Sunday, May 22, 2016

Joey's World Tour: Mile High Clubbed

Greetings from 5,280 feet above sea level! (Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Hi, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran and it's time for me to share my latest story as I make another stop on my world tour of ballparks.  If you recall, the last stop I made was in Cincinnati, where I witnessed the Mets clinching the 2015 National League East division title.  But as the saying goes, "It was the best of the times.  It was the worst of times."  And whereas the Cincinnati trip was as good as it gets, the trip to the Mile High city was ... let's just say the opposite.

I'm not concerned about spoiler alerts.  I'll just come out and say it.  The Mets were clubbed by the Rockies in a three-game sweep.  New York scored just nine runs in the three games - the fewest they had ever scored in a series at Coors Field.  How bad was it for the Mets during the lost weekend in Denver?

They lost the first game to Jon Gray.  It was Gray's first big league win.  It took him 14 starts in parts of two seasons to earn that elusive first victory.

They lost the second game to Eddie Butler.  This is the same Eddie Butler who has a 6.70 ERA and 1.82 WHIP at Coors Field in three seasons as a Rockie.

They lost the third game to Tyler Chatwood.  Well, Chatwood's a good pitcher.  But the Rockies' bullpen continued to stymie the Mets.

In the three games, Colorado's relief staff allowed no runs in eight innings.  The two main relievers who befuddled the Mets' batsmen were closer Jake McGee and set-up man Charlie Sheen (but you can call him Carlos Estevez).  Estevez was anything but a Wild Thing, as he struck out four batters and walked none in two innings.  Meanwhile, McGee earned saves in all three games, also walking none while fanning three in the trio of victories.  Prior to the sweep, Estevez had a 6.00 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP, while McGee was one of the worst closers in baseball, posting a 4.97 ERA and a .300/.364/.480 slash line against him prior to the series against the Mets.

Apparently, the Mets didn't get the memo that they were facing lousy pitchers at Coors Field.

How could the Mets miss this large sign letting them know where they were?  (Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

But enough about the games.  Let's talk about what I did in and around the ballpark.  Baseball results notwithstanding, I actually had a fun time in Denver and the surrounding areas in Colorado.

Inside the ballpark, there are many things that you're not going to find in any other stadiums.  For example, one of the first things you'll notice when you look up is a purple row among the sea of green seats where the fannies can rest their fannies.  That row is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level, or exactly one mile - also known as the distance Yoenis Cespedes hits balls in batting practice.

Unlike Citi Field (and most other ballparks), you're allowed to walk down to the seats behind home plate during batting practice.  Another thing I noticed was that even though ushers at every section in the park don't allow you to go to your seat until an at-bat is completed (after all, that is proper baseball etiquette), they don't check your ticket to see if you actually belong in that section.  Good to know in case I pay for $4 tickets in the Rockpile (the area with bleacher-style seats high above straightaway center field) and want to move down a little closer to the action.

But when I don't mind being a mile high in the stadium, I can relax in the new Rooftop area high above the right field corner.  Up there, they have a few full bars with lots of domestic and craft beers, a lounge area, HEAT (for those cold early and late season games) and good music (for when the crack of the bat doesn't provide you with enough sonic stimulation).

In case you forgot, I'm not just the Studious Metsimus roving reporter.  I'm also the culinary expert.  So my time at Coors Field wouldn't be complete without discussing some of the food choices inside the park.  Here's the first thing I noticed about the food.  It's reasonably priced!  You basically have to have a seafood option or a large barbecue plate to spend more than ten bucks on one item.  The same thing applies to adult beverages.  A margarita in a small cup at Citi Field will cost you $12.  At Coors Field, a slightly larger cup is only $8.25.  And they put plenty of salt around the rim, as opposed to the ones sold at Citi Field.  (My Studious Metsimus colleagues filed that report, as I'm too young to partake in those types of drinks.)

A great place to eat inside the ballpark is the Smokehouse.  (The full name is the Smokehouse at the Blue Moon Co. at the Sandlot, which sounds too much like it should be run by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County on Planet Earth in the Milky Way Galaxy.)  In addition to having just about every kind of meat available for nachos, they had excellent baked potatoes with lots of free toppings. (Bacon is considered a free topping here - yes, please!)

There's also a Helton's Burger Shack in the left field corner, which features a burger and sauce made from brisket, shoulder and sirloin.  Forget the fries when you order this burger.  You have to go with the humongous onion rings as your side.  Seriously, they're huge.

If you're craving Italian food, the ballpark has a special wing dedicated to delicacies from the country shaped like a boot.  And for dessert, you can have a Berrie-Kabob, which is a misspelled berry on a skewer.  Actually, I kid.  It's actually strawberries and bananas covered in white or milk chocolate all pierced by a long stick.  I may have asked for a couple dozen of these.

