Rediscovering baseball (Go, Rockies!)

| October 16, 2007

Copyright (c) 2007 Joe MahoneyI have never been much of a baseball fan. That’s largely due to two factors: four years spent as a mediocre, nay, wretched player in Little League during my elementary school years; and growing up (1960s and early 70s) with the San Diego Padres as the hometown team (let’s just say those weren’t their greatest years). When I hit high school, I chose football as my sport, where I at least achieved 2nd string status as an underweight offensive lineman; I even received the “Highest GPA on the Football Team” award my senior year (no, really). And so football has remained my main (and largely only) sport of interest for the last 40 years or so.

Until now.

I became vaguely aware of the Colorado Rockies’ run at qualifying as the National League wildcard team during the month of August, since (a) I live in Colorado and (b) the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News are among the newspaper websites that I browse daily. I’m always a sucker for an underdog, and Colorado seemed a long shot at best. While in Chicago on business (a patent trial), I heard the news that the Rockies had won 13 of its last 14 regular season games, tying San Diego for the NL wildcard slot and forcing a one-game playoff between the two teams.

And much to my surprise I found myself rooting for Colorado, even though my default position is to root for San Diego teams. (Yes, I’ve been living in Colorado for the last two years, but I’ve also lived in Utah, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, Northern California and the District of Columbia and have usually rooted for San Diego.) To just about everyone’s surprise, the Rockies beat the Padres in a wild (and somewhat controversial) extra-innings game.

So when the National League Division Series between the Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies started, I decided to watch the first game (courtesy of TBS and in high definition no less). I haven’t missed a minute of the Rockies’ playoff games since. I am hooked.

The Rockies, of course, swept the Phillies 3-0 and now have swept the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-0, winning the National League crown and going to the World Series for the first time in franchise history.

The Rockies are a joy to watch for three major reasons. First is the sheer talent and athleticism of their defensive play (somewhere through the playoffs, I discovered that the Rockies this season set the all-time Major League Baseball record for fielding percentage, itself a statistic that I had no clue about up until now). The photo above is of the Rockies shortstop (and likely NL Rookie of the Year) Troy Tulowitzki, during last night’s game 4 vs. the Diamondbacks. He has just picked up backhanded a sharply-hit grounder by D’back’s pitcher Micah Owings; even though he’s still running away from first base, he leaps, turns, and throws a perfect no-hop arching ball to first base that almost gets Owings out. The next play was even more remarkable; Chris Young on the first pitch he gets hits a line drive into left center field — except that Tulowitzki leaps straight up a good 2+ feet, snags the ball, comes down, and fires another perfect rocket to first base that again almost gets Owings out.

The second thing that makes the Rockies a joy to watch (unless, of course, you’re a Phillies or D’backs fan) is that you don’t know who the next hero is going to be, defensively or offensively. As the commentators noted last night, during the Rockies’ ongoing 21-of-22 streak, twelve (12) different Rockies players have hit the go-ahead run. What you do know, however, is that it will likely be with two outs on the board. Last night, the hero was pinch hitter Seth Smith, who (with a 1-2 count against him and two outs in the bottom of the 4th inning) hit an improbably perfect blooper that landed equidistant between the three D’back fielders who could have handled it, scoring the first two runs of what turned out to be a 6-run rally (all with those two outs on the board) that put the Rockies ahead for good.

Finally, this is a young team. The average age of the Rockies active roster is roughly 28 and seven of the players are 25 or less (with one just turning 26 last week). The youngest, Franklin Morales, is all of 21. Tulowitzki, who has made play after sensational play during the playoffs, just turned 23 a few days ago. From what I can tell, there aren’t a lot of cynical veterans here and there certainly aren’t any high-priced free agents. Todd Helton, the 2nd oldest player (at 34) on the active roster, was moved to the point of tears during a post-game interview last night. And, of course, his reaction to making the final out in last night’s game says everything:

Copyright (c) 2007 Ken Papleo

My prediction for the World Series: Rockies in 5. ..bruce..

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Category: Main, Photography, Sports

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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