Saturday, June 2: DODGERS 12, ROCKIES 4
I started this day off right by getting up at 3:00 a.m. and politely asking my lovely wife to drive me to the airport; at that point, after taking a late train back from the Giants game, we had slept about two hours. The flight was uneventful, and I spent the morning strolling around a downtown Denver farmer’s market, chomping on a burrito and pouring strong coffee down my throat.
I was thrilled, as I always am, to meet up with my good friend and journalistic brother-from-another-mother Mark Newton for a burger and a beer. Quality early-summer teacher conversation (is there any type that’s better?) in a beautiful setting: the back patio at My Brother’s Bar, where apparently Jack Kerouac used to hang. Seems like a good way to start my journey On the Road (get it? It’d probably be way more clever if I weren’t actually flying to every location, but whatever).
I had connected earlier through a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend to a Rockies beat reporter named Thomas Harding, who writes for mlb.com. It took a little while for my credential to come through after the polite woman at will-call told me that it appeared as if it didn’t exist. While I was waiting, I received a text from the Rockies’ PR guy, Nick, who asked if I could send along a quick head shot. Once I had, everything moved quickly and I was in the press box in no time.
Before I had a chance to chat with Thomas, I talked to a whole string of incredibly gracious older press box guys, who likely could have told me stories for the next several years without stopping. First was press box manager Bill Mast, a former high school teacher who got the job when he was recommended for it by a former STUDENT of his, Tracy Ringolsby, who went on the be president of the Baseball Writers Association of America and is in their Hall of Fame. Ringolsby (who’s the former student, remember!) is about 70 or so, a native of Wyoming who wears a big cowboy hat at all times. After chatting with Ringolsby for a bit, he mentioned that I should be talking to his ‘smarter friend’ Jack Etkin, who was chomping on complimentary trail mix from a paper cup at the other end of the desk. Smarter, Tracy said, because he received his MBA from Wharton, many years ago. After a great conversation with Etkin, who discovered I was a Tigers’ fan and recounted a fantastic story about Ernie Harwell that ended with Ernie offering him a gift certificate for Sibley Shoes, I was directed to Dodgers beat writer Bill Plunkett, a Michigan State grad who bleeds green but is not enthusiastic about the future of journalism (or education, for that matter). “My wife is a school teacher and we both missed some critical info on Career Day,” he told me. Finally, I had a chance to chat with Harding, who was my original contact.
At any rate, I asked each of them a bit about their jobs, what kept them excited, what the biggest challenges are. To a person, the advent of social media was seen as the biggest change in the industry over the last few decades. And nearly to a person, they were pretty skeptical of whether it’s had a positive impact or not. The access to the reporter has changed, that’s for sure. A few times reporters pointed out how different it was now that readers had essentially direct access to criticize their work and call them bums (“Instead of via voice mail, which I never really checked anyway,” one writer mentioned).
See the interviews here: ‘On the Beat’: conversations with Baseball Beat Writers
In Denver, the character race that seems to exist in every big league ballpark is between a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush and a giant tooth. The toothpaste won, I believe. I don’t know why we love these things so much, but I guess we must. Later that night on our horrifically delayed flight from Denver to Seattle, I sat next to an engaging and bubbly young social media manager who was telling me about how Safeco Field was not quite as good as her own home stadium, SunTrust Park in Atlanta. I find that hard to believe, actually, but anyway, her main reasoning was that Atlanta’s weird character race is sponsored by Home Depot and features a hammer and saw. Safeco Field, she was dismayed to note, did a hydroplane race, but it was only on the JumboTron and not between physical characters. She had a point.
The game itself was tight until the top of the seventh (I think?) when the Dodgers broke it open with eight runs in an inning that lasted approximately 17 hours.
I saw Paly grad Joc Pederson when I was hanging out on the field before the game and really felt like I should say something about Paly to him, seeing as he went there and I teach there. The connection was not nearly as profound for him as it was for me, though. Plus one of the Rockies field guys admonished me for trying to talk to a player while they were working. He was totally in the right; I shouldn’t have said anything. I think I just had a vision of Joc immediately trotting over and putting an arm around me like we were old buddies. Alas, it was not to be. He did, however, go four-for-five in the game, including hitting two home runs, and I’m pretty sure that was because of me. So Joc, you’re welcome.
Coors Field is a quality venue, if not necessarily spectacular. The game was billed as a sell-out but there were plenty of empty seats and the crowd was mostly into it (at least until that 7th inning) but not overly enthusiastic. I’m pretty thankful that there WERE some empty seats since the one I purchased was located in the third deck in right field. Those seats, during the late afternoon, are pretty similar temperature-wise to seats in Hades. I was sweating a lot, and hadn’t changed clothes in three cities.
I loved my short time in Denver, which ended with a wait in the airport that was just about as long as the rest of the time I spent in Colorado. But more on that in the next installment.
PREVIOUS GAME: @San Francisco vs. Philadelphia Phillies
NEXT GAME: @Seattle Mariners vs. Tampa Bay Rays
MILES TRAVELED TO GET HERE: 1265
MILES TRAVELED TO THIS POINT: 1329