Vowing not to give the Rockies another dime, a broken-hearted fan named Craig Goudy stood outside of Coors Field on opening day, looking to buy a “Fire Bridich” T-shirt to protest the mess made at 20th and Blake by franchise owner Dick Monfort and general manager Jeff Bridich.
“That’s it. I’m done. I’m disgusted. And I’m bummed, because I love, love, love baseball,” said Goudy, 64, a resident of Wash Park who has loved the Rockies until it hurt.
“I can’t in a clear conscience support this team anymore, because the Rockies don’t have any interest in putting a competitive product on the field.”
But know what happened next?
A miracle of renewed faith, the stuff baseball poets scribble on parchment as they swoon over the scent of freshly cut grass and the promise of opening day.
Despite his anger, Goudy walked through the ballpark gates to join 20,569 other fans watch the scrappy little Rox beat the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers 8-5 on one of those gorgeous Colorado afternoons that inspired a catalogue of John Denver songs.
But how to explain the sudden thawing of a fan’s heart left cold with a sense of betrayal by a franchise that no longer gives a hoot about winning?
“Well, I’ve never missed opening day. There’s something special about it,” confessed Goudy, who kept his streak of attending every Rockies’ home-opener alive at 29 years.
See, that’s the thing about this crazy, silly game. Once a Little Leaguer gets infield dirt and pine tar in his veins, the passion never comes out in the wash. Opening day can make even a sexagenarian feel like a kid again. Nothing wrong with that.
“We want to let the other team know we’re here to play,” Rockies manager Bud Black said Thursday.
Yes, there are oodles of reasons to swear off the Rockies as a bad emotional investment. Bridich committed the most sinfully bad trade in Colorado sports history, giving away third baseman Nolan Arenado to St. Louis. Our old friend DJ LeMahieu is now king of the Bronx. And David Dahl has found a home on the Texas range.
So, without all those big bats to write on his lineup card, what’s a Rockies manager to do?
Play Buddy Bitty Ball.
These Go-Go Rox might not sniff a playoff race, but they’re intent on moving fast. Black hopes to beat the opposition with 1,000 tiny paper cuts, bunting with scalpel-like precision, stealing a bag from under a pitcher’s nose and hitting to the opposite field. Colorado wants to break all the old rules of playing at altitude, where the Blake Street Bombers prayed to the baseball gods for a three-run dinger.
The Dodgers have constructed one of the greatest rosters of the 21st century while the Rockies have fallen off the baseball map.
“On paper, I don’t think a lot of people favor us,” Rockies shortstop Trevor Story said. “But we don’t care what other people think.”
That’s the beauty of a 162-game schedule, isn’t it? On any given spring afternoon, when the sky blanketing Coors Field shines brighter than Dodger Blue, it can sometimes be impossible to tell which ballyhooed team is projected to win 100 games and what lowly squad is doomed to lose 100.
Rockies closer Daniel Bard induced MVP candidate Mookie Betts into a weak liner to second base with the bases loaded to preserve the victory in a ninth inning that was a pure, unfiltered adrenaline rush.
“That was a Coors Field grinder, for sure,” Black said.
And, for at least one day, a reasonable man who has sworn off the Rockies as bad for his emotional health can be happily reminded why he can’t quit this game.
“I got in this game for free. None of my money is going to the team. I even bought drinks outside the ballpark,” said Goudy, making certain I understood his frustration has deep-and-tangled roots.
After 28 seasons of investing with a group that shared six seats in Section 126, Goudy agreed to oversee the draft that determined how his friends would split the home dates. As a token of their appreciation, his buddies gave Goudy tickets for opening day.
“I refuse to line the Monforts’ pockets. I did not renew my tickets this year,” Goudy said.
“I’ll come back when the Cardinals come to town to thank Arenado. But I’m done!”
Got that? He’s swearing off baseball until Dick and Charlie Monfort sell the Rockies. Goudy is done with this team. Forever.
Or at least until next year … when a lifetime of warm fuzzies for opening day can melt the cold betrayal in the heart of a 64-year-old man who loves baseball too much.
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