This summer, keep an eye on the upcoming weekend’s weather forecast, and when you see cooler temperatures on the way, don’t miss the opportunity to catch some minor league baseball action as the Grand Junction Rockies continue through their inaugural season on the Western Slope.
For me, it’s always been a six-hour drive to Denver to satisfy my baseball fix, but with the Colorado Rockies’ rookies-level affiliate just an hour or so up the road, getting that fix will be even easier and less expensive.
My parents, who traveled to Montrose last week from Florida for various Fourth of July celebrations, were scheduled to leave Grand Junction Regional Airport Sunday morning, at 6 a.m. Not wanting to set the alarm for 3 a.m. the next morning, we decided to spend the night in Grand Junction. And it just so happened that the Grand Junction Rockies were set to play the Ogden Raptors Saturday night, at 7:05 p.m.
Having caught a few minor league games with my parents in Daytona Beach, Fla., in the past, it was an easy decision. We’d grab a pre-game burger, then a few pre-game beers and then head into the stadium for a few more beers and a ballgame. Maybe some peanuts and sunflower seeds? Sure, why not?
As we drove north from Montrose, it seemed like the game might not happen after all, with most of the Western Slope covered with dark and threatening thunderstorms. In this hot and dry year, nobody, absolutely nobody, would complain about getting some rain, but I was going to be disappointed if the game got rained out.
Regardless of the weather, we stuck to our plans, catching a cab downtown for a burger at Bin 707 (225 N. 5th St.). As previously touted in The Watch’s regular Dish column on great places to eat, the burger at Bin 707 is to die for. Along with a long list of great apps and great beers, Bin 707 is the place for the perfect pre-baseball game meal. I say this because we weren’t alone.
As we devoured our burgers, two parties sat down next to us, with the same idea in mind: A burger, a beer and then a ballgame. It reminded me of all the pregame rituals in downtown Denver before Colorado Rockies games, or before any professional sport in any city, for that matter. Businesses in and around Grand Junction’s Suplizio Field must be excited to see baseball fans around town at a time when the stadium was traditionally empty.
“It’s fantastic,” Tosha Dixon, a bartender at the Ale House, told KREX News on July 5. “We get people pre-gaming in here before; they have some amazing food and beer before they go down – we couldn’t ask for better business. Everyone that goes to the Rockies game, if they’re locals or from out of town, are great people, and are in great moods, great energy.”
I’m not sure I could put it better. For the first time in awhile, there seemed to be a new energy in town. While Suplizio Field doesn’t have the biggest capacity around, there sure were a lot of people out and about on a Saturday night, enjoying the cool evening in preparation for some minor league baseball.
While we enjoyed our food at Bin 707, a downpour ensued, and with just over an hour before the first pitch, it looked like the game was in jeopardy. But just like most Colorado rains, the thunderstorm left as fast as it came, and it left behind a perfect coolness in the air.
Keeping up our pre-game festivities, we made the walk over to North Avenue to Wrigley Field Sports Bar and Grill (1810 North Ave.) for another cold beer. At this establishment, with a ticket in hand, your first beer, no matter what size, is just $2. We sucked down tall 20-ounce, snappy cold, beers, and again, we weren’t the only ones.
Finally, at Suplizio Field later that evening, I couldn’t have asked for a better scene. Deep purple clouds and a sunset. The crack of a baseball bat. A terribly blown call by the second base umpire. A ballpark with a real ballpark feel. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” A few RBIs. Tense moments with runners in scoring position. Peanut shells floating in the foam of my beer. It was real baseball, right in our backyard. Plus, who knows when you will get an up-close viewpoint on one of the next stars of the Majors?
Unfortunately, the GJ Rockies lost Saturday evening’s tilt, 7-4, snapping a Rockies four-game winning streak and putting them at 10-10 on the season. The loss wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits, however. It was simply a great season of baseball and one of the best new things to come to the Western Slope in a long time. It’s affordable fun (ticket prices max out at just $10) and everyone, including the area businesses, are enjoying everything it’s bringing in.
A season schedule, standings and available tickets for the Grand Junction Rockies can be found at milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t4364.
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