Pinch me, I must be dreaming.
Everything seems to be working out perfectly for the Rockies. It’s like all of a sudden, something clicked and the light turned on.
Nine straight winning performances by the starting rotation, solid relief from the bullpen, timely, clutch hitting and games without mental lapses. For the first time, all aspects seem to be playing well, at the same time.
The storm clouds that formed across the Denver skyline cleared up at game time, creating a nice evening at the park. Rain, hail and tornado warnings across Colorado all week finally settled down for the 2 hour, 28 minute contest. Directly after, the clouds let loose and the streets were flooded with rain showers.
Nine consecutive wins ties for second all time in Rockies history–and they’re still going.
Unlike the first eight, though, the ninth came in front of an energetic home crowd. When a double play would be turned, the crowd would roar in cheers. When a close call went the other way, the fans would rain boos.
And let’s not forget the suicide squeeze bunt in the 6th inning when Ian Stewart barely slid safely on Dexter Fowler’s bunt. Or when Ubaldo Jimenez executed a perfect fake-bunt slap hit past a charging infield to score another run.
Ubaldo pitched a 127-pitch complete game. It was a gritty performance as he surrendered four runs just one out into the fourth inning.
My friend turned to me at that point and asked, “When would you take him out?”
I told him to give him a chance and keep in there for a little longer. Jimenez ended up going another 4 2/3, throwing just his second complete game of his career.
The crowd cheered when manager Jim Tracy left Jimenez in to bat in the 8th inning after his pitch total was well into triple-digits and then erupted again when Tracy walked back to the dugout with two outs in the 9th inning and the tying run at the plate. The manager went out to talk to Jimenez. Most feared he was taking him out just one out before the complete game.
And it was even a special night, not for the Rockies, but for myself getting to see Ken Griffey, Jr. play. I took off work and bought my tickets well before the streak began hoping to see him play.
I grew up idolizing Jr. and wanted to get one last chance to see him play. I saw him about a decade ago when he was still The Kid with the M’s and saw him a few years later on Opening Day with the Reds, but I was hoping, that he would take the field for a rare outfield spot in the lineup to see him play once more. I was disappointed when he didn’t start, but when I saw the pitchers spot was due up in the 9th, it gave me hope. In fact, Griffey did come to the plate, drawing a walk.
It was the never give up mentality that gave the Rockies their ninth consecutive win. The fought, battled, and came from behind to beat the Mariners 6-4 in the series opener.
Don’t wake me, I’m enjoying the ride.
This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.
April 5, 2009.
One-hundred and fifty-eight days of withdrawal between Brad Lidge’s strikeout to win it all at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark on Oct. 29 and the opening pitch in the very same stadium.
It starts tonight at 8 PM ET where the reigning champs play host to the Braves.
It begins in Philadelphia, but where will it end?
Magic begins. Miracles happen.
The sound of the wood bat striking a 98 mile per hour fastball. The feel of your hand inside a freshly-oiled glove.
The days start getting a little longer. The weather a little warmer. Springtime is here.
25 men, nine coaches, a front office and an entire stadium full of fans all pulling together.
Baseball is America’s sport. America’s pastime.
There’s a feeling of optimism within each of the 30 teams today.
A fresh start. A new chance.
An opportunity to prove that their transactions over the winter have put them in position to be the best team in baseball. This could be the year.
The pennant will be raised in Philly. The Rays will try to prove last year wasn’t just a fluke. The Yankees are in a new home, and will try to make a comeback after not being invited to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
Will money prove to win championships? Or can Kerry Wood’s new home take the Indians to the top? Will Francisco Rodriguez be the answer to the Mets’ late season chokes?
The dirt has been watered. The lines are chalked. The smell of the freshly cut grass lingers in the air. Pine tar is spread up the first 17 inches of the bats.
Tell Fenway Park to strike up “Sweet Caroline” after the sixth inning again and “Tessie” after a win. Wrigley fans can join in the infamous “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” singing during the seventh-inning stretch.
Maybe year 101 will be the lucky year for the Cubs to finally break their curse.
Each jersey is pressed. Each light and each seat in the stands has been checked as the scoreboard lights up for the first time.
Contracts are finalized. Lineups are penciled in. But the road to the postseason is anything but certain.
Summer nights will soon settle in where there is no better place to be than at the ballpark. Fans of all ages will soon fall asleep to the voices of Peter Gammons, Harold Reynolds, and Kurt Ravech on Baseball Tonight.
The boys of summer.
Inside the stadium, concession lines will form as hot dogs are cooked. Ketchup, mustard, and all of the condiments of your choice.
Sunflower seeds, peanuts, and crackerjacks.
Fans willing to shell out $11 for a hot dog and soda, and not ashamed to do so–just for a chance to witness something great. The chance to see someone great. The chance to witness history.
A towering 450-foot home run. Hustling around first base and sliding into second for a double down the line. Taking one step too many and getting caught in a pickle which turns to be a 1-3-6-1-4-3 out to end the inning.
Stains on the jersey from a diving catch deep in the outfield. Collisions at the plate.
Infuriated managers. Ejections.
Catchers giving pitchers signs. Pitchers shaking off the catcher’s sign.
A suicide bunt to score the tying run. A grand slam. Hitting for the cycle.
Extra innings. Game-winning walk-off hits. Fireworks. Excitement. Celebrations.
Grown men dog piling on top of each other.
Baseball brings euphoric emotions to each of its fans.
Dreams begin for children today. Dreams for their team. Dreams of playing someday.
Dreams for adults. This game allows them to become kids. Fathers and sons enjoying their first glimpse of the new season while playing hooky from work and school.
We witnessed extraordinary events in 2008: two no-hitters, Manny Ramirez’s 500th career home run, Ken Griffey Jr. hitting his 600th, a phenomenal showing by Josh Hamilton in the Home Run Derby, the longest All-Star Game, and two historic stadiums hosting their final games.
What will be in store for 2009?
Gary Sheffield’s 500th career home run? Randy Johnson’s 300th career win?
An unassisted triple play? The game’s 18th perfect game?
So button up your jersey. Tighten your newly-polished cleats. Adjust your cap and get ready. The boys are back in town, ready for a 162-game dogfight for the chance to be crowned the world’s greatest.
Baseball is back.
This article is also featured on Bleacher Report.