Opening day isn’t just special to Adam Salas. It’s personal. Hey, without the Rockies, he wouldn’t even be here.
“Both my parents met while working at Coors Field,” Salas explained between sets on the corner of 18th and Wynkoop early Thursday afternoon, an acoustic guitar slung across his left shoulder.
“Rockies fans have been through so much. You feel like you’re in an abusive relationship.”
It’s a complicated relationship, to be sure. Yet after the pandemic delayed the 2020 season and eventually forced it to be played without spectators, opening day felt like one giant baseball hug. The gates at Coors Field were opened for the first time since Sept. 29, 2019 — 550 days that felt like an eternity.
That the return of fans landed on a sun-kissed, 70-degree afternoon was the cherry on top.
“It’s a nice opening day,” said Muriel Wrede of Longmont, who’d been to every one of them, save for 2020, since the franchise’s first in 1993. “I’ve been here when it’s 37 degrees. That’s a bad opening day.”
On the other hand, the wounds over the winter trade of iconic, and popular, third baseman Nolan Arenado have not fully healed. The five-time All-Star was dealt along with $51 million to the St. Louis Cardinals in February for pitcher Austin Gomber and four minor-league prospects.
“I get baseball, I understand it,” said Tom Hermsen of Littleton, a 26-year season-ticket holder who arrived on Blake Street wearing a white Arenado jersey with the former Colorado infielder’s name covered up by a slice of duct tape.
“But come on. $51 million?”
As Salas busked less than four blocks from Coors, his open guitar case propped up a purple sign that read:
Saving Money To Buy
The Rockies From The Monforts!
“I’m trying to do my best to send my message as a Rockies fan,” Salas said of his jab at Colorado owner/chairman/CEO Dick Monfort. “And I know plenty of other Rockies fans feel the way I do.”
Adam’s father, Matt, was a concessions supervisor with the club in 1996. His mom, Terri, worked in the cash room. They started dating the next year. A year after that, they were married. Adam was born in February 1998, a true child of Coors.
On Thursday, that child of Coors, now 23 years old, strummed his guitar kitty corner from Wynkoop Brewing, an hour before first pitch, just another frustrated fan pleading for change. For hope.
“I decided to channel my anger at the Rockies into a little money-maker after the whole Nolan Arenado thing,” Salas explained. “And their defense (of) it, saying essentially to fans, ‘You know what? We (stink) but you guys are going to spend your money anyway so deal with it.’ So I said, you know what? I think I’m going to make some money instead of you guys.”
Despite the mixed feelings outside, what struck you right away was how blessedly normal the vibe was inside the park, at least from a social distance.
The Rockies scrapped their way to an 8-5 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. And the last two innings were something of an adventure, same as it ever was.
A capacity variance of 42.6% capped attendance at 21,363 — the announced crowd was 20,570 — out of what would ordinarily be 50,144. But that 42.6% made themselves heard, whether they wore Colorado purple or Dodgers blue.
While the foot traffic in the lower concourse seemed noticeably reduced, the buzz and bustle were familiar beasts.
Fans sat clumped into pods, leaving a checkerboard pattern of empty seats from pole to pole. Still, from bunting to brisket, it looked like opening day. It smelled like opening day.
From the Dodgers’ home-run-that-wasn’t in the third inning to the roller-coaster finish, it rocked like opening day, too.
“A noticeable difference, for sure,” Rockies manager Bud Black said afterward. “The players felt it.”
Adam Salas felt it, too. When he and father, Matt, checked his guitar case during the first inning, they’d piled up $103. After the Rockies victory, they did another count.
“$285 for the day,” Matt said.
According to Forbes Magazine’s latest valuations, the Rockies are worth $1.3 billion. It’s going to take a lot of songs, and a lot of games, to rack up that kind of spare change.
If you get there, what’s the plan?
“Buy the club,” Matt replied. “And hire a better general manager, of course.”
Like we said: It’s personal.