Meanwhile, at Coors Field, life — and baseball — goes on
Jun 8, 2023, 2:02 AM
(Photo by Andrew Mason / DenverSports.com)
DENVER — As Nuggets Fever pushed the Mile High City further into delirium, there was one spot apparently immune from that early-summer malady for which many have waited decades to endure.
It wasn’t far away from Ball Arena. Not even a mile by foot.
Eight-tenths-of-a-mile, to be precise, separated over 18,000 fans jammed into Ball Arena to watch four television screens showing the NBA Finals from an announced crowd of 24,149 spreading out to take in a Wednesday night game between the third- and fifth-place teams in the National League West.
As I walked up to Coors Field at around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, I wondered if there would be a sea of Nuggets jerseys and caps. And I pondered whether those who eschewed one of the biggest nights in recent Denver sports history would be more interested in the happenings from South Florida than what transpired in front of them.
Thirty-five minutes later, my first lap of the concourse was complete.
Nuggets jerseys: Zero
Nuggets shirts or hats: One
During the walkabout, I saw more Houston Astros swag. Oh, later on, I scanned the outfield stands through binoculars and saw a Jamal Murray jersey here, a Mile High City t-shirt there.
But for the most part, the NBA Finals were just a rumor at Coors Field.
Most of the TVs on the Rooftop aired the action happening within the stadium. The scoreboard didn’t finally acknowledge the NBA Finals until 9:02 p.m., when it flashed a 108-94 Nuggets lead with 29 seconds remaining. The reaction was noticeable — but each of the nine runs scored during the baseball game elicited far more noise.
At about that time, the Nuggets salted away the most massive win in the franchise’s 56-year history. Watching from afar, Ball Arena rejoiced. So did watering holes and living rooms dotting the Front Range.
Meanwhile, the Rockies played on in what seemed like a parallel universe.
The details will be forgotten, although starter Connor Seabold flirted with a no-no, lasting 5-and-1/3-innings before surrendering his first hit. Just long enough for press-box onlookers to tip-toe around mentioning the performance in progress, wryly noting that something “special” could be developing.
The Rockies’ bats staked Seabold to a 4-0 lead. The “other” Nolan — recent AAA callup Nolan Jones — pulverized a Logan Webb slider 483 feet into the second level of right center field.
But drip by drip, the Rockies’ hopes drained away. Five consecutive San Francisco Giants reached base in the top of the seventh. Three came home.
And with every baserunner, the cheers increased. “Let’s go Giants!” chants grew louder. Similar exhortations for the home side petered out.
That’s when it hit me: This crowd represented Denver just as much as the throngs at Ball Arena. But it showed a different side of Denver than the one that gathered across LoDo and at spots throughout the region. It represented the more transient Denver, the part of it that is from someplace else, lives here, loves it here — but didn’t chuck its old team loyalty.
It’s familiar to every team that calls the Mile High City home. Celtics green floods Ball Arena when Boston visits. Chiefs red spatters through Empower Field at Mile High more than ever before. And this fall, there’s little doubt that the Minnesota Vikings’ purple and Green Bay Packers’ green and gold will be impossible to ignore.
No venue is immune — although the deeper a Denver team advances, the fewer supporters of the foe there are. Ball Arena’s crowd to watch the big screens was all yellow, blue and rainbow hues.
Over at Coors Field, the orange-and-black-clad fans continued feeling their oats. Two more Giants crossed home plate in the top of the eighth at the expense of a relief corps that entered the night 24th of 30 teams in bullpen ERA, and that was that.
At 9:27, it ended. Giants 5, Rockies 4.
The Rockies slumped to 11 games below .500 — the first time they’ve been that far underwater since April. Back then, the worst 28-game start in club history vaporized any realistic hope of the type of surprising season currently being enjoyed by fans of the Diamondbacks, Pirates and Marlins, all of whom sit in postseason positions.
But those are details.
Baseball, and Coors Field, shine splendidly on, even in the gargantuan shadow cast by Nuggets Fever at the other end of LoDo.
Wednesday night, there was room for both to coexist — even though the sounds of Giants fans is as much a part of what defines the Denver sports experience as the delight from Ball Arena and around every television that watched the Nuggets inch closer to that elusive title.