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Opening Day memories

by Larry Patrick

    There is something special about Opening Day if you are a baseball fan. It seems like a new lease on life.  There’s electricity in the air.  Fans come from near and far to get together for this “special day.” 

    I was at the very first Rockies home game in Denver back in 1993.  My son and I were among the over 80,000 people who saw Eric Young, the first batter in the first Rockies home game, hit a home run.  People still talk about it today.  I have the “first Rockies home game tickets, the first Rockies home scorecard, the first Rockies magazine in which the Postal Service stamped that day for historical sake. It was a moment that my son and I can always share. We even made the opening day highlight reels on the George Michael syndicated sports show, showing my son and I waiting in line to get into Mile High Stadium.

    I’ve been to other Rockies opening day games since then. While they are still exciting, the fact the parking prices are jacked way up and the opening day prices for fans are higher than for other tickets during the season is bothersome but understandable when it comes to making a buck.  I’m not really complaining because as a longtime reporter, I usually get in “free.”  So the price to park is an annoyance but I’m very lucky to sit in the press box, go on the field and in the locker room to see and interview players… something most fans would dream to do.  I have a collection of audio interviews with the likes of Andres Gallaraga, Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Ellis Burks, and Todd Helton.

    I still remember my first major league baseball game in 1960.  I earned the ticket by being a safety patrol boy in a tiny town of Higginsport, Ohio.  I was in the 6th grade and froze my butt off all winter long to help kids get across a busy roadway. The principal took us to see the Cincinnati Reds play the Philadelphia Phillies at Crosley Field.  I wish I had a picture of how I must have looked the first time I saw all of that manicured grass.  The Reds had Frank Robinson and Vada Pinson and others that I had listened to on the radio for years.  I remember the Phillies catcher going after a foul ball behind the plate and without his mask, I got to see a real major leaguer close up.  What a thrill back then before instant replay and opportunities to see players close up.

    Last fall I revisited Higginsport, Ohio, a small burg of about 200 people, and saw the old house that I lived in along the Ohio River.  My old elementary school was still there but no longer occupied.  In fact, there is no school in Higginsport at all anymore.  But the road was still there that I helped kids cross safely.  Higginsport is where I first began collecting baseball cards.  I was one of the first recyclers too.  By finding pop bottles and turning them in to the small grocery store, you got 2 cents.  Collect three bottles and you could get a pack of baseball cards for a nickel.  Boys scoured the roadside to find pop bottles. I wish kids could do that today for extra money and a hobby.

    I spent the past weekend visiting my grandkids in Wyoming, and went to baseball practice with my 16 year old grandson.  He wants to be a major league baseball player, just as I did at that age.  It brings back pleasant memories and the dreams that he still has.  I hope he can fulfill them.

    The Rockies open the season this coming Monday.  It will be a special day and one of the few Mondays that many of us really look forward to during the year.  If you aren’t a baseball fan or sports fan, it may be hard to explain the feeling.  I’m sure glad I have that feeling and look forward to it each opening day for the rest of my life.