If I were promoting a baseball team, I would make sure that the seats closest to the field were always filled. That way, even if there weren't that many fans in the stadium -- because, say, their team had pretty much ensured its sixth consecutive losing season by that point -- it would give the illusion to Joe Q. ESPN Viewer in NobodyGivesAFuckAboutYou, Idaho, that the team still had support. I'm no marketing genius, but it seems like a good idea.
But the Colorado Rockies do not think this is a good idea. Instead, they believe that the first ten rows of Coors Field are off limits to everyone except the ticket-holders for those seats, even if those ticket-holders are not at the game, even if those ticket-holders are not at the game and it's the eighth inning. Instead, they believe that those seats should remain a reference point of longing for the few fans who do attend late-season games, including this week's final home game against the Dodgers, to remind them that while corporate assholes purchased those seats when they represented some sort of status in April, now that status has dissipated and they remain empty simply to prove that some people are rich. And you're not. Puzzling logic, but then, this is a team that feels a stuffed purple dinosaur is an appropriate community liaison.
One Tuesday, my friend Brett and I were making use of Daddy's season tickets, fully aware that the Rockies post-season chances are gone, but still enjoying some baseball. Brett has played baseball all his life and, as a result, is able to communicate with baseball players on their level, like Jane Goodall with the chimps. When Brett is sitting close to the field, this unique, primal discourse usually yields him baseballs, appreciatively tossed into the stands because of his mastery of this secret-speak. Once, employing his best Massachusetts accent -- he's from there -- Brett called out some comment to Shea Hillenbrand about missing him in Boston, and wound up getting a baseball bat from the man. So after sticking with our assigned club-level seats for eight innings, all the while noticing hundreds of empty seats up close to the action, we decided to make our move.
"Let's see if I can get a baseball off of Shea Hillenbrand," Brett said. Hillenbrand was playing for the Giants.
We snuck past the purple-clad geriatric usher at the field level and positioned ourselves in the second row, marveling at the incredible seats and watching the game with pleasure. Brett made a few chirps toward Hillenbrand at appropriate lulls in the action, but otherwise we were respectful fans. Then lo, another purple-clad geriatric approached us, a grim look of consarnit gumption across his wrinkled puss. ("Puss" means face, but it still feels dirty to write "wrinkled puss.")
"Tickets, please," he croaked.
"I can show you my ticket," I told him, "but it's not for this seat."
The usher then proceeded to evict us, while Brett calmly berated him -- there are no other people around, it's the eighth inning, we're not disrupting anything -- for this asinine move.
"No seat-hopping," the usher repeated.
What this man did not know is that seat-hopping is as old as the game of baseball itself. It was Honus Wagner who invented the concept, in a divisional match-up between Wagner's Pittsburgh Pirates and the Athletics of Philadelphia in 1897. Noticing the relative lack of bodies in the seats closest to the field, Wagner turned to the assembled crowd and shouted, "What are you waiting for, ye goddamn Tories? Hop those empty seats betwixt you and the field and position thyself closer, so as to better witness the fortitude of our acrobatics and the luster of mine glorious mustache!"
This man was also incorrect in assuming that Coors Field does not allow seat-hopping, because it does. Sort of.
"Even if you come from the club and suite level, if you come down to the main concourse, the ushers are going to check your ticket," explains a helpful Rockies rep who asked to remain unnamed. "And then what they are going to do is, they're going to have you sit towards the top of that section, because we still have to maintain the value for those season-ticket holders or ticket-holders who have purchased tickets in those areas."
Maintaining the value by keeping seats empty? Why? So that the unwashed peons don't shit all over the plastic chairs and ruin them? Can't you just hose down the seats if that happens?
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"We have to watch for people who will go down there and disrupt the game."
And if a father has his five-year-old kid with him and the kid's a baseball fanatic, you're still not going to let them go to those empty seats?
"A lot of it has to do with the interaction you have with the usher and what seats are available, but we're not gonna let you sit there inning after inning. That's not okay."
Interesting. Because the way I see it, what's really not okay is alienating fans who are actually at a game late in a losing season, refusing to let them fill the seat of someone who chose not to attend. That just doesn't make good sense to me, and the Rockies might want to think about changing policies next year. But hey, what do I know? I'm no marketing genius.