Dick Monfort and
Karen Monfort during the 7th inning stretch singing of “God Bless America” at Rockies’ home opener Friday.
DENVER — Rockies owner/chairman and CEO Dick Monfort thought back to when Keli McGregor was the team president,
before his shocking death of lymphatic myocarditis at age 47.
“Keli said Opening Day ought to be like a holiday,”
Monfort said a few hours before the Rockies fell 10-6 to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2019 home opener at Coors Field Friday.
“I think baseball had a lot to do with it. But the fact is, I think it’s great. We’re going to have one
every year, right? We’re going to have an Opening Day every year. We may not have a playoff game every year, but we’re
going to have an Opening Day. It’s great.”
Rockies home opener
fans warming up in — and above — LoDo’s Sports Column.
You know what Monfort, who has
deep Greeley family roots and now lives in Denver, meant. Right? Opening Day can be either the outset of the season on the
road — as with the Rockies this year, and they went 3-4 on the curtain-opening road trip — or that home opener.
Or, actually, it’s both.
In Denver’s LoDo, and throughout MLB, especially in
the cities with bustling downtown entertainment districts adjacent to them, Opening Day / Home Opener at some point morphed
into St. Patrick’s Day II.
At times, it seems the entire stadium is a party deck.
In LoDo, Blake Street and environs are jammed.
At the home opener,
a vendor with wares cheaper than in the stadium. Fans with the names of former Rockies passed by among the multitudes, and
Many of the fans are wearing Rockies jerseys, though it’s
the same as with Avalanche jerseys at the Pepsi Center; many of the names across the back and numbers are from the past, as
with BICHETTE, HELTON, TULOWITZKI, HOLLIDAY, and now even GONZALEZ and LeMAHIEU.
The nice benevolent gentlemen carrying stadium
seating charts and offering to buy up extra tickets (or sell tickets) are on their usual corners, but this is the one day
you can’t approach them heading to the park 10 minutes after the first pitch and offer $5 for an 18th-row seat behind
home plate — and perhaps get it for $8.
At the home opener, it’s wise to be vigilant about those around you,
and be ready to scramble at signs of, um, distress.
But it’s enjoyable. Perennially.
the street ticket sellers (and buyers) with his seating chart.
On the day of the home opener, you don’t
have to apologize for going to the ballpark to have fun, rather than waxing melodic
about the pitchout being a metaphor for our military strategy in Vietnam or quoting the latest ridiculous new statistic some
geek made up that morning.
There’s a middle ground there and the most savvy of baseball fans comfortably find it. They
can pay attention to the game, know it, write in the lineups and be determined to keep score the entire game but give up in
the third inning (that’s me … every time), disdain excessive devotion to the strategic “book,” pass
on considering the double switch the equivalent of splitting the atom, wince about $9 beer -— and feel, yes, renewed
at the home opener.
Then keep coming back.
The most amazing thing about Coors Field is that it’s the third-oldest park in the National
League, behind Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium. And it remains a gem, 24 years after opening. That struck me again on Friday.
days are always fun,” Monfort said. “It’s a full house, you renew friendships with the folks at the park,
and there’s hope and excitement. I don’t view this year different. I’m always optimistic, and I think we
have a good team.”
the home opener soirees, outside the Falling Rock Tap House a half block from Coors Field.
convinced that will prove to be the case, that the young, largely home-grown rotation, and the still-young stars — most
notably Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story — will get this team back into the postseason in 2019. You just couldn’t
tell that on Friday.
“I’m always pretty optimistic,” Monfort said. “I try not to put the kiss of
death on us. But Sunday night is our first Sunday Night game on ESPN in a long time. I think there are two or three others
scheduled during the year. They can flex out, too. But we’ve got a good team. We’ve got really good young pitching.
I think we’ve got a good combination of young guys and veterans, and our guys all seem to get along together. They’re
all competitive as hell.”
The Rockies deserve praise for their aggressiveness — both financial and otherwise —
for signing Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million contract in late February.
“I think to be quite honest, nobody thought
that would ever happen, right?” Monfort asked. “A lot of time, I didn’t think it was going to happen. But
credit to Nolan, that he wanted to stay here, and we worked it out economically. So, yeah, I think it’s great. …
Any time I can get a Nolan Arenado, a Todd Helton, somebody like that for the life of their career, it’s pretty special
to me and pretty special to our fans.”
teams on the baselines and the huge flag unfurled, it’s time for the national anthem.
The Rockies never have warranted the frequently applied reputation of financial caution —
nothing and nobody in baseball is “cheap” — but it should be completely gone now. Dick’s brother,
Charlie, is owner/general partner and stays in the background, but he deserves part of the credit, too.
“For the last seven, eight
years, we’ve always spent the same percentage of our revenue on payroll,” Dick Monfort said. “There probably
are a couple of years that wasn’t true. Last year, we drew three million people for the first time since 2001. In the
old days you would sell that $25 ticket in whatever row whether it was Saturday or Tuesday. Now we flex the prices where we
can get a little bit better yield. We get more for Opening Day than we do for Game 14 on April 28, or whatever it is.
a great fan base, we got a new TV deal three or four years ago that was was a sizable check. But I think we’re always
in the 54 to 55 percent range of revenue on our payroll.”
The Rockies were down 9-1 after the Dodgers’ seventh before
making it respectable, and Story had a 3-run homer in the bottom of the inning and a solo homer in the ninth.
But other than
that, it was a home opener to forget.
“You can feel the excitement from the fans and everybody,” Story said. “They
brought it today, and we really didn’t. You kind of have to take it as one game, it’s a very long season. We wish
we could have sent them home happy, though.”
younger brother, Charlie, interacts with fans at the home opener. He’s the Rockies’ owner / general partner. Rockies lefthander
Tyler Anderson delivers the first pitch of the home season to the Dodgers’ Kike Hernandez. In the bottom
of the first, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon faces the Dodgers’ Kenta Maeda. Rockies
manager Bud Black after the loss. He was in no mood to join the party.