My Grandpa was a lover to those close to him and a fighter against the disease that eventually took him away from his loved ones. He was an avid baseball fan, a man of courage and faith and mostly, a caring, supportive and loving grandpa to me.
Baseball always has and always will be one of my main loves. I learned that from him. Ever since I can remember, baseball was the common center between us.
Now probably nearing the triple-digit marker in number of games I’ve been to, he was the one who took me to my very first game. I don’t remember a single thing about the game–to be honest, I don’t even remember going–but I know that we went to my first game together, a Rockies game at the old Mile High Stadium.
Each summer he’d come out to Colorado to visit. He’d generally spend a week or so in town. During that time, he’d sit and watch me play a handful of times. He’d take me to a collector’s store in Denver called Bill’s. It had the best selection of baseball cards known to man. He’d always buy me whichever ones I wanted and we’d always get a big box full of an assortment of cards.
We’d generally go to three games at Coors Field while he was here, also. On the car ride down, I’d go through each card in the box, many of them old-timers I was unfamiliar with, and he’d tell me something about each player. He knew so much.
He’d graciously allow me to get to the games early and we’d stay well past the last pitch. One time we sat through a game that featured a rain delay, 13 innings of baseball and the Cardinals’ third baseman becoming a pitcher because St. Louis ran out of actual pitchers.
The game lasted until the wee hours of the morning. Grandpa taught me how to keep score on the score card, but I ran out of room because of how many pitchers each team used. Did the rain or extra innings make Grandpa budge, though? Nope, we were staying at the game until it finished.
He taught me much of what I know about baseball–about bunting and sacrifice flies; why the cleanup hitter hits in the No. 4 spot in the lineup and that striking out swinging is always more respectable than going down looking. He taught me that if you aren’t confident that you can get a hit, it’s better to purposely strike out with a runner on first base than to weakly dribble one into the dirt and ground into an inning-ending double play.
He used to tell me how when he was younger, the starting pitchers would pitch complete games and that the National League is a joke because, “Do you realize they actually make their pitchers bat?”
My Grandpa was the first person I ever saw listening to a radio while sitting at a baseball game. I think it’s a neat idea and I, too, will probably do it someday. Now I see people with portable TVs at games, but I think my Grandpa would stick with the radio. He liked the radio announcers better, anyway.
Each April our conversations were about the upcoming season. I would talk about how the Rockies were built to contend and that “this year is our year.” He would tell me how George Steinbrenner had lots of money and that the Yankees will win . . . again. During the summers we’d talk about the season and come October, we’d engage in playoff talk.
Only once did I get to brag to him about how the Rockies were in the World Series while his Yankees were stuck at home watching. In every conversation he’d always reference his famous line, “How ’bout them Yankees?”
One of my favorite most recent memories with him was this past October when I was attending a Rockies playoff game. He called me during the middle of the game after a controversial safe-out call at first base. I told him that despite the umpire’s call, Dexter Fowler was safe. Grandpa was my video review, confirming with me that the way I saw the play was indeed correct.
I think it’s fitting that the last season that my Grandpa got to witness was 2009, when the Yankees won the World Series (As if the 17 other World Series rings he witnessed weren’t enough). Last summer I traveled to New York and got to experience a game at historic Yankee Stadium. I was surprised to learn that my Grandpa, such a Yankee fanatic, had never been.
While the experience was amazing, it didn’t quite win me over as a diehard Yankees fan. This past October, however, we promised each other that we would both root for the Rockies to win the National League pennant and the Yankees to clinch the American League title. If both teams made it to the World Series, then it was all fair game.
He joked that he thought he still had his Rockies hat somewhere in his closet; he would just have to blow off the dust that had collected on it for the past decade-plus since he last wore it.
He was always a good sport, though. He would tell me how he would cheer for Colorado State, my college, every time they played UNLV, his hometown, and how all of his friends in Las Vegas would give him a hard time because, most of the time, UNLV got the best of CSU. He stuck with the Rams, though and in the World Series last year, I stuck with the Yankees.
He always had a good heart and good sense of humor and I’ll miss him deeply. While driving together he would randomly wave to passersby. Confused, I would ask if he knew them. He would respond, “Nah, but don’t worry, they don’t know me either.” Last March I got to take my one and only visit to Las Vegas while he lived there. He picked me up from the airport and drove me around the Strip.
