My brother Tom met me in St. Louis three years ago to celebrate my 50th birthday, and I was almost two years late in choosing a city in which we were going to celebrate his 50th. We had almost settled on Montreal, when he pointed out that we always see a baseball game when we get together. I happily looked to see which teams were in town this week, and saw that not only were the Rockies playing in Denver, but the Nats were their opponent! Having established the no-brainer solution, we agreed he would fly from Detroit and meet me in the Mile High City. Here are my impressions of Coors Field from our trip there for Wednesday’s Nats victory.
Coors Field has some similar advantages to Nats Park, but has a number of features which cause me to rate it more highly than our dear home. For instance, as a downtown stadium, it is fully integrated into the daily vibe of LoDo (lower downtown), and Rockies swag figures prominently in the wardrobes of those who aren’t in sharp business attire. However, the location is more analogous to a Nats Park placed on Capitol Hill. Coors Field is mere blocks away from their Union Station, and a free bus service shuttles people from there all the way up and down the main business district.
The availability of places to eat, drink and shop near the stadium are accessible by the shuttle which elicits envious hope for what the area around Nats Park could someday be. Denver is home to a large number of breweries and brew pubs, as well as bars with impressive happy hours, long draft beer lists and entertainment possibilities. This wealth of choices is important to help make up for the sorry state of the Coors Field concessions, which I will detail in just a bit.
Like at Nats Park, the great majority of seats at Coors Field appear to offer a great view of the action, and apparently a healthy dose of sun in your eyes. This was not a problem for Wednesday’s night game, for which I was able to score a pair of tickets 27 rows behind home plate for $22 each, inclusive, from TickPick. Unlike at Nats Park, however, which will forever annoy with the garage abomination behind left field, you can actually see beyond the fences at Coors Field, and the view of the sunset was a very pretty warning that we were all about to be cold.
I admit that I was heartened to realize that we are not the only fan base that could best be described as pensive during the majority of the game action. The relative quiet between pitches was punctuated by periodic mutterings of “Go Nolan” or the like, and displeasure with calls of balls or strikes was met with displeasure that was simply stated, not yelled. Of course, the Nats were administering another early beating to Denver like they had the day before, but when the Rockies first scored against Tanner Roark, a switch came on and the fans rewarded their squad with the enthusiasm they deserved.
When we first sat down next to Rockies fans before the game, I braced myself for additional mountain chill for my Nats cap and sweatshirt. Our neighbors Nicki (Nikki?) and her family spared us the icy blast, however, warmly asking where we flew in from, and teasing after a long time away getting concessions that they had gone to the dugout and instructed the Rockies to get serious and win the game. Even though the Nats were up at least 6 at the time, I didn’t doubt that our generous bullpen might allow the Rockies to pass Go many more times as they had the day before.
I was feeling pretty optimistic about snacking options when Nicki returned to her seat early in the game with a foot-long hot dog covered in cheese and jalapenos. I figured this meant that Coors Field would have some regionally specific offerings, at least beyond the hot chocolate the vendors sold more successfully after the sun went down. Although it was bizarre, the Berrie Kabob (strawberries and cheesecake cubes on a skewer) promised more variety to come.
I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. After I bought a Rockie Dog with kraut and peppers, I approached an Aramark employee and asked her what kinds of food were sold at the park that were different or particular to Coors Field. Immediately stumped, she offered, “The hot dogs are popular…”. Perhaps this explained why the concession lines were uniformly so short. Score one for Nats Park.
Perhaps not surprising for a venue named Coors Field, the beer selection was similarly disappointing. My brother secured a couple of Fat Tires early in the game, and said that he thought that there was one other local craft beer available. This set me up for an important quest a few innings later. I found a stand that offered a few varieties of Colorado Native (I think). The lady answered my automatic question with, “Yes, it is made by Coors!” She could only manage a surprised “Oh!” when I turned on my heels and left without any further comment. In the end, I found the other beer from Flat Tire; the better brews awaited us outside the stadium after the game.
Making Ourselves at Home
Although there was every reason to fear that the Nats might cough up their big lead in the altitude again, the local fans surprisingly gave up more quickly than I did. The crowd had a significant number of Curly W’s on display, and we weren’t shouted down when we cheered on the many hit and runs we were treated to. Of course, I am not sure many fans of either side were excited about the Nats fan who made a weird ululating sound every time the Nats got a hit, but I think her throat got tired eventually and she stopped.
As the game progressed, Rockies fans started abandoning the stadium much earlier than seemed to be warranted. Of course, the temperatures dropping through the 40s were an extra prod toward a happier place, I guess. Nicki told us she put on thermals between innings at one point, and then extra layers a few innings after.
Eventually, Nats fans seemed a major fraction of those who remained. We were close enough that I am pretty sure that Blake Treinen actually heard me when I yelled encouragement. Pity that it had no good effect.
Toward the end, conversation behind us turned to remorse over how good Daniel Murphy has become, and how much Jayson Werth deserves to be reviled. We turned around, and found a Mets fan and a Braves fan in friendly competition, agreeing that they could at least hate the Nats. They politely acknowledged the Tigers for my brother, but then worked to convince me that robust farm systems would lead their teams to cause us woe soon enough.
That may be so, but for Wednesday night, they just had to sadly acknowledge that the Mets and Braves would slither another game into the abyss. We watched in wonder as Matt Grace actually brought the game to an uneventful close, and then made our way out to test just a little more of Denver’s robust nightlife. Few Rockies fans were left to stand in our way.