Dick Monfort and Karen Monfort during the 7th inning stretch singing of “God
Bless America” at Rockies’ home opener Friday.
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.”
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
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 even bought.
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.
of 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.”
of the home opener soirees, outside the Falling Rock Tap House a half block from Coors Field.
I’m 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.
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.”
With the 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.
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.
“We have 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.
manager Bud Black after the loss. He was in no mood to join the party.