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A toast to Garrett Atkins

 

Every true baseball fan or sports fan understands what it is like to have a player that they like better than all the rest. Of course you support your whole team, but there is always that one or those few players that stick out to you on a team and that you just are a fan of on a whole different level. For me, at the top of this list is Garrett Atkins. I have been a fan of the Rockies since 1993 and have had quite a few favorite players, but none above Atkins.

I became a fan of Garrett when he first was called up in 2003. I read about his minor league numbers and knew he was a power hitting third baseman who seemed to be dedicated to improving on the aspects of his game. The more I read about Atkins, the more I respected him as a player. Garrett had been drafted by the Mets originally, turning down their offer and going instead to UCLA. He was later drafted by the Rockies. He evolved into my favorite player pretty quickly. He was steady and consistent, not showy, but coming through just when you needed him most. At least that’s what it seemed like to me.  With the other more well known players on the Rockies such as Matt Holliday, Atkins was often overshadowed, but this only made me a bigger fan.

 I had always been a big fan, but before 2007 I hadn’t gone to as many games or met many of the Rockies players. In 2007, I went to spring training for the first time with my mom.  Spring training that year changed everything.  This was also going to be my first time going to a Rockies Photo Day to get pictures with the players. I looked forward to meeting all the guys, but of course I was especially looking forward to meeting Garrett Atkins the very most.  The big day finally came and I was so excited. I wore a Garrett Atkins jersey tee.  Atty was one of the first players I met. I had always heard he was very shy and sometimes that put people off. However, he was very nice to me and seemed excited to be there. He even complimented my shirt.

It was also during this spring training that I had one of my most memorable baseball experiences as a fan. Yes, spring training is practice for the regular season and the games don’t count in the record books, but this moment stood out in my head. The Rockies were playing at their home field in Tucson and there was an unusual downpour of rain. The game was still going on, but almost all the fans had gone into the team store. The Rockies were down at this point as well. My mom is a diehard baseball fan, but she was ready to go with the majority. She wanted me to go in with her, but I stood firmly on this issue. There was no way I was missing a moment. The Rockies were batting and Atty was due up later in the inning. Mom reluctantly left and I remained out in the rain watching my team. Right before Garrett was due up, I moved to this area you could stand by without seats, right behind home plate. The bases were loaded as Atty strode to the plate. I was cheering pretty loudly with what few fans were still left in the seats and gathered to watch the magic unfold. What happened next…Garrett Atkins hit a GRAND SLAM to put the Rockies on top! Not only that, but right afterward the downpour suddenly just about stopped completely and the sun started to come out. I was in heaven, or at least something close to it. People started to make their way back into the seats. One particular gentleman, saw the score and asked me what had happened. I told him the Rockies had gone ahead on a grand slam. Then the man asked me who hit it and I proudly responded that my favorite player, Garrett Atkins had put the Rockies on top. The rain came back and the game was called in the seventh inning, with the Rockies beating the White Sox 5-3.

I went to more games than I had ever before in the 2007 season. I was fortunate enough to encounter Atty as well as many of the other Rockies players when they signed autographs before games.  My mom even took my spring training cactus league Rockies hoodie to Garrett on one of the autograph Sunday games and he was happy to sign it and personalize it to me. He was always very nice when he signed and would even sign multiple items for us if we asked. I was also fortunate enough to go to the regular season photo day at Coors Field in 2007. It was awesome yet again, but a thought comes to my mind when I think of Rockies photo days. I have been lucky enough to go to 5 total (spring training and regular season) photo days… but there is only one player I have been able to get at all 5. Who is it you ask? Why Mr. Atkins himself of course. He also hit the first inside the park homerun ever at Petco Park that year. This was particularly interesting as Atkins has never been known as being particularly fast, in fact Todd Helton even gave Atkins the nickname Fankles, for his supposedly fat ankles…haha.

2007 was a dream season for the Rockies. They made it to the World Series and the miracle season only ended when they ran into a hot Boston Red Sox team.  I was very fortunate to be able to go to the last game. We were down 3-0 in the series at this point, but it was still the World Series and a dream come true for this baseball fan. Aaron Cook pitched the last game and the Rockies were down in the game by a few runs. Atkins came through yet again with a 2 run homer to make it close. We still lost, but I will never forget how excited I was to see my favorite player hit a homer off the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. The other cool thing about Atkins being in the World Series was that he was filming a little group of segments for channel 2 here in Denver. The series was called Atkins All Access and was hosted by Garrett’s personal friend, Eli Stokols who at that time worked for the network. The segments were very entertaining and showed Atkins packing for the world series, at Fenway Park, home with family, and most of all how he was letting his friend Eli experience it all with him. Also, Ryan Spilborghs of the Rockies makes a lively guest appearance. If you would like to see these clips, I have linked to them here.

In 2008, Garrett continued to show consistency as well as his versatility and dedication to the team. Atkins has been a very healthy player, who has rarely gotten hurt over the course of his career. Because of this, he was even nicknamed ‘everyday Atty’. In 08′ Todd Helton was out for a large part of the season, so Atkins moved back to his original position before playing in the major leagues, first base.  He even played second base when Tulo was injured in a road game against the Giants and the Rockies were already waiting for another player to be called up from AAA due to a previous injury. I saw Atkins several times this season as well and finally got my own Garrett Atkins jersey.  I went to the Rockies last home game of the season that year, which I usually try to do anyway.  I didn’t go down to the autograph line that day, but I saw Atkins sign for the whole line of fans for about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, the Rockies got beat by a huge amount that day, but Garrett still gave this fan something to smile about when he hit the ball out of the yard at another season’s end.

