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Big League Stew

The 10 best things about being a Rockies fan

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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(AP/Getty)

The request we're sending to bloggers of all 30 teams this spring is a simple one: What are the 10 best things about being a fan of your favorite team? What features of the franchise have you excited for opening day and what keeps you coming back year after year?

Over the next few weeks, we'll give each of the 30 teams a day in the spotlight, showcasing the icons and traditions that make each big-league hamlet special. Up next is our own Mark Townsend, the resident Rockies rooter around these parts.

1. The Coors Field experience: From the dramatic views of the majestic Rocky Mountains beyond the left-field stands. to the purple row signifying one mile above sea level, there's no better place to take in a baseball game than the gem constructed at 20th and Blake in downtown Denver, Colorado.

And oh the baseball game you're likely to see. Granted, the installation of a baseball-preserving humidor back in 2002 helped bring the offensive numbers back to earth, but the spacious outfield, rarefied air, and the opportunity to score runs in bunches remain. That gives every game an unpredictable feel, which to be honest is one the most thrilling aspects of being a Rockies fan.

Of course, it can also be the most excruciating when it's the opponent making a late-inning surge, but when taking everything into consideration — including the Mountain Ranch Club down the right-field line and the Sandlot Brewery — the overall experience and excitement far outweigh the pain and frustration.

2. The birth of Rocktober: In just over three weeks time, the 2007 Rockies went from an ordinary fourth-place team to starring down Josh Beckett in Game 1 of the World Series at Fenway Park. It was a stunning and miraculous stretch of baseball that had never been seen before, and will likely never be duplicated. It simply defied logic. And in many ways, it redefined the way fans, players, executives and writers look at the standings.

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(AP)

Twenty-one victories in twenty-two games. A historic march to October baseball that was immortalized in one slogan: Rocktober. A slogan that has since been repackaged in cities as far west as San Francisco, all the way to Milwaukee, but never with the same meaning. Rocktober was special, unique and it's ours. Forever. Regardless of what happens this season and beyond, no one can take away the impact those three weeks had on our lives, and on the game of baseball.

3. The sweet swing of Carlos Gonzalez: Matt Holliday has a pretty swing, too... for a right-handed hitter. However, once it became evident he would be leaving Denver — whether it by trade or via free agency — we figured there would be no way to replace his production or replicate the impact he had on the entire lineup.

And then Dan O'Dowd shipped Holliday to the Oakland A's, and back came this raw 23-year-old kid named Carlos Gonzalez. The rest, as they say, was history. Production? Check. Impact? Check. Beauty of swing on a scale of one to 10? Fifteen.

4. The Blake Street Bombers: The Rockies haven't jammed a ton of success into their two-decade existence, but they've certainly filled it with colorful characters and fun clubhouses. No clubhouse more fun than when a group of sluggers collectively known as the Blake Street Bombers came together in the mid-'90s to light up scoreboards all over the National League.

Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga and Vinny Castilla made up the core of that group. Men such as Ellis Burks and Mike Kingery have also been accredited members for a period of time, but regardless of the combination, they're the players who gave the Rockies their original identity in Major League Baseball. They made it fun and meaningful to be a Rockies fan right out of the gate. And for me, personally, they took a game that I enjoyed playing growing up and made it a game I loved and wanted to be a part of in one fashion or another.

5. Troy Renck on Twitter: Few beat writers are as accessible and cordial to fans as the Denver Post's Troy Renck. Despite the tireless hours he puts into his work, Renck always makes time for social media interaction, and always provides informative and entertaining responses, often to repetitive questions. His patience is commendable. As is his honesty. It makes Rockies fans a little bit smarter, while keeping us in touch with reality.

6. Troy Tulowitzki's daily defensive gem: The Rockies all-world shortstop has a knack for making the impossible look routine. Every day you can expect to see Tulowitzki tracking down a baseball he has no business getting to, or making an accurate off-balance throw from some ridiculous angle that nabs a speedy baserunner by two steps. You always know his play is coming, yet it still has the same jaw-dropping effect every time.

7. The highly entertaining television ads: While on field expectations tend to vary from season-to-season, the anticipation and expectations for the Rockies yearly television ads only seem to grow. Since the first batch began airing prior to the 2007 season, the Rockies have managed to produce a gem or two every year, including giving fans a rare look inside the humidor, a really unusual meeting at the altar, and a spoof of Matt Holliday's controversial chin-first slide against the San Diego Padres.

8. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick: As if the Coors Field experience wasn't enough, the Rockies also recently upgraded their spring training facilities — for the fans' benefit and their own — when they partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks to build Salt River Fields at Talking Stick just outside of Scottsdale.

The facility opened for business in February of 2011 and has already been named Ballpark Digest's Ballpark of the Year for its relaxed atmosphere, ideal spring weather and the player accessibility it affords the fans. Also, aside from the ballpark itself, the Salt River Fields complex includes six full-size practice diamonds for each team that allow fans to take in and enjoy every aspect of training camp.

It really is a dream complex that baseball fans from anywhere around the world would enjoy, but it's an especially nice treat for Rockies backers.

9. We're staying in the National League: This one is personal. Hearing the Rockies mentioned as even a remote candidate to move to the American League had me a bit unnerved. Label me a purist or whatever else you'd like, I simply prefer the National League style of play, the flow, the in-game strategy, the day-to-day roster decisions, and all of the other intricacies that go into baseball being played the way it was designed to be played.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate the American League. I would just dread having to sit through six months of games played under those rules. And to be honest, as an Illinois resident, I also prefer the National League ballparks within driving distance to the American League parks, so it really works out on every level.

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Todd Helton has played all 2,054 games of his career with the Rockies. (AP)

10. Fifteen years of Todd Helton ... and counting: This past season, Todd Helton became the 34th player in baseball history to play 2,000 or more games while playing for only one team. Having this opportunity to speak for Rockies fans, I want to express what a pleasure it has been for us to witness every last one of those games, and oh how we wish Father Time would somehow allow him to play 2,000 more.

It's unfortunate the rest of the country has never really had the opportunity to observe and appreciate what Helton has consistently brought to the table from day one until now. No, he's most certainly not the same player he was in his prime, but he has always been the same man with the same drive, the same professional approach, and if you ask Tim Lincecum, is still among the toughest outs in the game.

For the past few seasons, our connection with Helton has grown even more as his injuries have mounted. His highs have been our highs. His lows have been our lows. When he's hurting physically, we feel the pain right along with him.

Regardless of how or when it ends for Helton, we'll always be so grateful for that one lasting image of pure exhilaration on his face when the Rockies clinched the National League pennant in 2007. Every bit of that moment felt infinitely more special because Helton wasn't only a part of it, but a big part of it, and that we all got to share it with him.

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Big League Stew encourages you to join in the fun! Please share these lists with your fellow fans on Facebook,  tweet us your suggestions with the #BLS10best hashtag or just use the comment section below to tell us your favorite things about being a fan of the Colorado Rockies.

Previous "10 Best Things": Detroit TigersCincinnati RedsKansas City RoyalsOakland AthleticsMinnesota TwinsLos Angeles AngelsArizona DiamondbacksSan Francisco Giants,Baltimore OriolesMilwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees


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