It’s the Colorado Rockies silver anniversary and the region’s fans are still as smitten with the Denver-based Major League Baseball team as any happily married couple celebrating the same milestone. Sure, there’ve been disappointments, heartbreaking losses (ugh, those Dodgers!) and injuries. But for a quarter-century, Rockies fans have stayed loyal.
In fact, Rockies fans are considered among the most loyal fans in baseball. According to numbers crunched by Denver Business Journal, Rockies fans rank fifth in all of baseball for fan loyalty. The team averages 35,500 in attendance per game, despite averaging 74 wins per season for the last five years. Since their first game at Coors Field in 1995 (they played their first two seasons at Mile High Stadium), The Blake Street Bombers have — like any sports team — thrilled, amazed, let down and entertained their fans with solid teams, dazzling players and in one of the most beautiful ballparks in the major leagues.
This season, the Rox have clawed their way into the playoffs after a chance to win the division outright eluded them late in the season. On Monday, they traveled to Los Angeles, where the Dodgers smacked them down for the National League West division title, putting Team Purple in a win-or-go-home wild card game against the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. Happily for Rockies nation, the team won, 2-1 in 13 innings, earning them a spot in the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. That five-games series begins tonight (Thursday).
Though the Western Slope is over 300 miles and a mess of mountain passes away from Denver, Rockies love in the region is fierce, and yes, loyal. And much of that has to do with an abiding love for the game of baseball.
Courtney McClary Yug of Telluride is passionate about the game and the Rockies.
“There’s something about the game and the nostalgia of an old stadium that just gets to me,” she said. And for the Yugs, it’s a family affair.
“(Daughter) Abby was 2 months old at her first Rockies game,” Yug said. “Each night when Abby goes to bed I sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’ to her and have for as long as I can remember.”
Yug counts fan favorite Matt Holliday and Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado as her favorites.
Given the state’s large “I’m originally from ‘fill in the blank’” population, many Rockies fans grew up following other teams, but have switched their allegiance to their new home’s team. Yug followed the Seattle Mariners until going purple.
Montrose resident Mavis Bennett grew up taking in Dodgers games during the Sandy Koufax era, but now considers the Rox her home team. She has eschewed football, too, in favor of baseball’s alluring, cerebral rhythm.
“I have backed off of football in recent years and have been loving the Rockies,” Bennett said. “I haven’t found many in Montrose who are interested in baseball. It’s all football. I’ve watched a ton of games and feel like I know these guys really well. It was heartbreaking to lose the division to the Dodgers who are the archenemy.”
Lose they did — Rockies fans have experienced plenty of games in the L column in 25 years — but Tuesday night’s nail-biter win over the Cubs sends the team further into the playoffs. Bennett’s ticker survives to beat for another game.
“I don’t think I could get my heart broken two days in a row,” she said after the loss to the Dodgers on Monday.
Bennett might very well find some purple-clad compatriots at the RnR Sports Bar in Montrose for the playoffs. RnR co-owner T.C. McFarland was hoarse the morning after the 4-hour, 55-minute marathon at Wrigley Field.
“That was an amazing game,” she said. “I loved it.”
Rox fans filled the bar from first pitch to last pitch and McFarland said she’s seen more and more baseball aficionados belly up at the RnR. The last few weeks she noted a surge in interest as the season came down to the wire. Baseball playoffs, she said, always draw a crowd.
“I was always told, ‘Forget the season, it’s all about the playoffs and the World Series,’” McFarland said. But still, as Bennett correctly noted about Montrose sports fans, McFarland said it’s football that packs the house at RnR.
Michael Battey started following the Rockies when he moved to Colorado from the Washington, D.C. suburbs in 2004. He discovered the Rockpile — the incredibly cheap centerfield bleacher seats at Coors Field — and hasn’t looked back. Now living in Telluride, he catches games on the ATT Sports Network and gives kudos to the play-by-play and color commentators whose voices fill many a Rox fan’s summer evenings at home with the game.
“Drew Goodman is a top shelf play-by-play announcer in my book,” Battey declared.
But, in Battey’s book, nothing beats being at Coors Field.
“My best, most treasured sports souvenir was a foul ball I caught at Coors Field on July 20, 2008, when the Rockies beat Pittsburgh 11-3,” he said. “I thought I lost this gem until this past spring when I found it while helping my mom and dad move out of their house in Maryland. I believe it was Garrett Atkins who hit the foul ball that I caught.”
Brown Dog Pizza is a magnet for sports fans in Telluride who pour through its doors for the award-winning pizza, numerous televisions and both the camaraderie and friendly rivalries that come with following teams. Brown Dog’s owner Dan Lynch says that though the bar has a dominant Boston Red Sox theme — there’s a mini Green Monster on the wall — Rockies fans definitely congregate. While baseball and the Rockies, specifically, don’t drive his business — the Denver Broncos do — the playoffs generate plenty of traffic.
“Baseball, unlike most other sports, has afternoon games,” Lynch said. “That makes for a really fun environment where people might come in and take a long lunch break.”
The Cubs-Rockies game Tuesday night drew an enthusiastic crowd to Brown Dog.
“What makes baseball so incredible is that while it’s a team sport, there are individual standouts,” Lynch said. “Tony Wolters (the Rockies catcher who drove in the winning run) will be remembered for generations.
“October baseball is really special. Go Rox!”