He took me to Freemont Street and we got a burger at a local diner and just talked. He came and watched me work at the Mountain West Conference tournament and on our last day we went to the Hoover Dam.
Our last baseball game together was two years ago during his final visit to Colorado. The Rockies won and then-closer Brian Fuentes set a Rockies record for most career saves.
In his 67 years, he battled prostate, melanoma and bone cancer, diabetes, kidney failure and triple bypass heart surgery. During the last few years of his life, he came back to his faith and in his final week, he told my mom that he was ready to leave his “temporary visit on this planet.”
“I’ve lived on this earth twice as long as Jesus did,” he said. “I’m ready to meet Jesus.”
The Yankees organization might be losing their biggest fan in my Grandpa, but they have gained another in me. One thing that can’t be replaced, however, was what my Grandpa meant to me.
I love you, Grandpa.
Aug. 21, 1942-Feb. 12, 2010
** This article is also featured on Bleacher Report. **
They say baseball brings out the child in them.
Even as we grow older, however, some of our childhood pastimes don’t fade out of the spotlight.
I grew up spending every summer hour from dawn to dusk in my backyard.
My best friend and I would play “fake games,” which consisted of imaginary wiffleball games where the two of us played both teams and all 18 players. We tossed the ball up to ourselves and let our creativity unfold the rest.
I’d step up to the plate, pretending I was the actual player.
When Andres Galarraga stepped to the plate, my stance was open. When it was Dante Bichette’s turn in the lineup I would remove my hat from my head, run my fingers through my imaginary long hair and clinch both hands on the ends of the bat and circle it over my head like he used to do.
We had a magic erase board for the scoreboard and my dog’s pen for the dugout.
One summer when my next door neighbor was getting his house painted, the painters stayed late so they could listen to the excitement in our voices as we called the game.
Perhaps that was the game that concluded when Larry Walker hit a walk-off home run, clanking off the neighbor’s house, still fresh with wet paint.
When my friend wasn’t around, the baseball didn’t stop.
I used my pitch-back to, again, throw my imaginary games. This time I was the actual player on the roster, playing for a big league team.
I gave myself four seconds to field the ball, throw it to the net and have it bounce back into my glove in order to record an out. For every four seconds it took to do that, it was another base.
I even kept track of stats and recorded them into a document on the computer. After the game I would conduct my own postgame interviews, where I, both the analyst and the manager, would discuss the game and box score.
Now, a decade later, I’m a 20-year-old grown man and my imagination still runs wild.
There is no greater summer evening activity than getting friends together for a game of wiffleball.
My friend has an ideal wiffleball yard, full of fenced off home run areas, a short porch in right field and the giant pine tree, ruled as an automatic ground rule double.
Two floodlights make up the lighting so the games can stretch well into the evening while a home-made block of wood marks the strike zone.
We’ll even cut the grass into a baseball diamond and chalk the base paths with flour.
It’s now my turn to bat. Two pitches go by, the latter banking off the wooden strike zone. On the third pitch I take a swing and watch it soar.
“That one’s hit deep,” I shout out. “Back, to the track, you can kiss it goodbye.”
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July 23. It’s a simple date, but today marks the 13-year anniversary of my first trip to Coors Field.
Who knew it would transform my life and who knew the game would be so historical?
To be honest, I don’t remember much about the game.
I know the Rockies played the New York Mets.
I also recall my grandma, who took me to the game, teaching me that the home team wore white while the visitors were in gray.
Besides that, the last thing I remember about the game is joining the crowd with boos after the Rockies let up a home run. My grandma told me booing players was not polite.
Looking back at the game, it turns out we were booing a six-run sixth inning for the Mets, who tied the game that inning after the Rockies once led 7-0.
Upon looking back at the box scores, it turns out my first game at Coors Field was one heck of a game. It’s a shame I can’t remember anything from it, but that game was the first of an endless amount to come. Who couldn’t be turned on to the sport of baseball seeing 21 runs, 31 hits and a game-winning, walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth?
I saw Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla hit home runs while Andres Gallaraga hit a pair. Did I mention they were back to back to back home runs in front of a home crowd of 48,000-plus?
