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The Joy of the Rockies’ Opening Day

The Colorado Rockies' home opener is a city holiday that expresses Denver’s sense of history, hope for summer, and love of baseball. It’s not just another game.

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You can find reasons to admonish almost everything about the Colorado Rockies—from the mascot to the management. But you must admit, Denver does opening day right. Fans literally paint the town purple as though they are paying homage to Katharine Lee Bates’s famous line in “America the Beautiful”: “For purple mountain majesties.” Fans pack LoDo bars hours before the first pitch, then stroll down to the local diamond—Coors Field. While Dinger is the unwelcome relative at the party, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” greets your ears like an old friend. Patrons pack the park from the rooftop bar to the outfield concourse in hopes of a home run and a Rockies victory.

The Rockies as a franchise have now played more than 3,500 games, and while many of those games may be forgettable, the openers stand out. The fervor started with that first opening day on April 9, 1993, when more than 80,000 fans packed the old Mile High Stadium to watch Eric Young hit a home run on the team’s first at bat. E.Y. would go 4-for-4, and the Rockies would beat the Montreal Expos 11–4. The first opening day at Coors Field, two years later, ended with a Dante Bichette walk-off homer in the 14th. Even as recently as last year, opening day fans saw Charlie Blackmon get a hit in all six of his at-bats.

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Excitement and optimism often accompany baseball’s first pitch. No other sports day sweeps through the Mile High City annually quite like baseball’s first game. The Broncos may rule the town, but fans are still waiting for the parade. Denver will always think fondly of Rocktober, but opening day is the city’s first celebration for the summer ahead, whether the Rockies show up or not.

(Read about the pitching problems facing the Colorado Rockies)

Each baseball season carries the excitement of a new relationship. When the players line the bases before the first game begins, it’s love at first sight. A football team can hide their weaknesses in 16 games, but fans pick up on the annoying habits and weaknesses of a baseball team over the course of 162 games. A Rockies season filled with losing is like an unhappy marriage that drags through September, even if the town has moved on to Broncos training camp.

There’s always an opening day in baseball, even in the two years without a World Series (1904 and 1994). Baseball opened for the New York Yankees each year through World War II, even though Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio was playing baseball on a military team. The Rockies are allowed the excitement of a home opener even if fans believe the season lacks hope.

Baseball, in that way, is like a summer’s day. Each day spent at the park has its own nuances and the promise of spontaneous excitement. In nine innings, baseball acts out an improvisational play. Baseball is the pastime fans sit back and take in because every game, including the first one, presents a new script. So at Coors Field, from The Rooftop to Rockpile, on opening day, there’s hope for another magical season.

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