Rockies fan who’s been to every opening day since 1993 has nothing to do this year
Like puppies and grandchildren, Roger Dudley loves all his Rockies opening days equally.
Well, except for 2018.
2018 can bugger off.
“The worst one, of course, was that freezing game, two years ago,” Dudley recalled in a voice cold enough to match his April nadir. “That was the only game I haven’t stayed to see the end of.
“They were down 8-3 and I was shivering and miserable. I decided I wouldn’t keep score for that one. They never would’ve played it if it hadn’t been opening day there. No way they would’ve done it. Just an awful game and an awful day.”
And yet Friday will somehow feel worse. Dudley has been there for every Rockies opening day since 1993, Coors Field or Mile High, snow or shine. A run of 27 straight.
Only thanks to the coronavirus, opening day won’t be there for him. Or his cousin from Pueblo who always comes up to celebrate the rite of spring. Or his posse, the gang that since 1999 have met up for pregame lunch at El Taco De Mexico before embarking on a two-mile trek to the park.
“Opening day has retained that sparkle,” said Dudley, a baseball lifer and a genealogist who retired a year ago from his archivist gig with the Denver Public Library. “To me, it’s like Happy New Year.”
So what the heck do you do when the big day comes and the ball won’t drop?
“There’s nothing to do,” Dudley countered. “I’ve got a couple of (recorded) games I can watch. But it’s like you know the outcomes. And that’s the whole magic of sports: It’s always different. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Dudley grew up about 20 blocks from Bears Stadium/Mile High. That cousin from Pueblo would pop over to catch a Bears game, and the pair had an ingenious way of assuring a free lift back home, decades before Uber. They’d go to a payphone to call Mom at home, let it ring once, then hang up quickly and get their dime back.
“That’s how she’d know that she should come pick us up,” Dudley explained.
He bought 20 tickets for opening day and another 20 for Father’s Day. In December, those looked like the two safest financial plays from what was supposed to be the season’s first three months.
On the bright side, though: No May games? No May fade!
“The Rockies always have problems about a month or two into the season,” Dudley cracked. “Maybe this year, it won’t happen.”
Maybe. Right now, he misses the way the Cracker Jacks shake in the box. He misses the way the ball sounds, live, coming off Nolan Arenado’s bat. He misses grabbing a new opening day pen — another April rite of passage — to use for keeping score.
“And they say, ‘Why do you do that?’” Dudley said. “And I say, ‘Because you never know what you’re going to see. You never know.’ One game I was out there and Todd Helton gets a full count and then fouls off 15 straight pitches and then hits a home run. You just can’t make this stuff up.’”
Not from the couch, anyway. Sing. Grieve. Shout. At 2:10 p.m., pop your head out the nearest window and scream at the Flatirons, if that does the trick.
Pour one out for Roger. Pour one out for Mabel, Meri and Heather Miyasaki, the grandmother-mother-daughter team who’ve graced the last 11 opening days as a trio.
“I think it brings a sense of unity,” Meri said. “It brings people together. Everyone has hope.”
Mabel — nicknamed “G” for “Grandma” — is a Coors institution, 95 years young. The hearing fades. The memory wanes. Social distancing has left her more isolated than usual in assisted-living care.
But whenever she’s within shouting distance of Charlie Blackmon, Tony Wolters or longtime Rockies trainer Keith Dugger, it’s funny how quickly the clouds part.
“Everyone knows G,” Meri chuckled. “Opening day is kind of our family reunion.”
And this spring, the family’s counting an extra blessing: Mabel’s 95th birthday was March 6, and Team Miyasaki celebrated, as they do every year, by taking her down to Salt River Fields for some Cactus League goodness.
“We came home on the seventh and all of sudden, things started falling apart,” Meri recalled. “We’re really grateful that we went when we did.”
Another bright side: If opening day’s in July, at least it won’t be 40 degrees at first pitch.
“My gosh, I saw that forecast (this week),” Meri groaned. “And I thought, ‘I guess there’s one silver lining to not having opening day on Friday.’”
Hope springs eternal.
Even without the spring.
“I’ve got a picture from 2018,” Meri recalled. “I think the temperature was 23 degrees and it was snowing.”
She chuckled again.
“It can snow all it wants on Friday.”