By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
It's a Friday afternoon in mid-August, and the Colorado Rockies are preparing to play one of the most important games in team history. The club had spent the previous several weeks blowing a six-game lead in the National League's Western division; going into the evening's contest, the Rockies trail the boys in Los Angeles Dodgers blue by one game. As a result, the eyes of the baseball world are focused on Coors Field, where the Rockies and their expensive new pitching ace, Bret Saberhagen, are scheduled to face the Chicago Cubs. The battle is the marquee matchup for ABC's Baseball Night in America series, and with broadcasters Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver standing behind the batting cage chatting with manager Don Baylor, the Rockies players are taking their practice more seriously than ever.
In the Coors Field control room overlooking home plate, however, JD McWilliams is keeping his eye on another kind of ball. A mirror ball straight out of Saturday Night Fever.
"Man, that looks great," says Davey McWilliams, who, with older brother JD and younger sibling Ronbo, operates the stadium's giant message board. He bends down to squint at a small video monitor, where the image of a mirror ball slowly rotates. "Where'd you get it?"
JD cradles his battered Sony home video camera. "I shot it at the I-Beam last night," he says, referring to a popular LoDo nightspot. "I thought we could put it on the board and play some of this."
He pulls a mini-disc cartridge from his pocket and hands it to Tim Dunn, the Rockies' audio technician. Dunn reads the label on the mini-disc slowly, as if he's just been handed the recipe for happiness. "Disco," he intones.
The McWilliams brothers and Dunn have been on the lookout for Seventies dance music ever since they brainstormed a new Coors Field feature dubbed "Let's See Some Dancin'!" The idea? To convince fans settling in for a between-inning break to leap to their feet and start boogying by their seats, in the aisles, wherever. And as soon as the sounds of KC and the Sunshine Band delivering "That's the Way (I Like It)" begin to boom from the control room's mini-disc player, everyone realizes that they've found the missing ingredients that should push their concept over the top. First reviews are good: When, moments later, a now-giant mirror ball fills the viewing screen, several Rockies stretching their hamstrings near home plate break into wide grins.
"It's perfect," Dunn says, smiling too. "This is really going to help the show."
The show--that's how the occupants of the Coors Field control room see each Rockies game. Sure, the main attractions are on the field, but they can't entertain 50,000 people every minute. They need some help.
Recognizing this, Rockies decision-makers had the builders of Coors Field install a state-of-the-art sound system ("There are more speakers on the top deck here than in the entire Mile High Stadium," Dunn boasts). And in getting the most out of this setup, the staffers are allowed, even encouraged, to think young and have fun. Thanks to the efforts of the McWilliams brothers and Dunn, Rockies games are musically hipper than those in virtually any other major-league park.
Much of the credit for the Coors Field style goes to manager of in-game entertainment Jennifer Berger. The 26-year-old Berger has overseen the music since the Rockies were based at Mile High, and she currently has on hand a collection of approximately 700 CDs available for airing. Songs from the albums are listed in a weighty, Berger-penned compendium entitled "Situational Songs" that's intended to provide audio technician Dunn (who chooses and programs the tunes) with a track for every occasion. A few of her selections are a bit incongruous; Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain" is listed as an appropriate song to spin during a rainstorm even though its title refers not to run-of-the-mill precipitation but to nuclear fallout. In most other instances, though, Berger's got all the bases covered. Selected highlights:
INJURY: Carly Simon, "Haven't Got Time for the Pain."
FIGHT: Steppenwolf, "Born to Be Wild."
ARGUMENT: Foreigner, "Head Games."
WIN: Irene Cara, "Flashdance...What a Feeling."
LOSS: The Carpenters, "There's a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)."
Also giving Dunn an assist are the individual Rockies, each of whom gets the opportunity to pick a song to be played when he comes to bat. "When we asked them what they wanted, some of them knew right away," remembers Dunn, a 23-year-old CSU grad in his first season with the club. "Walt Weiss wanted some Springsteen, so we picked `Born to Run,' and Joe Girardi wanted some Stones, so we picked `Undercover of the Night.' And Dante Bichette, he's had `Sledgehammer' forever. But then there are ones like Eric Young. He's got Montell Jordan's `This Is How We Do It' right now, but I hear he's changed his song every year.
"Some of the other players said they didn't care what we played," he continues, "but then about two games later, they decided that they did care, or they changed their minds. Like Jason Bates at first said he wanted some Stone Temple Pilots, but then he changed to Big Head Todd's `Circle.' And Larry Walker, he's changed his the most. He started out with `You Got Another Thing Coming,' by Judas Priest, then changed it to something by Van Halen, and then he changed it again to another Van Halen song, `Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love.'"