Earlier this year, my girlfriend and I decided on a quick weekend jaunt to Denver, another in a long list of stops in my quest to watch a game at every Major League Baseball park. What I didn’t expect was to discover the coolest city in America.
And it’s not just because they have a Welton Street.
I’ll divide my Denver trip into chunks, and I’ll start at the back end of the weekend trip with the visit to Coors Field, built in 1995 in the Lower Downtown district. The locals call it LoDo. My expectations for this visit were not terribly high as I don’t hold the era of early-to-mid 1990s stadiums in terribly high regard.
Architecturally, Camden Yards is the class of that era, but the whole of the neighborhood surrounding it felt like a warehouse district. That park feels terribly out of place in that part of Baltimore. I’m told Baltimore is an awesome city, but everything felt like a scene from “Homicide,” the NBC procedural set in Bal’more.
On the other hand, Coors Field is an above-average park architecturally with an atmosphere second only to Pittsburgh and maybe St. Louis. On any given night at a Colorado Rockies game, a local in purple is liable to be surrounded by visitors. On this night, we were among Los Angeles Dodgers supporters, although we were quickly told that about 30-40% of attendees of any Rockies game are rooting for the visitors.
Before we got our tickets punched, we stopped for a couple of beers at some neighborhood pubs and went for a tour of the National Ballpark Museum, which warrants a post all its own. Its curator informed us that the front of Coors Field is actually a nod to old Shibe Park in Philadelphia, home of Connie Mack Stadium.
We caught a lucky break in that the weather in Denver was neither too cold nor too hot. My ballpark trip to Target Field in Minneapolis last year was pretty brutal in that it was 93 degrees with a heat index of 100-plus and no place to find shade. Since that trip last Father’s Day, I have made it a point to inquire about shade at each and every stadium. Shade determines where I sit.
On the other hand, we were dealt an unlucky hand, too. This game between the Rockies and Dodgers fell on Mother’s Day weekend, which means that instead of seeing the glorious home purples and all that Dodger blue, we were stuck looking at gross alternative uniforms, designed by the color-blind. I could go on a long rant about Major League Baseball and their uniforms for special days. The NFL has done it during October for years now, in support of Breast Cancer awareness.
Create content. Don’t mess with the uniform color palette.
We sat along the third-base side, which was behind the Dodgers’ dugout, and even as I write this, I still haven’t seen the Rockies score. Los Angeles’ Alex Wood struck out 10 as the Dodgers won their 100th game ever at Coors Field, 4-0.
Here are a couple shots I snapped before the game.
And then here’s my obligatory food pic. For the record, the food and beer at Coors Field are reasonably priced, and the dog was above average. I love a good Chicago-style hot dog and any chance to get some veggies with my processed pork. The beer was some variation of Blue Moon wheat.
Just to give you a sense of the fandom at Coors Field, here’s a quick snippet of a video I captured sitting among Dodger Nation.
Alas, I totally get why Coors Field is filled with visitors. This is a destination ballpark in a destination city. The vibrancy of the downtown area, LoDo, pre-game felt like St. Louis. Pittsburgh’s pre-game environment is the best in baseball, although I admit that I might have just caught the Pirates on a good day. The party for a 7 p.m. first pitch on a Friday started at like noon.
However, the post-game atmosphere in Denver on a Saturday night after a ball game was the real deal. It was happenin’, and it felt celebratory and not chaotic or dangerous. We stopped off at Sports Column where we had some pre-game beers, and it was packed except for a table right up front among the masses enjoying a UFC fight night.
If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, so we ordered a plate of nachos and watched these young women fight. As I remember, this was a good bout, too. However, being an old man, I was ready to get back to the hotel and climb into bed sooner rather than later.
Oh, here are those nachos, and they were excellent. As a whole, all the food we had in Denver over-indexed on the scale of excellence. These are not your mother’s bar nachos.
However, Denver is a city and Coors Field a park that might require multiple visits in the future. I caught a great vibe from the city, the park, Rockies fans — all of it. And this ain’t even the only Denver blog I’m posting. Stay tuned …