get off the DL (for the record, Jason thinks it'll be a few weeks). Then Jamey Carroll, the other frequent signer, showed up (and I swear he has to know us, or at least recognize us, by now, with all the time we spend down there). He also wished me a happy birthday, and by this point we didn't have much time left before the game. We watched the usual suspects come out and warm up, a routine that is always amusing because a) Tulo runs like a pigeon, and b) Atkins has his own personal stretcher guy who maneuvers him into various uncomfortable-looking positions while Gillian and I snigger. And assorted sundry other amusements, but we got back to our seats (sixteen rows back, Section 132) with plenty of time.

It is worth noting that the "amusements" included the fact that it was "80's Night," and all the Rockies' scoreboard mugshots had been doctored to alter their appearance to the best (worst?) of the eighties. I fortunately managed to get photos of most of them (up later) but they were, shall we say, most amusing. Some of the highlights included: Tulo sporting a sweatband and a 'fro paired with a poofy orange bomber jacket, Atkins transformed into a unibrowed monstrosity adorned with a sunflower, Holliday turned into a truly revolting used-car-salesman type with a combover and a porno-stache, Hawpe given flowing brown dreadlocks and a sleeveless top, and Helton rocking the big hair with a penguin suit. (Stewart had a mullet and a golden jumpsuit, while Spilly had long shaggy bangs. Extremely amusing). Also, it is a discovery of some interest that Jeff Francis somewhat resembles Atkins while wearing what appears to be an orange toilet plunger on his head -- what this intimates for either party concerned, I shall refrain from speculating. Still, most funny, and I'll post the photos in a subsequent entry.

The game got underway, Jeff Francis (in the first inning at least) seemed determined to suck, and after Tulo helpfully chipped in an RBI single in the bottom half of said inning, the offense went AWOL. They left runners on third with one out two innings in a row, but Francis managed to limit the damage and keep the Rox in striking distance, trailing 2-1, until for some inexplicable (cough, Clint Hurdle, cough) reason, he was sent out to start the seventh, having already amassed 109 pitches and never really having gotten into a groove all night. Well, Hurdle learned in June that it is a Bad Idea to pull Francis early, so now he just leaves him out there too long. Predictably, Francis went nuclear, helped out with some shaky defense, and after a failed force play at second left the bases loaded for Ryan Zimmerman, who is quite scary for being a National, and who had hit the homer that made it 2-1. That was all for Francis, as Taylor Buchholz (5-1/2.31 as a reliever before last night) was summoned from the pen. He promptly yielded a 2-run single to the pestilential Zimmerman to push the Nats' advantage to 4-1, and by the time the bottom of the ninth hit, Buchholz had also given up a solo homer to Wily Mo Pena(Wily Mo Pena?) to stretch it to 5-1. Thus started the ninth with Chad Cordero summoned out of the 'pen to face Tulowitzki, Holliday, and Helton, and while this is the meat of the order, I felt little hope. I could not believe that they were actually going to lose on my birthday, the bums. But I put on my rally cap and hoped for the best.

It started off well. On Cordero's first pitch, Tulo laced a single into right field. On Cordero's second pitch, Holliday took him downtown to the Rockies' pen for a two-run blast to shave the deficit to 5-3. I began to ramp up the yelling intensity, just since I had had no excuse to do so all game. In this case, however, it wasn't over. Helton shot one deep into the hole, Jimenez overthrew, and he was safe at first. The stadium was on its feet, cheering, yelling, clapping, really getting into it, and it was great to feel that spark of shared energy and excitement.

Still not over. Atkins belted one into the left field corner that rolled to the wall for a double. Coors was yelling itself berserk, joined in heartily by Gillian and myself; we were screaming, whooping, jumping out of our seats, practically on the edge of them on the rare occasions that we sat down. Brad Hawpe worked a walk and that was enough for Manny Acta; he came to retrieve Cordero and summoned Jon Rauch instead. Yorvit Torrealba was up, the whole stadium was behind him, and Yorvit rewarded them for their loyalty by snapping a two-run single into right-center. With Coors going apeshit, Cory Sullivan bunted the runners over into scoring position for only the first out, and Spilborghs came up. Right about this point, Gillian and I were going hoarse with all the screaming we were doing, fervently and madly rooting on whichever current hero in the purple pinstripes was up there. All previous dislikes or biases put aside, we loved them all, and the fact that Spilly eventually grounded out did not deter us. There were still only two outs, after all.

Then Kaz came up; he had a single and a triple already in the game and we were going berserk (along with everyone else who had stuck it out). Kaz hit a ground ball to short, Jimenez couldn't come up with it, and there wasn't even a throw to first as Hawpe crossed the plate with the winning run and everybody jumped up and down, thumped each other on the back, and whooped it up. It was an amazing finish, I was completely euphoric, and I woke up this morning with a sore throat from all the yelling and still feeling that kind of dizzy, drunken happiness (but no actual alcohol involved, thank you very much) that settles in you and makes you grin. And as you know, I really needed that due to how down and unhappy I've been recently. As a matter of fact, I had to wake up at 6 am for work, which really did suck, but it was okay. The fact that I have a killer blister and a sore foot that makes it rather difficult to walk dampened my ardor only slightly, and what I really need to do now is start packing (including all the Rockies stuff I've somehow accumulated over the summer... no idea how that happened...) in preparation for my relocation back to NY and the start of my sophomore year. I really am looking forward to getting back to my other life, but after being in "home: Colorado" mode for four or so months, it'll just be odd (at first) to switch back to "school: New York" mode. It's transferring everything, after all.

But it will be fun. Very, very fun. My summer (mainly thanks to the Rox) has been pretty kick-ass. Now it's time to start up the New York segment of things. Which means I should get started on the packing (I have several boxes I need to ship, since the fact that I am going out alone and relying on the bus/train to get me back to school means that I am limited to bringing on the airplane only what I can schlep up the hill to SLC. Ah well). And my birthday party isn't really even over yet, since I get dinner, cake, and a few extra presents tomorrow night (Sunday being the only day we could all get off). Hooray.

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