To Rockies or not to Rockies?: Lifelong fan & Summit Daily editor Susan Gilmore tries to recruit sports editor (podcast)
Susan’s All-Time Rockies Dream Team
As part of her sales pitch to convert Summit Daily sports & outdoors editor Antonio Olivero to become a Rockies fan, Susan Gilmore — the paper’s assistant managing editor — shared what would be her personal Rockies “dream team.” It’s a lineup with some legends, and some lesser-know lads that fill a special place in Susan’s Rockies fanhood-heart. The list is complete with Susan’s personal comments on each selection:
C: Ben Petrick
“Just a good guy, always worked his butt off.”
1B: Todd Helton
“You can’t go anywhere else.”
2B: D.J. LeMahieu
“I think he is the best second baseman we’ve had. And we’ve had a lot of them, for what that’s worth.”
SS: Troy Tulowitski
“If he ever could have played a full season he would have been a great player.”
3B: Nolan Arenado
“It’s tough to pass up Vinny Castilla.”
LF: Mark Little
“Someone that just always had a near and dear place in my heart. He was just a good team player. In a spring training game he famously got hit in the head (with a ball) and ran to third base. This was before concussion protocol existed.”
CF: Charlie Blackmon
“You have to sing along to his walk-up song.”
RF: Larry Walker
“He had a mullet too.”
DH: Andres Galarraga
“The Big Cat!”
Starting pitcher: Kyle Freeland
“He should be one or two in the Cy Young race this year.”
Heading into Sunday’s third game of the National League Divisional Series between the Colorado Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers, I’m a certified free-agent of a baseball fan.
So as to not insult the sport of baseball and its passionate fans, though I’m a New Yorker, I don’t have almost any kind of an emotional reaction to the fate of the New York Mets or Yankees. As a child, my earliest baseball memories were in the Pepsi Picnic area at the Mets’ Shea Stadium, and years later I’d cheer on World Series-winning Yankees teams. I’ve attended many games for each franchise, but I’d be insulting fans of either stripe to claim one or the other as my own.
Which brings us to Sunday. This whole state is geeked about the fact that the Rockies are hosting a divisional game at their hallowed home of Coors Field. Though down 2-0 to the Brewers, one game away from elimination, this is a big deal for many energized fans out there.
One of them is my colleague and friend Susan Gilmore. You readers might recognize Susan’s name from the masthead at the front of this paper. On top of killing it in putting out great content each and every day, Susan is also probably the most passionate Rockies fan I’ve met since I moved to Colorado 11 months ago.
So after the Rockies’ thrilling extra-innings wild-card victory over the Chicago Cubs earlier this week, I figured why not ask Susan about the possibility of Rockies fanhood? Considering she’s basically the same age as the team since their inception just six years after Susan herself was born, Susan makes a good point when describing why the Rockies mean so much to her, a Lakewood native.
“I have friends who are Cubs fans and, yeah, they’ve got the history,” Susan said, “But they didn’t get to grow up with their franchise, you know?”
Before Susan even was a fan of the Rockies, she followed some team she referred to as “the Denver Zephyrs.” Apparently they were a Minor League predecessor to the franchise that bottled up and benefitted from any baseball fans in the Denver area. One of them was Susan’s father, who after growing up in Kansas City as a Royals fan found it disappointing his new home state didn’t have its own team. Once it did, Susan describes her father as being the biggest Rockies fan in the family, the original impetus to purchase season tickets for years on end.
He was the biggest Rockies fan in the family, at least until Susan went all in on the franchise. After she matured past her younger days spending most of the game doodling on Don Baylor’s face in the souvenir program, Susan became enchanted with the Rockies. The apex of this moment — of her as a fan falling in love with the franchise — came when Susan was manning what was her token spot at a Rockies game: right behind the bullpen. It was a spot where there was a certain kind of an intimacy with the relief pitchers through the early innings of a game. And during one game while her broken arm was in a sling, Rockies bullpen coach Fred Kendall tossed a ball up to young Susan at the end of the game.
LISTEN: In this unabridged podcast conversation, Susan and Tony chat myriad Rockies topics, including Dante Bichette’s glorious mullet, attending a game at Yankee Stadium as a Rockies fan, and that time Susan and her dog Charlie led the doggie parade around the Coors Field warning track.
That’s where it started. Not soon after, Susan would find herself dressing up to impress the Coors Field photographers during the jumbotron’s “Biggest Rockies fan” contest. For one game, she was convinced she’d win, her attire complete with Frank Thomas “Big Hurt” model tennis shoes, shiny purple soccer shorts, an oversized Rockies shirt and gobs of black and white facepaint. Though she wasn’t selected as the game’s biggest fan, her allegiance soldiered on.
It continued into 1998, when Denver and Coors Field were showcased on national television as the host of the MLB All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. The coming-out party was five years into the franchise’s existence. And Susan, at the age of nine, found herself glued to the television like the girl from Poltergeist, scanning the crowd to find her parents, who attended the Home Run Derby.
The 1998 Home Run Derby is where Susan and my baseball memories intersect. I was a rabid Mark McGwire fan at the time, entranced with his quest to break Roger Maris’ home run record. So I tuned into the home run derby as a seven-year-old in New York to, for the first time in my life, hear about this place called Denver in this other place called Colorado. And it stuck out to me how ESPN announcer Chris Berman described this location as something almost alien, where, thanks to the altitude, the home runs that night would fly farther than ever before.
McGwire flamed out that night, when the Rockies’ hometown boy Vinny Castilla advanced to round 2 before Ken Griffey Jr. won. In any event, this Coors Field place seemed like the farthest thing from George Steinbrenner’s hallowed halls of Yankee Stadium. Whatever it was, it was as cool as Dante Bichette’s mullet (Editor’s note: Way cool!).
Since 1999, the Rockies have delivered Susan a few fun runs and one National League pennant, in 2007, but no World Series titles. Down 2-0 to the Brewers heading into Sunday, the odds seem stacked against Susan and the Rockies once again. But she certainly isn’t without hope. Though Susan says the bats have been wavering this season, it’s been a campaign during which the bullpen has stepped up its effort to meet the fevered energy of the Rockies fanbase.
Susan says this is a good time to hop on the Rockies bandwagon. It’s a fun team, one replete with easy-to-like star players such as Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon to combine with some Colorado natives and beloved Rockies veterans like Matt Holliday.
Whatever happens Sunday, Susan will be watching the game with her dear doggie Charlie. Charlie is quite the Rockies fan in his own right, as he led the “Bark In the Park” parade on the Coors Field warning track earlier this summer. Susan decided to camp out for the Bark in the Park line two hours before anyone else.
On Friday, Charlie sported Susan’s 1993 inaugural season Rockies shirt. It was one of a bevy of Rockies mementos she brought into the office, per my request. From ticket stubs at the old Mile High Stadium from before Coors Field was built, to her “Sandlot Summer” trip to Yankee Stadium while she worked in Cooperstown, Susan has followed this franchise day-in and day-out since she attended games during their first season. And from lunchboxes, to grilling aprons to bobbleheads, Susan has the gameday-giveaway promotions to prove it.
As a free-agent of a baseball fan myself, it was inspiring to see how Susan not only is such a diehard, but how she’s truly a fan who has grown older with the team. Considering how neat that fact is, and considering there are many Rockies fans with just that kind of a connection not only around Summit County, but the whole state of Colorado, it shows how neat of a fanbase and franchise this is.
So, no matter how much longer this playoff run goes, I hope you’ll save a seat for me on the bandwagon.
Susan will be driving it, and Charlie will be riding shotgun.
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