By J.S. Fletcher and Kathy M. Newbern ©2013
(Part 1 in a Series)
Our first trip to Colorado found us in Denver, a robust city with a rich history of pioneer spirit, urban growth and renewal, political clout and cultural gems. Denver’s only been a city for about a century and a-half, and statehood came to Colorado in 1876. Today’s vibrant downtown, with a mixture of skyscrapers and low-rise, eclectic districts and flavorful neighborhoods, reflects a forward looking venture, probably something that’s driven growth here since its beginning.
Our trip was scheduled to take us to Rocky Mountain National Park, but the devastating flooding that struck the region caused a last-minute change of plans, giving us a free night. After spending a day walking around the city from our base camp of the Four Seasons Hotel Denver –fabulous – and using the 16th Street MallRide, a free shuttle bus service that takes passengers across downtown from Civic Center Station to Union Station, we wound up near Coors Field (four blocks from the free shuttle) and decided to check it out.
First off, Coors Field (named after the Coors Brewing Company) sports a beautiful downtown setting at 2001 Blake Street in what’s called the LoDo District, short for The Lower Downtown Historic District, a 23-plus square-block area of the original Denver. Surrounding the ballpark, the cityscape embraces the history of the area but is generating new businesses, housing, and entertainment and eating venues that attract people to come to play for a few hours or put down roots and live here.
We’re in the just-to-play group, and we wander the perimeter of the park, coming upon the statue of The Player in front of the main entrance. As baseball fans, it immediately strikes home: the colossal player poised with bat on his shoulder, glove tucked under his arm and ball in hand.
The 9-foot, 6-inch-tall statue was designed by George Lundeen and donated by the Rotary Club of Denver and dedicated to baseball great Branch Rickey. Additionally, in 1992 the Denver Rotary created the Branch Rickey Award, given annually to a Major League Baseball player in recognition of exceptional community service. (You can see us posing by it in the slideshow that accompanies this story.)
This inscription is carved on the front of the four-foot tall granite base:
“It is not the honor that you take with you
but the heritage you leave behind.” – Branch Ricky
For those of you, like us, who loved the Jackie Robinson movie 42, you’ll recall that Harrison Ford portrayed (in our opinion) an admirable Branch Rickey, who led the way to integrating MLB .
The Rockies played their first two years at Mile High Stadium before Coors Field opened for its first MLB game on April 26, 1995. The 76-acre stadium has a seating capacity of 50,480 – 865 of which comprise the upper deck's 20th row, the purple row that sits at 5,280 feet above sea level, as in one-mile high.
Yet sections 401 through 403 have to be best bargain in any major league park. This area, dead center in the outfield from home base and overlooking the very recognizable Coors Water Feature, is called the Rock Pile, and get this: the seats cost a mere $4 each, with senior citizens only paying a buck – cha-ching! Yes, it is only bleachers with no backs, the seats are metal, the weather can cause havoc, and a pair of binoculars do come in handy, but for the price, you can’t beat it unless you get your tickets for free. Included in that admission is access to the entire park, which means you can walk around and view all the stadium has to offer, including some of the best food in any ballpark.
Also among the best of any ballpark, in our observation, is the courteous nature of the fans and the ushers. The fans actually waited to go down the aisles in between when game action was in play, and the ushers were more than happy to talk with us and let us peek in here and there to check out the view or to take a picture. Maybe it’s that the water here really is so clean or maybe it’s that the altitude makes a difference, but we wish this type of friendly behavior occurred at more sports facilities. Go, Denver!
Even the mascot, Dinger – a feisty purple triceratops, seemed more friendly. Choosing a dinosaur, by the way, came about because dinosaur fossils were unearthed during construction of the stadium.
And speaking of dinosaurs, a classy throwback of a player, Todd Helton, a shoe-in for a first-round ticket to Cooperstown’s MLB Hall of Fame who played his entire 17-year major league career with the Rockies, had announced his retirement earlier in the day. It was a great honor for us to be among the first fans to give him a standing ovation during his first plate appearance during the game. He did get a hit, one of the 2,519 in his career.
A five-time All-Star, Helton was the National League batting champ in 2000 when he also led the league in batting average (.372; career .317), and earned three Gold Glove awards. On the club level, he is the Rockies’ all-time leader in most offensive categories, with 585 doubles, 367 home runs and a .317 average. There is no question that No. 17 will be the first jersey number the Rockies will retire, after MLB’s “universal” retirement of Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in 1997.
If you get a chance to visit Denver but can’t catch a game at Coors Field, consider a tour. Or just walk around it, and perhaps peek into the main office where you’ll see memorabilia about the organization. The display of the Rockies All-Time Leaders (that you can see in the slideshow accompanying this story) gives you some idea of the quality of players who called this place home. In addition to Helton are Larry Walker, Vinnie Castilla, Dante Bichette, Andrés Galarraga, and Troy Tulowitzki, all once-upon-a-time favorite picks for anybody’s fantasy baseball league roster.
If You're Going: This is but one of the nuggets we came across in Colorado that will appear in this series. For more info on –
- Coors Field, go to www.rockies.com;
- Denver, go to www.VisitDenver.com;
- Colorado, go to www.colorado.com.
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll find more of our stories by clicking on the links, and please subscribe to our columns – it’s free and will notify you of our new articles:
• Other stories by Newbern and Fletcher
• Other Stories by Kathy M. Newbern
• Stories by J.S. Fletcher, International Travel Examiner
Luxury Travel Examiner Kathy M. Newbern and spouse, J.S. Fletcher, report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com, their personalized romance novel business.