It was an Opening Day unlike any other when the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers took the field at 20th and Blake on Thursday afternoon.
Thursday was a time to still take precautions, with fans wearing masks and social distancing measures in full effect as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to plague our society. But it was also a day of rebirth in LoDo, as a reported 20,570 fans returned to Coors Field for a regular season game for the first time since late September of 2019.
And, yes folks, the fans did come back. Those hoping for a boycott after a nightmare of an offseason were sorely disappointed as Dodgers fans cheered on their team in person (complete with “Let’s Go Dodgers” chants) … and Rockies fans did their best to drown them out. All part of a sellout (at limited capacity, of course), it felt like the “fan wars” of old inside a bustling Coors Field, a familiar and good feeling.
Fans made Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies feel more meaningful than it has in a long time.
Walking in the stadium around lunchtime on Thursday, I passed plenty of fans chatting about the season to come while in line to get into the game that was scheduled to start roughly two hours later. The parking lot was filling up. Attendants were directing traffic. It felt … like a Rockies baseball game, something that simply couldn’t be said about any of the times I sat in press box during the 2020 campaign as the pandemic kept fans away.
Those fans, in blue, purple, and even Cardinals and Brewers jerseys, made their presence felt on Thursday afternoon, cheering as the public address announcer welcomed them to Coors Field as part of the pregame ceremonies.
They cheered when the Dodgers lined up for pregame introductions and, yes, cheered even louder when the Rockies took their place along the first-base line.
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They erupted when Vinny Castilla, now a special assistant to the general manager, was introduced. Memories of the Blake Street Bombers still run deep at 20th and Blake.
Fans cheered loudly for Scott Oberg, in uniform but wondering what his future holds after blood clots once again wiped out a season of what could be on the mound.
A foul ball that went into the stands in the first inning was captured by a fan as others around him applauded.
And that “TONIIIIIIIGHT” never sounded better as Charlie Blackmon stepped toward the plate. Same goes for that cheer for the “mountains” mention in “God Bless America.”
Simple little things like that made this Opening Day perhaps the most special one at 20th and Blake since Coors Field opened in 1995.
Sure, there was plenty that happened on the field, including this head-scratching moment.
It was a reminder that this is a game played by humans, officiated by humans … and once again watched in person by humans. The auto-generated “crowd noise” humming during the 2020 season during games was nothing compared to the energy and the buzz you could feel throughout Thursday’s games. People bring energy, and they did on a sun-splashed Thursday once again.
Sure, it was different. If you had Chris Owings hitting a triple and Garrett Hampson bringing him home with a bunt RBI single as the way the Rockies would score their first run of 2021, well, that’s a heck of a bingo card you have there. If you had Raimel Tapia helping the Dodgers to a home run that turned into an RBI single through some rulebook wizardry, you need to quit your day job and head straight to Las Vegas.
Owings and Trevor Story provided some “Oh wow” defensive moments. C.J. Cron and Josh Fuentes did solid work at the corners. German Marquez walked six Dodgers in four innings, yet somehow gave up just one run. He owes his infield and their turning of double plays a steak dinner sometime soon.
Rockies fans even got taco’s, thanks in part to three Dodger wild pitches and solid days at the plate from Tapia, Cron, and Owings. If that isn’t a welcome back to Coors Field, I’m not sure what is.
After a bit of stress in the ninth, Colorado walked away with an 8-5 decision in the first chapter of a 162-game story that will unfold as the season goes along. But the biggest winner on Thursday was a return to Coors Field and coming together to cheer for our favorite team, no matter what color it wears. Like the first game of the season, it’s a step toward what is to come. But it’s a step that sure felt good to take.