Eric Young, my all-time favorite Rockie, had a ninth inning infield single with the bases loaded, scoring Jayhawk Owens for the win.
The reason I remember the date of this event was my grandma later bought a personalized brick.
Back in Coors Field’s first few seasons of existence, the Rockies organization allowed fans to purchase bricks that could be engraved with a message, and then cemented into the ground leading up to the stadium near left field.
In quadrant 11, row three, seven bricks from the left,
“Nicholas A. Hallisey
Game 07 23 1996″
During my last visit to “the greatest place on Earth,” I took a stroll down Wynkoop Walk, the area containing the few thousand bricks.
Some people wrote personal messages, some were to loved ones. Others had famous quotes or were signed from the Rockies No. 1 fans.
“Baseball is life,” “Another Rockies fan born,” “Kiss it goodbye,” and “Thanks for the future memories” are just a few.
It’s a neat part of the stadium that not many people know about.
On the certificate that was given to me with my brick, it states that my brick will be forever etched in stone at Coors Field.
Thanks to that July game 13 years ago, my love for baseball has also been etched in stone.
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With an improbable June and a stellar July so far, the Colorado Rockies are showing naysayers they are here to contend.
With Monday’s 10-6 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with the San Francisco Giants being pounded by the Atlanta Braves, the Rockies can say that if the regular season ended today, they would become the National League wild card winners for the second time in the past three years.
Problem is, there are still 68 games to play.
But with a record of 33-15 since May 29 when manager Jim Tracy took over, the Rockies look like they can compete to the end.
With the trade deadline approaching in T-9 days, what the Rockies desperately need is a strong middle reliever.
The club’s bullpen looks nothing like its opening day roster. With the exception of Huston Street, who also lost his role as closer once, the bullpen has been shuffled around and mix and matched in its entirety.
Matt Daley, Josh Fogg, Juan Rincon and Ryan Speier were not on the club’s opening day roster. Franklin Morales was, but not as a reliever. The club traded Jason Grilli while sending down players like Joel Peralta and Matt Belisle.
The team also lost a quality arm in Taylor Buchholz to Tommy John surgery and a veteran leader in Alan Embree to a broken leg. They recently added veteran Matt Herges to a minor-league deal and is reporting interest in free agent Mike Timlin.
Sure, signing a guy with the name Roy Halladay would bring excitement to Blake Street, but for what, two months? And Matt Holliday had a great stay in purple pinstripes, but a reunion tour is not what needs to be done to make an October push.
What the Rockies need is a reliable setup man.
Not some has-been or could-be. Not multiple washed up pitchers like in years past.
The organization has minor league depth in nearly every position. I’m not suggesting throwing away the farm, but package a couple prospects for a guy that can bridge the gap between the starting rotation and closer Huston Street. Or even better, if O’Dowd can find a club that will unload Garrett Atkins or Yorvit Torrealba, take it.
Chad Qualls is, perhaps, the biggest availability.
With 18 saves for a dismal Diamondback team, Qualls is paving his best year in the majors. He sports a lifetime 3.31 ERA, but one of his more impressive stats is just three home runs allowed this season. This would help in the thin air of Colorado.
Other possible names on the market: Boston’s Takashi Saito, Baltimore’s lefthander George Sherrill and Cleveland’s Rafael Bentancourt.
Colorado has a good team, no doubt. But with its bullpen ranked 14th out of the 16-team National League, it is apparent that a strong setup man is needed.
Perhaps the biggest evidence, however, is the last two nights. On Monday night the Rockies held a 10-1 lead leading up to the seventh inning, when the relievers surrendered five runs, causing our closer to get warmed up in the ninth inning.
In Tuesday’s loss to the Diamondbacks, the Rockies blew a 4-0 lead, with the relievers allowing the final runs for the loss.
In less than two months, the Rockies have jumped from 10 under to eight over. I believe it’s time the Rockies become buyers at the deadline and purchase a durable arm.
It sure is a shame that college baseball doesn’t attract more attention.
Most would consider March Madness more entertaining than the NBA Finals, and fans plan their holidays around each year’s college football bowl games.
But the College World Series comes and passes with only the diehard baseball fans taking notice.
