DENVER – Before 48,341 people were screaming “MVP, MVP, MVP!” at the top of their lungs in celebration of one of the most amazing moments in Colorado Rockies history, they had exploded in elation at a seventh-inning Trevor Story frozen rope home run to left that tied the game at two.
Pat Valaika followed with one of his own to give the Rockies a 3-2 lead, telling BSN Denver after the game, “When you hear the crowd going nuts, it’s a feeling like … like you don’t feel your body. You kinda live for those moments.”
He lived in that one. And the fans helped make it everything that it was.
Commenting on fan behavior can be like trying to dodge the lasers that guard the diamond in the spy movie. Nobody wants to be told what they can or can’t do once they’ve shelled out their hard-earned money to enjoy an afternoon or evening with a ballgame. If you want to make a fool of yourself (within reason) you are free to do so and if you feel like booing a poor performance, you’ve earned that right as well. Though, the latter is a terribly poor strategy.
Contrary to the way they are often written about or portrayed on television, ballplayers are human beings. And human beings respond to each other. I’ve always found it a bit strange that there are those who deny the potential effects — both positive and negative — that crowds of over 48,000 can have over the nine guys on the baseball diamond.
Over the last few days, the Rockies have had several such crowds, and in a season where they find themselves still in first place on June 19, can only expect the sellouts to grow in number. And that matters. There may be no statistic for it. There may be a negative connotation to that because some fans prefer not to be blamed for bad play or feel like such things are patronizing. But every single baseball player that BSN Denver has spoken to, current or former, Rockie or not, has told us, without exception, that a good crowd can lift performance.
The opposite may or may not be true. That’s both considerably harder to nail down and a conversation best left for another time.
We asked Bud Black after the epic comeback about the ability of a hot crowd to lift the team and before the question could be finished, he had gone far beyond accepting the premise. “Yes, yes, there’s no doubt about it,” he said emphatically. “Thanks for asking, thanks for commenting on the crowd. But the crowd in the ninth stayed loud when we came off the field. Our guys heard it. Especially the last three weeks with the growing attendance. It’s been great. The fans have been so supportive. The guys are talking about it. They can feel it. There’s an energy that a fan can enhance and it’s wonderful. So hat’s off to Rockies fans.”
Week’s ago, we asked Greg Holland about this very thing as the Rockies new closer quickly became the first relief pitcher in a long time for this club to garner immediate roars from the crowd just for taking the long jog to the mound from the bullpen. “It helps you,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone, “good crowds make you better.”
And the Rockies haven’t had good crowds lately. They’ve had great crowds. (Minus the occasional ill-timed wave.) They’ve been rewarding clutch catches like the one Story made in the series opener with thunderous ovations and — maybe just as importantly — never turned on their own team when moments got tense. And moments did get tense.
“It’s awesome,” said Tyler Chatwood who pitched six tough innings, limiting a fair amount of traffic to just two runs. “I saw the number on the TV it said 48,000 on a Sunday, it’s pretty special to have that kind of backing. You can feel the energy, you know? I was in some jams and I felt their energy. It was nice to have that.”
Ian Desmond brought up the fans, without being prompted, after playing hero in Friday night’s contest: “The crowd tonight was awesome,” he said. “I think we fed off that, I know I did personally.”
“It’s getting louder than it’s ever been,” said man of the hour, Nolan Arenado, “that’s the loudest I’ve ever heard this place. I think the fans and the people of Denver are starting to get a hint that we’re for real and we need their support. I was fired up for them and I just wanna show them some love.”
But it was still perhaps best summed up by second baseman DJ LeMahieu. Not known for being at all forceful with his words, he also cut off our question with an excited declaration about whether an electric crowd makes a difference: “Heck yeah! Heck yeah, it does. We notice. We notice the crowds getting into it. You go to places like San Francisco, you know. In my opinion, sometimes not as talented as other teams but I feel like with their crowd, with their mindset, they win. I know that’s what’s going on here right now and hopefully, we’ll continue that for years to come.”