By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
None of that matters. What matters is that you haven't seen your boys since late October, and damn if you don't miss 'em.
The shuttle driver from the airport to Hi Corbett Field asks why I'm in town, and I tell him spring training. He asks me which club, and I tell him the Colorado Rockies. We chat baseball for the duration of the ride — the part when he's not raving about Tucson, anyway, which frankly, I just don't see — and when he drops me off at the stadium, he opens the door and offers some advice.
"Listen, you go out there and give it your all, you hear me, son?" he says. "Don't be intimidated by these guys, they're just ballplayers; just show them what you can do."
I realize that this guy thinks I have a tryout with the squad. I do nothing to dispel the notion. It's sweet and fatherly, and I don't feel like telling him that my baseball dreams were crushed in high school when everyone suddenly tripled in size, leaving my single-hitting ass to drift toward kicking soccer balls. But I love the fact that he thinks I'm a ballplayer. The geriatric working the check-in gate for press and VIPs, not so much. Because she thinks I'm Tony Gwynn.
"Are you Adam Clayton-Holland or Tony Gwynn?" the old bird warbles, holding up two envelopes containing all-access passes and squinting behind bifocals thick as fish tanks.
As far back as I can remember, I have only wanted two things in life: to get over 3,000 hits in the major leagues and to be black. But faced with the opportunity to achieve both of these dreams in one fell swoop, I balk like a total pussy. Because really, how long could I ride out that lie? Maybe I could get away with it among the septuagenarian Rockies hospitality staff — maybe — but eventually someone in the know would probably point out that I am not, in fact, a 48-year-old black Hall of Famer, and then I would be forced to hurl a smoke bomb in his face and clamber over the right-field wall, off to pursue a new life in Tucson, which, judging from what I saw on the ride in, would consist of either selling replica University of Arizona girls' softball jerseys or baking meth by the trailerful.
I confess that the hyphenated name she's butchering is mine, and she hands me my pass.
The purple piece of paper hanging around my neck says I have access to the field, press box and clubhouse — when, where and how is up to me to decide. Naturally, I head toward the field. It's about 11:45 a.m., today's game starts at 1:05 p.m., and the Kansas City Royals are taking infield. I ask another geriatric working the gate if I can go on the field, and she says "Of course" with such pure, unadulterated duh in her voice that I get the feeling I could probably pitch a few innings if I just acted like I was supposed to. I walk the warning track from right field to home plate, balls whizzing by my dome as Royals players yell, "Heads up!" I watch the players take infield from the steps of the dugout. As cool as that is, it's not what I'm here to see.
Where are my Rockies? I figure they're in the clubhouse, so I sniff that out and ask yet another member of the Greatest Generation if I can enter.
"Yeah," he says. "Press has got another ten minutes."
I'm walking down a hallway, chalkboards and rosters hanging on the walls, and I hear a voice that sounds remarkably like Clint Hurdle's coming from a nearby office. I poke my head in, and it's Clint Hurdle, the Rockies manager, poring over papers!
"Not now," he says. "Later."
But of course, sir. I continue down the hall, accompanied by sounds of hip-hop, round a corner — and am suddenly surrounded by Rockies. Aaron Cook here, Ubaldo Jimenez there, Atkins, Sullivan, Spilborghs, Iannetta all shooting the breeze. Look, there's Yorvit Torrealba, the catcher! He's speaking in Spanish, just like a real Venezuelan would! Awesome! And who is that firing away on his Sidekick? It's Tulo, the future of the franchise! I wonder who he's texting? Remember that triple play he had last season? Man, I wonder if he'll sign my face?
The fanboy in me is taking over, so I pull out my notepad and try to look business-like, scribbling away like I'm too important and too busy to talk to the players. But the truth is, I just don't know how to approach them. Is it even a good time? Minutes before a game? I want to ask Tulo to give me a ride in his new Maserati — but would that be weird? I spy Tracy Ringolsby, the legendary cowboy-scribe who covers the Rockies for the Rocky Mountain News, and introduce myself. I ask if it's cool to talk to the players now, and he says sure, looking at me with sympathetic, you're-new-to-this-game-ain't-ya eyes. I watch another reporter ask a question of Tulo, only to receive a bored, monosyllabic answer. And I flee the clubhouse.