By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
The last thing I need is for Troy Tulowitzki to think I'm a dick.
The press box is a far easier place than the clubhouse for a bona fide Rockies geek, because it's chock-full of them. Beat reporters for both of the daily papers, representatives from Major League Baseball, fresh-out-of-high-school kids interning in television and radio and, apparently, acne, all swapping stats and thoughts and observations on yet another day at the park. Situated at the top of the relatively small Hi Corbett Field (capacity 8,665), the press box affords a remarkable view of the ballpark and the palm trees hovering beyond the high outfield wall; above them are their metallic counterparts, huge lights for the practice fields behind the stadium. And above them is a seemingly never-ending air show, plane after plane after plane taking flight from Davis Monthan Air Force Base, then shredding across the giant sky. From this particular vantage point, I scrawl two observations in my notebook.
One: Tucson tanning leads to augmented, if not exaggerated, withering in the elderly Arizona female; however, the unsightliness of said phenomenon is offset by the skin on the younger of the species. 'Tis the yin and yang of a desert existence.
Two: The press box at Hi Corbett Field has the fastest wireless I've ever encountered. The first half of the first inning is not yet over, and I have checked all my e-mail accounts, watched several videos on YouTube and read a delightful column, "Who Would Alex P. Keaton Vote For," in the New York Times.
Another nice feature of the press box is that a voice keeps coming over the intercom like God, feeding information for the daily journalists to pummel into their laptops like prophets. That same voice also informs us when a player is available for interviews, and when it announces that Ubaldo Jimenez, the Rockies' 24-year-old Dominican fireballer who pitched the first few innings of today's game, is available, I jump in with the gaggle of recorder-toting journalists and head toward the designated interview spot. I stand at the back as the pros fire off a litany of inquiries: How did your arm feel? How confident were you in your off-speed stuff? Jimenez answers the questions softly. Despite his height and the fact that he can throw a ball 98 miles an hour without it bursting into flame, you can't help thinking that he looks like a big kid.
When the other reporters wind down, I finally take a swing: "Ubaldo, have you given any thought as to what you're going to use for your walk-up music this year?"
Ubaldo doesn't really understand my question, so I switch over to Spanish. He smiles.
"Probably something reggaetón," he responds in Spanish, then heads back into the clubhouse.
I look around at the other reporters. Shit ain't so hard.
High after having spoken to an actual Rockie, I decide I've earned another trip to the clubhouse. Brazenly, I stroll in — only to find Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday engrossed in conversation. Hawpe signed a three-year contract with the Rockies today, and I listen as they discuss that, scribbling furiously in my notepad. I'm waiting for them to finish so I can snag Holliday for an interview, but a Rockies rep politely informs me that no media is allowed in the clubhouse during the game.
I'm back in the press box just long enough for Ringolsby to tell me that the voice of God has announced that Hawpe is available for interviews. I join the crew, and the press corps is full of questions about the contract, whether Hawpe is excited, whether he thinks it's a good gesture on the part of the club. He fields the questions politely, offering a slew of sound bites. Then it's my turn, and I hit him with the same music question that I'd asked my main man Ubaldo. The right-fielder laughs and says he hasn't given it much thought. So I quickly offer my next query, the one I thought of on the plane ride down.
"SportsCenter right now is doing a feature where they are trying to determine the greatest sports clip of all time," I say. "Growing up in Denver, there's really only one or two that come to mind. John Elway helicopter-diving for the first down against Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXII and the Rockies' one-game tie-breaker against the Padres last season, with Holliday sliding into home plate. What sports clips or memories do it for you? What play still gives you chills?"
Hawpe nods his head pensively.
"Being a baseball fan, I like Cal Ripken taking his jog after he broke Lou Gehrig's record," he says. "That was one of the most unbelievable things in the world to me, especially after playing 162 games a season and realizing all it takes to achieve something like that. It was just a real special moment."
This prompts Ringolsby to remark that growing up as a Texas Rangers fan, Hawpe probably didn't have too many of those moments. Ringolsby knows his stuff, so he plays off my question to talk ball with Hawpe. Following his lead, I chime in about the Rangers, too. I'm starting to see that these Rockies, hero-worshipped though they may be, are just normal dudes. This realization is not exactly earth-shattering, but I defy you to walk up to one of your favorite athletes of all time and not be a little star-struck.