As the CWS comes to a close tonight, I am saddened by its passing. See, the student-athletes competing at Rosenblatt Stadium isn’t an everyday-site.
They show enthusiasm. They play with passion. They play with heart.
The defense is ready with each pitch and each batter hustles to each base.
In the dugout, players hang over the railing, eye black smeared and jerseys dirty, engaged with each pitch.
Late in the innings, superstitions arise with rally caps in every shape and the entire team sitting in similar formation.
They play the game like it’s their last. And for some, tonight will be.
It all takes place at a 60-year-old raggedy stadium, falling apart and facing its final days before destruction after next year’s World Series.
Rosenblatt stands in the middle of nowhere, but the players and fans treat it like it’s a magical place.
The fans are just as excited as the players. Hours before the game, baseball-junkies line up outside the outfield gates to reserve their general admission seats.
In 2001 they renovated The Blatt to add an additional 10,000 seats because the place would continuously sellout game after game.
The entire community of Omaha takes part of the two-week event.
It may be Nebraska, but during these weeks in June, the town is seen as a baseball Mecca.
On ESPN’s telecast of Game One, an emotional video tribute was shown.
The narrator told the story of Omaha.
“This place, this place is just inspiring. Rich with history and tradition. A shrine. The shining light and ultimate destination of so many… and so few. You see, Omaha’s not just another stop, not just another spot on the map. It’s a link to our past, and a clear path ahead. As time ticks away on this magnificent little place. It’s not a time for sadness, but a time for reflection. Because no matter at what location or on what hill, it’s Omaha that makes the College World Series special.
2009 has been full of memories. From Arizona State dusting off a four-run early hole to eliminate North Carolina, to Arkansas, one strike from elimination, taking Virginia into extra innings with a two run game-tying home run before beating the Cavs.
Arizona State nearly knocked off No. 1 seed Texas in the next game with a go-ahead triple in the ninth inning before the Longhorns hit two home runs in three batters, etching its name in the championship slot.
All that sets up tonight’s winner-take-all Game 3, featuring two of college baseball’s most historic teams, Texas and LSU.
“Who could have asked for a better script?,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s one game to one. It’s one game for the national championship.”
History could be in the making tonight in Omaha.
It’s too bad the rest of the country won’t be watching.
Baseball truly is something special.
It’s more than a simple sport or even a game.
Baseball involves feelings and emotions, and in result, can create a special bond between a father and a son.
My dad didn’t introduce me to the beloved game. He didn’t pass down his trading cards or retell memories of players he saw while growing up.
No, my story is unique.
You see, my dad didn’t grow up loving the game that I do. He played little league, faked breaking his finger and didn’t pick up a glove until more than two decades later.
The reason my story is so special is how my dad became a fan of baseball.
I grew up playing recreational baseball, moving my way up into competitive and travel leagues.
My dad would spend endless hours in the backyard with me. He would wake up early or stay up late in order to help me become a better ballplayer. With each ball he soft-tossed to me, he pushed me to become a better player. As we played catch, he would instruct me to follow through with each throw.
One time I failed to listen to his advice and my throw sailed over his head and through the next door neighbor’s window, a memory that is humorous now, but wasn’t so funny when it happened. I was mad that my dad didn’t jump higher to catch my errant throw.
My dad took would take time off work to drive across the state and country to see me play. He went with me to every tournament and rarely missed a game. His free time turned into time watching me play baseball.
My mom recently told me that my dad would read books about baseball, learning the game so that it would give us something to talk about.
He gave up his life for the game that I loved.
I have the good fortune of having an April birthday, always falling right around Opening Day. Each Rockies’ home opener, my dad and I would play hooky from work and school to go to the game. A couple times, the game fell on my actual birthday, and once, we even saw Albert Pujols make his Major League debut.
We would get down to the game before the gates opened, early enough for batting practice and autographs, and he allowed me to stay after the game to savor the final sights, sounds and smells of the ballpark.
It was our time together.
There is no worldly thing that is more special to me than baseball.
When I think of baseball, however, it’s more than a game.
It’s an emotional attachment. It’s memories full of my dad and me spending hours together in the backyard, on the diamond or at the ballpark.
Baseball is for fathers and sons.
It’s for me and my dad.
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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.
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