International Colorado Rockies fans’ joys, pains of long-distance fandom

FLORENCE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 22: A Union Jack flag and an EU flag are seen ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May given her landmark Brexit speech in Complesso Santa Maria Novella on September 22, 2017 in Florence, Italy. She outlined the UK's proposals to the EU in an attempt to break a deadlock ahead of the fourth round of negotiations that begin on Monday. Florence is often referred to as the "cradle of capitalism" known for its historical trading power. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
FLORENCE, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 22: A Union Jack flag and an EU flag are seen ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May given her landmark Brexit speech in Complesso Santa Maria Novella on September 22, 2017 in Florence, Italy. She outlined the UK's proposals to the EU in an attempt to break a deadlock ahead of the fourth round of negotiations that begin on Monday. Florence is often referred to as the "cradle of capitalism" known for its historical trading power. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images) /
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Like many Colorado Rockies fans, Kevin Gillikin and Niki Paumi were celebrating loudly when Tony Wolters sent the Rockies past the Chicago Cubs in extra innings in last year’s Wild Card game at Wrigley Field.

Unlike many Colorado Rockies fans, however, the duo was celebrating more than 4,500 miles away from Chicago … and, living in Europe, they were doing it just when many of their friends were getting ready for work or eating breakfast.

“I was screaming into my hand and hoping that my neighbors weren’t calling the police for some sort of disturbance,” Gillikin recalled. “I remember wondering to myself if I should have another beer or a coffee since at that point it was probably around 6 a.m. I chose both.”

“With tears in my eyes, I woke up my family, took a shower and went to work. I was tired, but happy,” Paumi said.

Gillikin lives 40 minutes south of Munich, Germany, while Paumi resides in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria. They joined British Rockies fan Thomas Ritchie and many other Rockies fans living outside the United States who have to deal with watching their beloved baseball team at some ungodly hours of the early morning.

Paumi (follow him on Twitter here) has made the trek with his family to Coors Field and plans to be back there again this season. But when he’s not able to take in the Rockies at 20th and Blake, he does what he can to make sure he can cheer on his favorite team.

“When the Rockies play day games at Coors, I can watch them at 9 p.m., which is great,” Paumi said. “But when they play evening games at 2 a.m. European time, I get up to see the first pitch and watch at least six innings. Sometimes I watch the whole game and sometimes I go to bed after six innings to get some hours of sleep.

“When the Rockies play night games on the West Coast, I get up at 4 a.m. to watch the whole game. Last year, I didn’t miss a game until early June.”

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Ritchie, residing in Leeds (Yorkshire), England, said the Mountain time zone difference makes it tougher to watch the Rockies games, so when they play on the East Coast, it’s a blessing. Day games at Coors Field, he agrees, are much more preferable for his schedule. He remembered one day game in particular last season that sent him to sleep in a very good mood.

“I’ll say the Trevor Story walk-off homer right before the All-Star Game, that was the moment when I really started to believe we could really compete last year,” Ritchie (follow him on Twitter) recalled. “And that was a day game so I think it must have been around 11 p.m. UK time.”

All three agree that it is tough to talk baseball with many of their local friends, so Rockies Twitter and social media is often a community where they can connect and share their joys and frustrations with their favorite team.

“It’s not easy to talk baseball here,” Gillikin (follow him on Twitter) said. “Seriously, people couldn’t tell you the difference between baseball, cricket and water polo. Though American Football gets more popular each year, the most popular sport (which reaches near religious levels here) is soccer. So, unless somehow baseball has a story about a former soccer player or maybe a famous player is in the stands, they couldn’t care less.”

Speaking of soccer, Paumi says his hat is often a talking point … and maybe not in the best way.

“People here in Austria see my Rockies cap and ask, ‘CR? Why Cristiano Ronaldo?’ I’m tired of explaining it and being laughed at, so I smile and shrug,” said Paumi, who has gained quite a following on Rockies Twitter with his Photoshop skills.

As for Twitter, Ritchie says that social media has been a saving grace for him and his love of baseball.

“Before coming to university in London, I didn’t know anyone who likes baseball,” Ritchie added. “However, there is a great community on Twitter amongst UK followers, and particularly on Rockies Twitter which helps!”

I asked each of the three for their bold predictions for the upcoming season.

Ritchie: “My bold prediction is that Trevor Story wins the NL MVP and the Rockies win the NL West at long last!”

Paumi: “I’m really very very optimistic but I don’t want to jinx it. And so I’d say: The Rockies are going to win the NL West. Probably they’re going to win the NLDS … and maybe they win the World Series.”

Gillikin: “My bold prediction is that Jon Gray reclaims the “ace” role and Kyle Freeland has a bit of a sophomore slump. I also think that David Dahl will have a huge year and Daniel Murphy will at least be in the running for NL batting champ in 2019. Those aren’t so bold but I’ll throw it out there anyway.  Gray will be the Rox #1 pitcher by mid-July, the Rockies will trade for a “known” catcher by June and the boys in purple will duke it out with L.A. for the West until the final week of the season. Take it to the bank.”

Next. Why it's a good thing that Brendan Rodgers won't be on Colorado's Opening Day roster. dark

Whether those bold predictions come true or not, it’s always interesting to remember that Rockies fans around the world are hanging on every German Marquez pitch and Nolan Arenado swing. It’s also a great reminder that social media and baseball are constantly helping to bring people across many time zones closer together.

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