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Ethan Wenberg

How to Survive...Another season of Rockies Baseball

Things are coming together nicely. You've managed to purchase your $6 foot-long bratwurst, $3.75 lemonade and $3 bag of peanuts while simultaneously avoiding the caterwauling of some unfortunately clad woman belting out the national anthem with near-freakish zeal. This pleases you, because you've never really been too fond of the national anthem. It's not that you're unpatriotic or anything, but you just don't think it's that good of a song. When watching the Olympics, for example, almost every other country's anthem is more pleasing to your ear. Secretly, you're often glad when your team plays a Canadian team, because you're much more fond of "O, Canada!" When they reprise that "we stand on guard for thee" line at the end, you're heart swells with an emotion you never thought you could feel for Canada. Such is the power of a good anthem.

It's a beautiful Denver summer evening, and as you slide into your seat at Coors Field, the sun dips below the mountains, casting that elegant photographer's light across the entire stadium. The announcer comes on over the P.A. system

"Ladies and gentlemen, your 2005 Colorado Rockies!"

The crowd applauds, and the nine starters sprint out of the dugout and take the field. This is what summer is all about, you think to yourself: the smell of fresh-cut grass, the chatter of fans and vendors mingling in the air, the opening pitch at the old ballpark. You sink your teeth into that foot-long and smile.

Then you blink, and the Rockies are down 6-0. And there's only one out. And they're warming up another pitcher.

What do you love? Baseball, Rockies style!

Real Rockies fans know that this is business as usual and are never too surprised or heartbroken by such a quick and unfortunate turn of events. They merely buckle down for another four-hour outing, order more beer and hope the boys can somehow claw their way back. But for the inexperienced attendees, the ones who recently moved here and were expecting to see real Major League Baseball on par with the styles played at the parks in Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston, it can be a bit of a shock. Never fear: As the Rockies bumble and fumble their way through another lackluster year, there's still plenty of fun to look forward to at the ballpark.

A few tips for enjoying a long summer of C-minus baseball.

Cherish the promotions.

Winning record or no, the Rockies have two of the best ongoing promotions in the league. In Frontier Fly Ball Frenzy, which takes place between the fourth and fifth innings, Rockies personnel utilize a three-man slingshot to fire pop flies into the outfield, where a lucky fan has to try to catch them with a borrowed glove. If the fan catches them both, he wins a round-trip ticket to anywhere Frontier Airlines flies. If the fan lands one pop fly, he gets a $50 gift certificate from Frontier. You have not lived until you've seen a Littleton housewife misjudge a pop-up and run backwards, then overcompensate and hopelessly scramble forward before falling to the ground in a heap to watch the ball land some fifteen feet behind her.

In the second home-game promotion, the Coca-Cola Grounds Crew Challenge, a chosen fan has to sprint from the outfield warming track during the lull between the third and fourth innings, firmly set a loosened second base into it's proper position, and then sprint across the foul line by the Rockies' dugout in under 25 seconds. The prize for succeeding is an authentic Rockies jersey, replete with a Coca-Cola patch on the sleeve. Sounds pretty simple, but you would be surprised at the difficulty many fans have placing second base into that small hole in the middle of the field. Often it devolves into a nail-biting mad dash to the finish. Note to Colorado Rockies: Please select fatter people for this activity more often. Folks like to see fat people run.

Pretend you're the manager.

True baseball scholars -- the ones who study the game, annually update their baseball encyclopedias and check the box scores every morning -- know what fun it can be to sit in the stands and pretend they're the manager. It's a brain-teaser: Should you pull the pitcher now or let him have another third of an inning? Do you bring in the righty or the lefty? Has the lefty had enough rest? It's like a chess game with human pieces, a nine-inning dance with a rival manager. But with the Rockies, it's an entirely different kind of chess game. The premise is the same, but all you have to work with is four pawns, two rooks, one of those guys that only goes diagonally, and a queen. Wrap your mind around that dilemma, baseball fans, and you'll know what it feels like to be Clint Hurdle every night. They say the most difficult puzzles are the most satisfying.

Come home with a genuine major-league baseball, manufactured in Costa Rica.

The recent dearth of fans at Rockies home games makes landing a foul ball easier than ever. Watch each batter carefully, and note the sections into which they tend to misfire the ball off their bats. They're surprisingly consistent. Then annoy that septuagenarian hospitality staff by seat-hopping after every batter. But remember, if a new pitcher comes in, all foul-ball rules from before are off. You must scout each hitter anew.

The Rockies even have a Clean Catch Club for fans who catch a foul or home-run ball before it makes contact with another guest, object, railing or the ground. Snag a clean fly and you've got yourself a commemorative Clean Catch pin to wear to whatever you've got going on the following day, be it business as usual at the office or a funeral.

Root for history.

The 1916 Philadelphia A's finished 36-177. The '62 Mets went 40-120. More recently, in 2003, the Detroit Tigers finished 43-119. With any luck, the 2005 Colorado Rockies will bump elbows with such illustrious Bad News Bears of baseball past. That way, rather than having merely witnessed another crappy season, we will be able to say we were there for baseball history. "Dad, tell us the story about the worst team of all time again!" "Well, son, the year was 2005, and the organization had mismanaged the team so badly that there were actually four rookies in the starting lineup..."

So you see, Rockies fans, even if the baseball isn't all that great, there's plenty to keep you entertained. And when all else fails, remember that we still have the opportunity to watch Todd Helton. That guy's a goddamned Hall of Famer.


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