Smokehouse and Helton Shack Burger photos courtesy of the Denver Post.  All other photos by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus.

The delicious food helped ease the pain of the three losses suffered by the Mets.  But Coors Field also brought back painful memories.  For example, the Rockies are very proud of their lone National League pennant, and they like to remind all those who enter the park with banners and sections of the scoreboard devoted to their one World Series appearance in 2007.  If you recall, that was the year the Mets gift wrapped the division title to the Phillies, while the Rockies waltzed by the Mets for the wild card, which led to an unlikely pennant for Colorado's baseball club that in the minds of most Mets fans should have been won by New York.

Thinking of the 2007 season upset me more than it should have, so I was joined by my sister, Iggy, as we decided to escape into the Rockies team store.  There we were met by a wall of Dingers, where we were greatly outnumbered by the effigies of the Rockies mascot.  But at least Iggy made a friend or three when she noticed some bears in Rockies shirts.

Now that we're talking about the past, I should mention that prior to last year, the Mets hadn't appeared in a World Series since 2000, and the player who helped propel them to the Fall Classic that year was NLCS MVP Mike Hampton.  The same Mike Hampton left the Mets at the end of that season to enroll his kids in the fine Colorado school system.  (Never mind the nine-figure, long-term contract given to him by the Rockies.  It was the schools that made him sign it, dadgummit!)

Hampton may not have replicated his success on the mound as a member of the Rockies in 2001, but he did do quite well at the plate that year, winning a Silver Slugger Award, which the Rockies celebrate with a banner in the field level concourse.  On a related note, the Rockies also like to point out who they defeated in the first game ever played at Coors Field in 1995.  The large letters made it hard to miss.

Photos by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus

Although Coors Field is a gem of a ballpark, the real gem in the state is the Rocky Mountains.  So I took a short trip up to Juniper Pass, which is approximately 40 miles west of downtown Denver and 11,020 feet above sea level.  My driver could have gone up to Mount Evans, which was a few miles up the road at an altitude of over 12,000 feet, but the area was still closed due to winter conditions.  In mid-May, mind you.  But that's the Rocky Mountains for you.

At the slightly lower Juniper Pass, the mountain roads were clear of frozen precipitation, but there was still plenty of snow to see.  I probably should have worn my hood as the temperature was in the upper 30s there, whereas it was in the upper 50s at Denver's lower altitude.

The views from Juniper Pass were absolutely incredible.  The air is crisp and you can hear sounds from miles away (not that there are many sounds at 11,000 feet).  But because the air is thinner, you get winded very quickly.  I can only imagine how much of a hard time Bartolo Colon would have had running around the bases had Petco Park been located somewhere in Juniper Pass instead of San Diego.

My butt was frozen in this photo.  (Photos by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

We came.  We saw.  But the Rockies conquered.  That was pretty much the story on this latest stop of Joey's World Tour of ballparks.  But at least we enjoyed some good food and some breathtaking views.  And because of the altitude, some of it was literally breathtaking.  I mean, it was hard to breathe once we passed 10,000 feet!

Coors Field is definitely a ballpark I would visit again.  Hopefully, next time the Mets will remember to pack their bats when they depart for Denver.  They should also pack their scouting reports so that they don't think guys like Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Tyler Chatwood are the second coming of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.  (PSSST, here's a little secret.  They're also not as good as John Smiley, Zane Smith and Randy Tomlin, for those of you who are more experienced Mets fans.)

I'd like to look a little happier in photos the next time I go to Coors Field than I did when I took this final photo in front of the scoreboard after the Rockies completed their sweep of the Mets.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you on the road wherever my baseball tour takes me next.

There was no sunshine for me or the Mets on this cloudy day.  (Photo by Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

For previous installments of Joey's World Tour, please click on the links below, where you will be entertained by Joey's wit, photos and love of ballpark cuisine:

World Tour Stop #1: Baltimore
World Tour Stop #2: Washington, DC
World Tour Stop #3: Pittsburgh
World Tour Stop #4: Texas
World Tour Stop #5: Los Angeles
World Tour Stop #6: San Diego
World Tour Stop #7: Toronto
World Tour Stop #8: Chicago
World Tour Stop #9: Milwaukee
World Tour Stop #10: Seattle
World Tour Stop #11: Cleveland
World Tour Stop #12: Brooklyn (Ebbets Field site) and Manhattan (Polo Grounds site)
World Tour Stop #13: Baltimore (again) and Pittsburgh (part deux)
World Tour Stop #14: Cincinnati

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