DENVER (CBS4) – It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Major League Baseball arrived in Denver. Back then there were naysayers who said Coloradans won’t support baseball and that Denver is a football town. It’s still a football town, but win or lose the support for the Rockies has been unwavering.
They were Denver’s first boys of summer and this weekend, exactly 20 years after they first took the field as the Colorado Rockies, the boys were back. The memories they have from that season and the thrills they created are still in the back of their minds. The time really has flown by.
“I can’t believe it’s been 20 years. The time really has gone by so fast. But getting back here brings back all the memories. Even last night when I was sitting in the hotel room watching the news talk about Opening Day, I got butterflies in my stomach. So it’s amazing,” former Rockies outfielder Jerald Clark said.
“When we say the number now, we come back for reunions, ‘Okay, I’m getting old,’ “ former Rockies outfielder Eric Young Sr. said. “Now, looking around, my son is on the same team … but it’s great. We’ve grown old, but that particular moment, that particular day will always be cherished.”
That particular moment, that particular day was Opening Day at Mile High Stadium when Young Sr. led off the bottom of the first inning at the first-ever major league game in Denver and did the impossible. EY’s leadoff homerun drove an entire time zone — especially for a little boy who was only seven years old.
“I remember it like it was yesterday, you know, little kid. I was just more proud of my dad for hitting a homerun than the situation. At the time I didn’t know the magnitude of it,” Eric Young Jr. said. “I just knew the city of Denver was excited and I was excited for everyone, including my dad.”
“He was at the stadium, he was at that game and I just remember him saying, ‘Daddy, it felt like it was rocking, the stadium was rocking.’ He was so excited,” Young Sr. said.
Young Sr.’s homerun is the single moment most people remember. But for the men on the field, they remember the whole season and the love they felt from the 4.5 million fans who came out every day and every night to cheer them on.
“The fans were the biggest impact of that season, how many showed up and how just crazy it got,” former player and current Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette said.
“We had a rough year, we lost a lot of games, but you’d never know by the fan support,” Clark said. “The fans just kept coming out and kept coming out. That’s the biggest thing I remember, or the most memorable thing … it made me realize this city really wanted a team.”
And they were a team – a group of mostly castoffs from other teams who were able to bond in Denver and share a brotherhood they will have forever.
“That first spring training … we didn’t know each other, we developed in spring training,” former Rockies pitcher David Nied said. “We had a lot of publicity and it was a rocky year. But by the end of the year, after with 4.5 million people watching us play, we put a pretty good product out on the field.”
“We talk about our families, we talk about our kids, but the main thing is we remembered each other,” Clark said. “Even though we look a little bit different, some of us; we’ve all gained weight, but we do remember each other … it’s great to be alive and it’s great to be back in Denver.”