There was a brief period in 2009, when the Marlins played in Land Shark Stadium, that three of Major League Baseball’s 30 ballparks (a whopping 10 percent) were named after beers. The Dayton Flyers of the world are likely proud of that fact. My fellow alumni, however, would likely not be proud that it took until 2018 for me to visit one of these locales of baseball inebriation.
It was only appropriate, though, that I make a pilgrim excursion into Coors Field with a fellow Flyer. My friend Grace was the print editor at Flyer News last school year (read: Steve’s boss), so subjecting her to a Saturday game between two under performing teams was naturally the best way to repay her for a year of amending my unnecessarily controversial pieces about the exciting world of Dayton sports.
It’s a blessing that our friendship had not gone sour before a Marlins road trip and my duty schedule conveniently overlapped in Colorado in late June…otherwise I would have watched a baseball game by myself.
Coors Field is in Denver’s LoDo district (meaning Lower Downtown, and, according to Grace, just one of many examples of Coloradans inexplicably refusing to spell out a full name)–an uppity brick-laden neighborhood. Its countless eateries and shops make it a destination independent of its baseball tenet.
Parks that are one with their neighborhoods (San Diego’s PETCO Park is the pinnacle of this) get an extra boost in my assessment. I hadn’t realized the depth of Coors Field’s immersion into Denver’s urban density until we practically stumbled upon it from around the street corner. Watching on TV, it’s easy to get caught up in the mountainous views and landscapes shown overhead and assume the park is a baseball oasis in a front range meadow. But Coors’ actual placement is about as urban as you can get.
Vendors and scalpers capitalize on the foot traffic in the area. On our walk to the park, we were conspicuously offered tickets “below face value” so often that I can only assume the practice is legal. Another perk? You can buy food and drinks from vendors outside the the gates and bring the items into the stadium. Attending games in D.C. so often can make me forget how family friendly other teams’ policies can be.
The family friendly atmosphere carried on through the day. The Rockies were celebrating their 25th anniversary as a club (both they and the Marlins were expansion franchises in 1993). So we walked inside to the sight of fans lining the warning track as current and former Rockies made their rounds in full uniform, a gratuitous gesture for a quarter century of loyal following.
I think if you live in Colorado you’re automatically a notch happier than your counterpart elsewhere, so even though the Rockies have been mediocre for nearly their entire history (a 2007 World Series run captivated the state and the nation), the Colorado fans buzzed throughout the stadium with pure baseball glee, comparable to a minor league atmosphere where the outcome literally doesn’t mean a thing. And that’s a refreshing feeling.
On a similar note, I encountered exactly two other Marlins fans while traversing the stadium. If I were a follower of practically any other team, only meeting two fellow fans may be a commentary on Denver’s relative isolation from other Major League cities (Kansas City is the closest at 600 miles away). But in this case, it’s a simple anecdote of the Marlins’ lack of national popularity. I honestly wonder if I’m the only Fish fan that has no Miami connection.
We popped up to the top deck in right field (aka The Rooftop) to get a birds’ eye view of the fan frenzy below. The Rooftop has a long bar that serves quite a bit of (you guessed it) Coors. It even features a creative Rockies logo sculpted from Coors cans. Beer art. Gotta love it.
It was from here that I gazed out over the park in its entirety for the first time. Behind the home plate end of the seats rise skyscrapers of downtown’s nearest business district. Shifting gaze to the right revealed only clear blue sky and the mountains ascending beyond the western suburbs. The batter’s eye in center field features a lush assortment of pines, grass, rocks and water that one would find in the actual Rockies–a glimpse into the natural beauty that lies just beyond the outfield walls and always in the minds of the outdoorsy Coloradans.
In the left field concourse, the brick facade of the concession stands and shops matches the brick just outside on LoDo’s streets, providing a western, rustic seam between the modern city and the undisturbed frontier within view.
Coors Field is no PETCO Park because there weather isn’t always perfect and there’s no beach. And it’s no PNC Park because there’s no studio-perfect backdrop of a gleaming skyline foregrounded by a cartoonish bridge. But I honestly don’t know of a better way Coors Field could have been built to host a baseball team representing one of America’s premier social and topographical regions.
Opened in 1995, Coors Field was the National League’s first installment in the “ballpark renaissance.” It set the stage well.
We then slipped down the stairs over to left field to watch a measly batting practice of old timers in jeans swinging to see if they still had it. Yorvit Torrealba (I think it was him) impressively swatted a few dingers, but there was no real BP-comparable action. For normal games, though, Coors Field looks to be one of the best dinger-snagging parks with left field seats all the way from the pole to center (no bullpens hindering the way) and a wide aisle in front of the all the bleachers for easy lateral movement.
And the second-best thing about left field? Frozen yogurt.
In the concourse straight down the left field line is a serve-your-own frozen yogurt stand (in the same style as many of the popular pink and green establishments of 21st Century suburbia) that even has a souvenir ice cream helmet option. Grace, a self-proclaimed ice cream connoisseur (she just has the guts to admit what we all wish we could confidently) insisted that our dairy dessert consumption occur after the game at a five-star joint in the city. So I didn’t actually eat any of what the park had to offer, but I imagine that’s a solid mid-game refreshment should you be of the same mindset as Grace.
As for the game, the Marlins won 6-1. It was the first time I watched the Marlins win in person since August of 2016.
J.T. Realmuto hit a grand slam to break the game open for Miami. That’s the first Marlins grand slam I’ve seen in person and just the third overall. The other two were both hit by Carlos Gonzalez (one in 2012 and another in 2015). Gonzalez, who still plays for Colorado, was indeed in the lineup in this game as well.
In sum, I’ve seen three grand slams in person. And all three games featured the Colorado Rockies, who I’ve only seen play four times total. Weird coincidences.
After the game we made our way through LoDo towards Little Man Ice Cream (a local favorite recommended by my roommates, approved by Grace, and validated by my taste buds) about a mile and a half walk from the field. We passed swanky oyster bars and outdated western wear shops alike, another testament to the fun transience that is Denver.
We then took a detour through Union Station, the interior of which has been newly refurbished and resembles the elegance of a European rail terminal. As the authors of The Ultimate Baseball Road Trip point out, baseball and trains seem to go together well (the Houston Astros celebrate their home runs with a citrus-carrying train and tracks pass under Safeco Field’s retracted roof). It may be the elegant slowness of both. Or maybe, that both a baseball game and a crossing train both seem to pass with agonizing endlessness to the untrained observer. Or that with their prominence and humility they both boast of the American spirit. Any way you look at it, I can agree that trains and baseball pair nicely.
Past Union Station is a city park along the South Platte River, over which passes a sleek pedestrian bridge. It was by this pathway that I crossed from the Cherubim to the Seraphim of ice cream enjoyment.
It’s hard to recall my entire 21 years of culinary experiences, but Little Man Ice Cream I can say with confidence ranks at or near the top of those 21 years of eats. Hard serve with solid flavors and waffle cones made on site, Little Man was worthy of the hype my friends gave it and now I give it too.
A Marlins win, an groovy park, and ice cream heaven within walking distance made my first trip to Coors Field a top baseball memory. And I didn’t drink a drop.