Two Rockies Fans Take One for the Team
It was so loud in Coors Field that even those close to the scoreboard in left field, where fireworks had begun, could barely hear the mortars over the din of the crowd.
The Rockies had just won a four-and-a-half-hour National League wild-card game against the San Diego Padres, launching the team into the playoffs for the first time in fourteen years, and 50,445 fans chanted "Let's go, Rockies!" until they were hoarse. Stadium security and police on motorcycles lined the perimeter of the field, while a man with a Secret Service-style earpiece eyed the masses in the back.
Daniel Burk and Travis Reed, both 21, and five friends had spent most of the October 1 game in the third tier. Naked to the waist, each had painted his chest with silver paint and a single purple letter to collectively spell out R-O-C-K-I-E-S. But in the twelfth inning — a full five innings after alcohol sales had stopped — they decided they couldn't stand being so far from the action. They moved down to the first base line, hoping their exuberant support of the team would rub off on fans in the expensive seats, if not on the team itself.
A hush fell over the crowd when the Rockies went down 8-6 in the thirteenth, but Burk, the letter S, and Reed, the big O, began to talk logistics. When, and not if, the Rockies came back to win, how would they take their super fandom to the next level? How would they get on the field? The answer came soon after, when Matt Holliday slid into home, scoring the winning run and ending the game.
O and S waited a moment. The crowd erupted. S passed his wallet and phone off to R,C,K, I or E and made a break for it.
Reed was taken down immediately, restrained by a fan and a Coors Field employee, cuffed by Denver police and carted through the bullpen to a holding cell. But Burk made it as far as center field before he was finally tackled, hard, and taken into custody. Neither made it onto the JumboTron: The Rockies, like most teams, have a policy against showing people who run on the field, so as not to spur copycats.
As Burk was brought to his feet, he says, he turned to his captors and smiled. "It's cool, guys. You got me," he said. "I'm just glad the Rockies won."
It would be another four days before he got to celebrate.
In the depths of Coors Field, beneath the stands and behind the bullpen, are a series of holding cells furnished only with steel benches, where unruly fans and other miscreants go when they are arrested in the park. This is where the two friends were taken.
"I didn't even know Travis had run onto the field until he started banging on the wall and yelling from the cell next to me," Burk says with a laugh. The atmosphere in the baseball jail did little to dampen the spirits of the prisoners, who continued to cheer the victory. The Rockies were going to the playoffs; nothing else mattered.
"The [police] who took us in were really cool to us. We were laughing about it and talking about the game," Burk says. "When they dropped us off at the jail, they told the other cops, 'These guys were really cool. Take care of them.'"
That didn't happen. At Denver County Jail, Burk says, they "ran into a bunch of prick cops who were talking shit to us."
Charged with trespassing, Burk and Reed were booked and allowed to make collect calls. But neither one could reach anyone. "It was kind of bogus, you know," remembers Burk. "All their phones were collect calls only, and who knows anyone with a land line anymore? I tried my parents, but there was no answer from them."
To make matters worse, Burk no longer had his identification or credit card, having handed his wallet to one of his partners in crime before charging the field. While Reed was allowed to secure bond for himself, Burk stayed overnight. And by the time Reed returned to bail out his friend, around ten the next morning, Burk had already been before a judge, pleaded guilty and been sentenced to four days in jail.
Burk says the judge explained to the defendants who went before him what kind of punishment they faced if they pleaded guilty, but that he wasn't afforded the same luxury. So, confused and without a lawyer, he's pretty sure he admitted his guilt.
"The judge was like, 'Guilty or not? Answer the question. Guilty or not?' And I was like, 'Well, I don't know what I'm agreeing to.' And he said, 'Okay, guilty. Four days. Get out of my court.'" Burk says he doesn't remember uttering the word "guilty." "[The judge] wasn't happy that I wasn't answering his questions. It was kind of a bummer. It was kind of a shock to get four days for that, too," he says. "I was just supporting my team." As he began paying his debt to society, Burk asked one of the corrections officers if he could file an appeal, or at least make a "legitimate phone call"; he had a job at Proto's Pizza (which he lost) and a seven-month-old puppy waiting at home. "They just sort of brushed me off on that one."
Doing the time wasn't easy, and Burk missed the first game of the National League Division Series between the Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies. "I spent 21 months at a boarding school in the Dominican Republic, and that was nothing compared to three and a half days at Denver County. I talked to guys at Denver County who said they'd been in jail in L.A., and they said this was worse than experiences they had there."
But he's even more upset about how the Rockies raised their ticket prices for the National League Championship Series, which began October 11. "I think Rockpile tickets are like a hundred bucks now. It makes it hard for fans like me to get out to support their team." (Rockpile tickets for the NLCS were actually priced at $30.)
No one from the Rockies organization returned repeated calls seeking comment for this story.
Reed still faces a trial on October 23. "I can't say that I don't regret it," he says, "but I think it's going to be a pretty good story to tell in the future." He's torn over whether to hire a lawyer, however: "I'm kind of broke right now, so I don't know if I can afford a lawyer."
In fact, if it came down to it, both Reed and Burk say they'd rather spend what little cash they have on more Rockies tickets — which is exactly what they did this past Sunday and Monday night, dropping $120 a head for games three and four of the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rockies won both games, sweeping their way into the World Series. Burk and Reed stayed in the stands.
The way they see it, their crazed act on October 1 was simply an act of love, a way to express their dedication to a team for whom their undying devotion is just now paying off. Both have been fans since the beginning and have vivid memories of the first home game the Rockies ever played. They talk about Eric Young's historic home run like it was yesterday. Both were seven years old at the time.
"I still have the '93 inaugural ball in its case. I love the Rockies," Burk says, before adding, "I'd go to jail for them."
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