How the love of baseball brings together a crowd

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PHOENIX - Do you want to go to the ballgame?

It's a simple, yet powerful, question.

I myself last week learned the power and lengths someone would go to in order to get to a ballgame from my own experiences and that of Colorado Rockies fans.

From surviving earthquakes to driving cross-country to spending off days from military service, these are the real fans of the Rockies. The ones that would do anything to get to the game.

With Colorado playing their first postseason game in eight years, the purple-bleeders descended on Chase Field in a congregation that could only be described as hardcore fandom at its essence.

"I watched 153 games this year," Rockies fan Brian Rodriguez said last Wednesday from his seat down the first base line. "It would've been 157 if the power hadn't gone out in Mexico City two weeks ago for four days because of the earthquake."


[caption id="attachment_94318" align="aligncenter" width="2448"] Brian's photo from Mexico[/caption]

Brian survived a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico two weeks ago and his biggest complaint is missing some ballgames. "Yeah," he says pulling out his phone to show me a picture. "The building next door to the one I was in even collapsed."

Brian continues and says he lives in Arizona now and hasn't missed a Rockies game at Chase Field in quite some time. He instantly jumped on the chance to go to the NL Wild Card game in his backyard, buying two tickets.

One problem: he had no idea who to go with.

Brian only wanted to go with another true Rockies fan so he reached out on Twitter, and there sitting next to him in Phoenix was Tony Nittoli from Denver.

Tony, a retired airman now working his way through marketing school in Colorado, says that he's found a new community this year because of the Twitter account (5280Rox).

At 10 p.m. Tuesday, the night before the game, Tony was convinced to come to Arizona. He just couldn't miss out. He impulsively hopped on a flight to be with what he calls his "family."

"The Rockies provided me with a means to bond," he told minutes after meeting Brian for the first time. "The Rockies gave me a new family, not just my friend and his family but a group of secondary and tertiary friends that extends even further. The Rockies gave me something to be passionate about, something to talk to those friends and family about that connected us all and created a united investment."

In the left field corner sat Matt Willison.

Matt, born 1990 in Denver, now lives in Oklahoma City. He made the trek from Sooner country to the desert by himself.

"For my third birthday my dad bought me about every piece of Rockies gear that he could get," Wilson recalled, smiling even as Colorado's starting pitcher Jon Gray was chased from the game in the second inning. "From my third birthday on, I was a fan... I was at the second ever game, I've been to the All-Star game, the first playoff game, Game Three of the World Series. As long as I can remember baseball I've had the Rockies."

Matt said he used most of his airline points to get to Phoenix, as did Amy Thomas.

"I'm just a huge baseball fan, I bought a ticket to Spring Training just to go for the day," Amy, a Denver native sitting behind the Rockies dugout, said. "I had a lot of Southwest points and I used half of them to get here for my birthday."

She laughed, "This is all I care about. I'll do anything to see the Rockies play."

That seemed to be the theme.

"Lied to work and said I don’t feel great," said Ben from Denver, who redacted his last name to avoid getting in trouble for missing work. "I spent as much as my rent costs for a month just to be here with my Pops and my brother. But you didn’t hear that from me."

"I'd be at any point in time willing to go wherever," Matt chimed in. "I don't care what the price is I'm going to see the Rockies play in the playoffs... Just tell me the when and where."

The when and where was Phoenix, in primetime, in the middle of the week. The how to get there varied from person to person.

Myself, as well as BSN Rockies editor Drew Creasman, Mile High Sports' Aniello Piro, and Denverite's Christian Clark, drove from The Mile High City to the Valley of the Sun.

But a broken down car south of Pueblo halted our trip.

Stranded 20 miles north of Trinidad in the middle of the night, we phoned a friend.

Larry Patrick, an elderly gentleman who has worked for KSPK Radio and the Huerfano Journal for the past decade, was our call.

We told him we need to make it to Albuquerque by 8 a.m to make first pitch on Wednesday.

Larry, a long time baseball fan who has been on the BSN Rockies Podcast recounting stories of Mickey Mantle and the golden age of baseball, answered our plea simply: "What are y'all going to do when you get to Albuquerque?"

We said we didn't know.

He said, "how about I take you to Phoenix?"

And that's how a bunch of 20-something reporters ended up in a car with a Vietnam War veteran, who just so happened to be the former mayor of Walsenburg, the closest town to where our car was stranded on I-25.

Why did Larry do this? Because he loves baseball.

Baseball brings out the best in all of us.

Larry's 10 p.m., last-minute drive across two states with a group of people he was rather unfamiliar with, just to witness a postseason game, was the latest example.

Baseball at its best is something that brings all types of people together. It's what makes the sport pure, with players from Japan, Venezuela, and America having the common goal of a World Series. Fans from their teens to their 80s rooting for the same club, it's a ubiquitous platform.

Brian, Tony, Matt, Amy, Ben, Jake, Drew, Aniello, Christian, and Larry are individuals who love baseball and would do anything to see a game from the team they follow—no matter where the game was—play their first playoff game in eight years.

We may never be able to answer the question, “why are people fans?” But if anything, this answers the question, “what is a fan?”

Every person in this story and many more that made up the crowd in Arizona last week were the living embodiments of "Take me out to the ballgame."

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