Retro Reviews: Day 1 of Our Baseball Odyssey (Originally published 8-7-2013)

It has long been a dream of mine to visit all 30 Major League Baseball Stadiums, ideally in one summer, but, more realistically, over the course of several years. Living in Southern California, I have easy access to 3 parks within a few hours of my home. Petco Park, Angel Stadium and Dodger Stadium are all “been there, done that” and I have seen several games at PacBell/SBC/3Com/AT&T Park as well. In fact, I have seen the Cubs at all of these venues.

This year I decided I was going to add to my ballpark resume, and picked Coors Field in Denver and Chase Field in Phoenix, due to their relative proximity to both me and each other. Soon flights and hotels were booked and immediately following the All Star break, Lauren and I were about to take place in our first baseball road trip, and our first stop was 2 games at beautiful Coors Field.

Fortunately we were able to book our vacation so that we were not only visiting the ballparks, but that we were able to see the Cubs in both venues. We would be attending 2 games in Denver and 3 games in Phoenix.

Hotels were reserved. Plane tickets were ready. Vacation was approved at work and we were ready to go. As our vacations are usually to destinations that require several hours travel flying out on the dawn flights for this adventure had us nonplussed…until we realized that we would be arriving in Denver at 10 in the morning…leaving us essentially homeless until the official check-in time of 3pm.

Thankfully the hotel was able to accommodate us early and we were able to take a nap before heading out to the game. We had conscientiously decided to not book a car and trust public transportation for this vacation. That was a bad idea for Denver. Our hotel was out in the boonies of town and the only option was a bus ride that took approximately 30 minutes and picked us up by an abandoned auto parts store near the hotel and dropped us off about a half mile from Coors Field, walking through a bit of a shantytown. Needless to say, this was the first and last bus ride we took in Denver–and actually for the remainder of the trip.

When we were within view of the ballpark I was already chomping at the bit to get inside, but Lauren realized that we hand’t eaten aside from the McDonalds breakfast before leaving San Diego so food became priority number 1. We wandered for a bit until we saw a sign for the Blake Street Tavern, which I had actually heard of.

This was one of the most fantastic decisions we made on the whole trip and if I lived within any reasonable distance from Denver, I would have quickly become a regular. My French dip sandwich was quite possibly the finest that I have ever tasted and I consider myself a French dip connoisseur. Lauren’s flat iron steak sandwich was fantastic as well.

After filling ourselves on delicious pub food we made our way to Coors Field. We were still a little bit before first pitch and the lines to get in weren’t bad. After we had my camera bag checked out we approached the gate staff to get our “Rockies 20th Anniversary” pint glass. The staff was discussing how they only had a few undamaged glasses left and then, in plain view, stashed several under a table while telling us that they had run out. I was upset. Not because I necessarily needed a Rockies pint glass, but on principle.

We found another gate after entering the stadium and explained our situation to the gate staff there. Before I had even finished my tale of woe the Rockies staffer was handing us 2 glasses and telling us to have a good time at the game, which cancelled out the bad vibes that I was holding toward the Rockies for the incident at the first gate.

Now it was time to find our seats out in right field and check out the field. We were about a dozen rows above the right fielder and much lower to the field than the seats that we were used to at Angel Stadium. I loved them.

What I didn’t love was the couple that was sitting next to us. Not only did they bring, seemingly, the entire produce section from Costco with them (a haul which included several boxes of strawberries and an entire container of mini cinnamon rolls) but they were the type of people who have the most rudimentary information about baseball, which clearly means they were experts who were able to speak intelligently on the subject with absolute authority. We would encounter many of these fans in our travels.

Eventually they ended up getting up later in the game and thankfully found seats a few rows down from us. I think my pro-Cub leanings somehow upset them.

Speaking of the Cubs, this was not their finest hour. They lost fairly handily 9-3 and Carlos Villanueva got roughed up for the second time that I have seen him…in the two Cub games I had attended at this point in the season.

Before we left we asked the usher to take some photos of us with the field and scoreboard behind us. He had the hardest time figuring out how my camera worked, despite my explanation, but eventually got some shots in, albeit not exactly what we wanted, but close enough and he was pleasant enough and seemed pleased when we told him we were from out of town and would be attending the next day.

After leaving the stadium we expected to find some food fairly easily and then take a taxi home. This didn’t exactly happen. Despite downtown Denver being packed with bars, college kids and–as of a few months–weed, there was not a suitable restaurant to find not to mention any taxis. On a Friday night. At 11 pm.

We eventually used the Yelp! app on my phone and found a place that we had heard of, called Biker Jim’s, to grab a bite to eat and call for a taxi. Except none of the cab companies in Denver answered their phones. Or the texts that the automated voices on their hold messages. Even the staff at Biker Jim’s didn’t have any advice for us to find a cab. Neither did our hotel concierge.

We got our food to go, planning to eat it in the room, and wandered the streets of Denver in search of any sort of vehicle for hire, possibly as we got closer back to Coors Field.

Eventually we found a cab that had just dropped off a fare and I ran at it like a crazy man, hoping he wouldn’t speed away. Luckily he was able to take us to the hotel, despite the fact that his meter broke and he charged us a reasonable flat rate.

Back at the hotel we unwrapped our vittles and attacked them vigorously. Biker Jim’s specializes in exotic hot dogs and sausages and despite the somewhat limited late night menu, we were able to find some delicious and interesting selections; Lauren ruined Christmas by getting a reindeer sausage, while I remained respectful to all major holidays by choosing boar meat. The boar meat was very sweet, which is right up my alley, while the reindeer was a bit gamey (reindeer games?) and we were both pleased with our individual selections.

At this point it was late and since we were planning to head out early for a breakfast before the day game on the following morning, we decided to head to bed after a fun and successful day 1 of the inaugural baseball adventure.

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