I drove past Coors Field last week. It was an accident. I was doing my best with a rental car in a town I’ve never driven in to find a hotel that looks like who knows what, and then off to right, there were a bunch of bricks. Oh.

It surprised me. Some expansion teams choose to fling their parks to outer suburbs, where there’s room to park and generate a baseball-only mini-economy; in older baseball towns like ours, the city springs up, then the park, and then we operate our lives around it. Such was the case with Crosley Field, but in the end its location worked against it. I’m told that as the neighborhood surrounding the park began to disintegrate, so did attendance. It wasn’t a fun family trip anymore. The team almost left.

The sudden appearance of Coors Stadium in the windshield was startling because there was no warning at all. It just… showed up, and I felt as if I was accidentally intruding on another family’s front lawn. This was their grass, their purple seats, their fake forest in center field.

I’m accustomed to a great amount of fanfare when approaching a ballpark: THIS IS WHERE WE PLAY BASEBALL. YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OF US. BEHOLD OUR NEON SIGNS AND GIANT BILLBOARDS. From certain angles of downtown, you can see straight to the river, and there is a great intake of breath from the streets surrounding Great American Ball Park before a person actually gets there. There is none of this business of suddenly springing an MLB venue on a person.

They put their baseballs in a humidor at Coors Field, you know. The altitude and dryness mean that the balls want to fly higher and farther, and I get it. I hear you, baseballs. I feel the same way about Colorado. Cincinnati Beth is perpetually exhausted, scrambling in the wake of deadlines, and wondering where the next sack of gummy bears is coming from. My acne clears up; I engage in conversation with strangers; my crops are watered. Colorado Beth cheerfully arises at five for a sunrise hike, grades papers ahead of time, and gets the side salad in place of the fries. I am my best possible self in Colorado. I am a freaking delight.

This doesn’t mean I am doomed to unhappiness in Cincinnati. This town knows me as I am. I am my fullest self here, for it is the location of my first steps and last call. This downtown sees my snapping responses and my sleep addiction, my late arrivals and darting away from human contact. This is where I go to the doctor, who weights me and sees me naked, and where Kroger is well aware of how often I buy macaroni and cheese that begins as a bright orange powder. Great American sees me with the makeup off, and it understands. I might strike up conversations with total strangers at higher altitudes, but, like undertaking exercise out there, I can’t imagine that it would last too long. At some point, I would find myself emotionally at sea level once again.

And so I am content with the red seats of the river town. Our ballpark runs up to the very edge of who we are, and sometimes that’s ugly. Sometimes it’s tornado warnings and 80% humidity and dirty slush in April.

And that’s fine. It’s who we are. We let our baseballs be themselves here.

18 Responses

  1. Oldtimer

    Coors Field is within walking distance of many drown Denver hotels (just like GABP and Cincinnati). It snows in Denver in April and sometimes in May. They play baseball anyway.

    • Oldtimer

      Downtown (not drown) auto correct got me.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Yep, and I’ve been there when it was snowing in June!

  2. Mark Moore

    This article reminds me of a trip quite some time ago. We were towing our RV trailer, headed through Ohio toward NY state. There’s a curve in Cleveland that’s more than a little “white-knuckle” at any time, let alone when hauling a trailer. As you come out of it, there is “The Jake” in all its glory. It looks like a massive steam shovel scooped out that part of the city and they plopped the ballpark down right there.

    I’d really love to visit more parks than the few I’ve been to (4 total plus I saw one more through a restaurant window). And urban ballparks are the best. Our own Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a testament to that. Parking is a PITA, but that’s a small price to pay.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I would like to hit the pool in the Diamondback’s stadium 🙂

  3. TR

    Denver is one of my favorite towns since I love the mountains and especially Rocky Mountain Nat. Park. The tour guide at Coors Field told me if they had it to do over again they would have had about 10,000 fewer seats. As far as minor league parks go, the Dayton Dragons have one of the best.

    • Oldtimer

      Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, AZ. Spring home of Rockies and Diamondbacks. Summer home of their AZL minor league rookie teams.

      Bradenton, FL. Spring home of the Pirates and summer home of their Florida State League minors team.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      That’s such an interesting tidbit! I remember that they sold out quite a bit in the beginning.

    • NorMichRed

      My wife and I were original Rockies’ season ticket holders in the early ’90’s. The first few seasons were played at the venerable Mile High Stadium, home of the Broncos, which had moveable LF-CF stands to accommodate baseball. (Select AAA baseball games occasionally drew 50,000-60,000 over the years before the Rox arrived.) The stadium added temporary bleachers in CF for the opening series, and the first game drew over 80,000. Many 65,000+ crowds in Mile High before moving to approximately 50,000 seat Coors Field in 1995. Coors is near the high end of seating capacity for the newer, “retro” style parks, but still draws well for what has usually been a mediocre team on the field. Arguably, actual seating capacity is in the mid-40,000’s, they added as an afterthought the CF “Rock Pile” where seats were (still may be) available for $ 1 for a view that’s kind of like watching live from the moon. A great sight lines park and fun experience…much like GABP in that the game day ambience usually trumps the product on the field, in both cases because of penurious and often clueless ownership.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        Rock Pile is still a thing! Making the best of a bad situation. I remember eating lunch at a Burger King across the street from Mile High… and that’s about as close as I got to it 🙂

  4. LDS

    I’ve never seen Coors Field. As a dinosaur, it’s Crosley, Riverfront, GABP, Candlestick, Comisky (not a great location at the time), and Busch,Stadium (does Stan Musial still guard the entrance). Fenway and Wrigley from the street doesn’t count. Yep, a dinosaur.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      We need dinosaurs to power the world 🙂

  5. Jimbo44CN

    Another Dino here. Grew up going to Crosley as a kid, then Riverfront, then moves took over and became a White Sox fan, (new Comiskey or whatever they call it now) still not the greatest neighborhood btw. Wrigley (great location, awful park), hate the Cubs even more just because. Miami stadium, nice big, empty. Went to one Reds game there and you could fire cannons and not hit anybody. Also came home to GABP, best of the bunch. Great small park, great viewing from almost any seat.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      lol poor Marlins! Sometimes I get discourage and then I’m like, “Well… at least we don’t have their problems.” It’s interesting… baseball is such a big game in Cuba you’d think they’d have a built-in attendance.

  6. Florence Bartels

    We’re doing the MLB tour, and are down to the last ballpark, Wrigley. (In my first nine years we lived in a house 10 blocks west of it, but my father took my brother to a game, not me.) It’s been a fun journey with interesting things about each park. I remember hating to go see the Cards at Busch Stadium, and here at the entrance they had a Clydesdale, so that was the highlight of that game.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Given our feelings about the Cardinals, they BETTER have something as awesome as a Clydesdale at Busch.

  7. Andrew Brewer

    Here is one for you Mary Beth, “The.Perfect.Game.2009”, an improbable baseball movie that has its basis in real life.
    It’s worth a second watch if you’ve seen it before. You will note the importance of the ball first. Then it’s how you play the game…
    Unfortunately, I could not attach it here.