Atmosphere

I Heart Denver

The city that gave me everything.

February 2011

The ticket to my first game at Coors Field is the weight of a moth’s wings. It’s yellowing and rectangular, and the printed purple that rings the edges has turned the color of stonewashed denim. The price was $10 on May 6, 1995, and the advertisement on the back is for a $3.99 12-inch Domino’s pizza. Section 108, just under the overhang in right field, though I remember moving up a couple rows and nearly catching a home run in the sixth inning. If I had, I most surely would have given the ball to the girl sitting next to me—my high school crush, Kristen.

I was 18, and I put the ticket in my wallet that night. Although both Kristen and I lived in Parker, downtown Denver became the site of many of our memories. We danced together at the Tabor Center during my senior prom, back when the building was a three-story, open-air mall. We took a carriage ride along the 16th Street Mall, and when we got in the crushed-velvet carriage, I slipped a blanket over our fancy clothes. I held her hand. Later that night, I kissed her for the first time, in the driveway of her home while her grandmother slept. I was nervous. I missed her lips, and I think I might have hit her in the eye.

Before I left for college that fall, the two of us walked around the Capitol building and talked about our future; the ticket was secure in my wallet. I was headed to Columbia, Missouri, ready to get out of Denver, to see the rest of the country. I wouldn’t date anyone else; neither would she. She already knew how much I loved her.

A year later, I came back to the city, back for her, to watch her high school graduation inside the Boettcher Concert Hall at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. I drove Kristen and her sister to dinner in LoDo that night. Their father paid. I ordered steak.

My Rockies ticket came with me through writing jobs in Cincinnati and Little Rock and Philadelphia. It was in my pocket on our trip to the Statue of Liberty, where I asked Kristen to marry me. It finally came out of my wallet the week of February 9, 2007, when we welcomed our newborn son—our second child—to his room. It’s framed next to the autograph of Carl Yastrzemski and my press pass to the final game at Mile High Stadium. It’s the most important piece of paper I’ve ever owned.

I don’t need to carry the ticket anymore, because today, I live here—the place that nurtured those young-love days more than 15 years ago. I work in a city that has transformed me, which made me who I am in part because of the memories I created here. I bring my children to those places. I walk them along the street where I held their mother’s hand; I park in the lot across from where I hugged her after graduation; I walk the same Capitol sidewalks we strolled together. I want my children to grow to love the city that has loved me.

When I’m at Coors Field with the kids or with friends, I point to section 108 and remember when she and I laughed and cared only about those blessed hours that May afternoon. “I know, Dad,” my daughter tells me. I don’t care how many times I’ve told it, so she’ll hear it again. Every once in awhile, I walk to the right-field stands and I find my seat. I look out to the field. I didn’t get the home run ball that day, but I still got my girl—and I found my home.