Opening Day As Deliverance

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Opening Day As Deliverance

I can’t remember the specific moment when I became a sports fan.  It’s as if a switch was flicked, and I was completely, irrevocably on.  I know that it happened sometime in late 1984.  I was nine years old. All of the sudden, I became hopelessly passionate about the sports landscape, and soon grew to love my hometown Denver Broncos and Nuggets.  Soon, other teams entered the frame—the England soccer team, the Ray Bourque Boston Bruins, the Eddie Murray-led Baltimore Orioles

Missing, obviously, is baseball, the sport that I have the strongest (perhaps romanticized) feelings for now.  And with opening day around the corner, I have undertaken to explain one of the greatest sporting moments of my lifetime, and, certainly, the most memorable Opening Day that I have ever experienced.

The first date was April 5, 1993.  I was a senior in high school.  It was an overcast, but not cold day in Denver, but it didn’t matter because, after generations of hoping, Colorado had a major league franchise. 

I had been a passionate Denver Zephyrs' fan, savoring their league championship title in 1991.  I attended the expansion draft party thrown in downtown Denver in November, 1992, and cheered the drafting of Colorado’s opening day pitcher, David Neid. 

I went to barnstorming events, I bought regalia, and I happily waited.

The first pitch was at about 12:15 p.m. Denver time.  I was in Cheesman Park, in Denver, not at Shea Stadium where the Rockies were facing the Mets (ironically starring the same Eddie Murray that I had idolized as a kid).  I was  at Cheesman Park, not because I was auditioning for the annual Denver Public Schools Shakespeare Festival.  I was playing King Lear in the mad scene with four of my friends.

But King Lear took a back seat.  This day was all baseball.  We would run through our scene, howling at the wind, and scurry back to a portable radio to listen to the game.  I distinctly remember Rockies’ announcer Wayne Hagin describing leadoff man Eric Young, proudly wearing a road gray jersey that said “Colorado” on it, digging in against Dwight Gooden...Dwight Gooden!

Looking back at the box score, I don’t remember much else about the game.  Not Andres Galarraga’s first-ever hit for the franchise, nor Young’s steal of second, or Bobby Bonilla’s home run in the fourth that put the Mets up 2-0. 

Memory is tricky like that.  It sometimes chooses between details and sensation.  Sometimes the details are paramount, the facts transcendent.  But in this instance, it was the sensation, the fulfillment of knowing the ultimate truth that I, a fanatical baseball fan, finally had a genuine personal stake in "The Game."

I realize now that that critical moment in the mythology of the Rockies will always be diminished.  That though sensation of being a part of the institution of baseball has been perpetual since then, nothing will match the completion of Dwight Gooden throwing a pitch to one of our guys—a Colorado major leaguer.

Of course, I, and 80, 226 other delivered acolytes, watched Eric Young hit the sixth pitch ever thrown in a major league game in Denver into the left field bleachers at Mile High Stadium, igniting the most sincere and spectacular “there-is-no-way-THAT-just-happened” celebration in Opening Day history.

All of Colorado had been sparkling with the long-awaited deliverance of major league baseball.  But to have the first ever batter hit a home run? 

We had arrived.  This wasn’t Iowa.  This was heaven.

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