Baseball’s Opening Day Tradition

One of my favorite springtime traditions is Opening Day at Coors Field. As a mom, it is a real getaway-kind-of-treat. As a wife, it is fun to be the one who gets to celebrate baseball and gloat. As a friend, a whole day together is a treasure. As a baseball fan, though, I barely watch the game. There is almost too much excitement to focus.

This year’s Opening Day for the Rockies was especially fun. The weather was amazing. Our favorite players hit well. The Rockies won. But what stood out for me, and what I wrote about, was something that happened before the first up-at-bat. Something that unsettled the crowd…

Baseball with a Four Year Old

“Will you play baseball with me?” my four year old asks.

“In a little bit.”

“Okay, here’s the ball. I’m first batter.”

“Not right now.”

“But the game already started. If you don’t play now, your team is going to lose.” My four year old grins.


“I’m first batter,” he reminds me.

I follow him outside. The game begins. I throw the first pitch. He watches it go over the plate.

“No! You can’t pitch yet. They’re playing my song.” He does a few dance moves.

Then takes a practice swing. Gives me the nod, and his red baseball cap drops over his eyes. He has baseball caps from all teams who wear red. Today, he supports the Nationals.

I throw it a little high. And, lifting the cap back on his head, he calls it, “Ball!”

I throw the next one over the plate. He swings and misses. “Ball!”

“That was a strike.”

“No! The Emp says!” he argues. (“Emp” = “umpire”.) “Ball Two!”

Another pitch, and he hits it, his little legs carrying him to first base.

As soon as he touches first, he heads back to home plate. “Now I’m second batter. That’s really me. I’m our best hitter. First batter is our second best hitter. He’s third base. Second batter can be the best hitter, you know.”

“Of course he can.”

He walks back to home plate. “So I’m second batter.” Stands very still and serious.

This time I know what is going on. “What’s your theme song?” I ask.


We sing and dance to our music. “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes saying, Ayo, Gotta Let Go!”

My eight year old approaches ready to play, but… “What are you doing?”

“It’s the batter’s song,” I say.

“In real baseball, they don’t dance to it.”

“This is our game,” I say. “if you want to play…”

The four year old batter takes a practice swing.

I throw the pitch.

“You can be third batter!” he yells happily to his brother as he passes him on his way to first base.

But you have to have a song. “Emp” says.

What Baseball Fans Really Want

We are Rockies fans. My boys learned their numbers by memorizing which number went with which Rockies player. My youngest went to the World Series when the Rockies made it in 2007, and he was only two weeks old. We must have twenty different Rockies caps lying around the house, stashed in closets, or carried in backpacks. And we went to our first game of the season last weekend.

The Rockies are not looking that good in 2012.

But when #17 Todd Helton, who started his MLB career in 1997 with the Rockies – and has never left – came to the plate with the bases loaded and the Rockies down by three, the crowd went wild. And when he hit a pinch-hit grand slam to tie the game in the eighth inning, we went absolutely crazy. High fives, jumping up and down, screaming his name, we stayed on our feet until Todd came back out of the dug-out and raised his hat to us.

Then….and here’s the problem…. it got quiet for a while. The players who came to bat after are mostly new to the team. We don’t know them like we know Todd. The team has traded away so many of our favorites since Rocktober less than five years ago: Matt Holliday, Kazuo Matsui, Willy Taveras, Yorvit Torrealba, Brad Hawpe, Seth “Late Night” Smith, Garret Atkins, Ryan “Spilly” Spilborghs, Jamey Carroll, Chris Iannetta, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeff Francis and more.

Last weekend, we would of stayed on our feet if any one of them had followed Helton to the plate. We would forgive them for a bad game, a temporary bad attitude, or even a lame season, because they are our guys, our Rockies, our summertime Colorado extended family.

I feel sorry for new guys and the hush they hear that falls over the park when it is their turn to shine. Fans come to the ballpark because we want to connect. We want to believe that the players who play like heroes on the field are playing for us – their town. We want to feel as if we know the batter as he faces down the enemy pitcher. We want to feel the shortstop’s pain after an amazing dive catch. We want it to be our team that goes all the way – not an ever-changing mix of faces that call themselves Rockies for a year or two, and then move away.

Thank you for playing and staying, Todd. I hope the League eventually figures out a way to give the fans what they really want…more players like you.