2009 wasn’t Garrett Atkins best season. When Clint Hurdle was let go by the Rockies and Jim Tracy became the manager, Ian Stewart became the starter at third base. Atkins started mainly only against some tough lefties. I do remember one game that I went to with my friend Whitney where Atkins came up to pinch hit this season. I was cheering especially loud. The game was tied 5-5 in the eighth inning and we had runners on base.  Atkins ripped a double, which scored two Rockies runs. Whitney and I went crazy and we were both jumping up in the air in a sort of happy, dweeb dance.  It turned out to be the game winner and the Rockies won 7-5. The Rockies returned to the playoffs in 2009 after they won the wild card. Tracy started Atkins against the Phillies’ tough lefty starters. He got a few hits, but the Rockies struggled as a team to hit in the series, with the exception of rookie Carlos Gonzalez and Yorvit Torrealba.  The Rockies were eliminated, but after another great season.

In this entry, I also wanted to touch on the fact how Atkins as a person impacted my liking him so much as a player. I already touched on his TV segments with friend Eli Stokols. One of my favorites was him and Eli playing catch at Fenway Park before one of the games. It’s so cool that he was able to do that for Eli and give him that experience. Garrett also has a strong friendship with former Rockies star Matt Holliday, starting when they were roommates in the minor leagues. Atty even helped with Matt’s kids and stayed with their family during spring training. He also went to college with Phillies star Chase Utley, and was the best man in Chase’s wedding. Lastly, he formed a strong bond with Troy Tulowitzki, to the point where Tulo even said in an article that it would be close to a dream to have Atkins stay with the Rockies for a long time. He also has a close friendship with Ryan Spilborghs, who said Atkins was like the sheriff of the clubhouse. According to Spilly, Atkins always got to batting practice early and tried to make sure guys were as focused as they could be.

As it stands now, Garrett Atkins is probably gone from the team. It isn’t a big surprise to me, I have been very aware of his situation with the team over the years. The last few years I was always holding my breath until the team worked out a one year deal to keep him. It breaks my heart, but it is the reality of the situation. He is still my favorite player and I will always be a big fan of his.           

 

Coping in the Offseason

Wow, I didn’t think it would take me so long to write another blog, but I guess the important thing is that I am back at it now. Although I was saddened by the end result in the playoffs, I was happy with what the Rockies did this season and I know my team is going places this coming season and beyond. Hopefully this post will be the start to me posting more regularly, along with my friend Cory who has recently started his own Rockies blog.

What to talk about in the offseason? Well there are a few good places to start and I figured I would share my methods of coping with the absence of baseball. These ideas work pretty well for fans of any team, so I would just say to insert your own teams into where mine are on here.

First thing that comes to mind for me as a sports nut is following my other favorite teams in different sports. For me this would be the Nuggets and to a smaller degree, the Avalanche. While watching basketball and hockey (same with football) has a different feel, I am certainly grateful to have other sports I can watch and enjoy. Particularly with the Nuggets/NBA, I watch as many games as I can and am really into them. I know basketball is not everyone’s thing, but we have a great team here in Denver that has a lot of energy, heart, and drive. I can’t help but love watching them. I have enjoyed the Avalanche since I was a young girl as well, and although I haven’t watched enough of their games this season, I am very proud of the start they have had and am glad that Adam Foote is the new Avs captain. Super Joe Sakic was/is one of a kind, but Adam Foote is my second favorite hockey player after him and among other great things, he knows this franchise inside and out.
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I don’t mind football either…even though my tastes are slightly weird as I root for the Broncos and Vikings. The thing is though, I never get into it as much as the other sports I mentioned, for a few reasons. I enjoy football much better live, regardless of what level it is and because it is not my favorite sport, I don’t spend much money on it or see it live very often. The other thing that bugs me about football is the short season and small amount of games. Teams play once a week and if they win, you are on a high about that win for a week…however, if they lose, you are one and done for the week and feel bummed. After watched MLB teams playing 6-7 games every single week, it feels like kind of a letdown, just my opinion. Take for example the Broncos this year. They started out great, but have lost their last few games. I don’t believe they are done or out of things by any means, but with the short season I can understand why people are pushing the panic button. I also feel that through the other pro sports, especially if you follow your home state teams, you are able to get to know the players somewhat better than in NFL, just due to more coverage, games etc. I totally respect all the diehard NFL fans though.

In all this talk about other sports though, baseball is still close to my mind and heart. Each season, I have a hard time saying goodbye to the Rockies and baseball in general. I know full well they will be back and better than ever, but it still happens every year. Another way that I have found to deal in the offseason is to build a little bit on my Rockies/baseball collection, slowly as time goes on. I am fortunate to have a lot of things that friends and family members have given me, as well as some special items I bought on my own. I try to find unique things to add to my collection, like my Rockies shoulder bag. I also proudly sleep under a Rockies comforter each night.


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Another way I deal with offseason blues is to watch baseball movies. My favorite baseball movie is not one of the more common ones, although I am hard pressed to find many baseball, or for that matter any sports movies I don’t like. My favorite baseball movie is Little Big League. I’ve loved this flick since my dad rented it for me in 4th grade, after which I bought it and almost completely memorized it. It is about how an 11 year old kid winds up managing the Minnesota Twins. If you haven’t seen it, I would definitely recommend it. Other favorites include Major League, Bull Durham, *61, For Love of the Game, The Rookie, League of Their Own, Rookie of the Year, etc.  I love seeing how many of these I can watch in the offseason…I can only hope they make a movie featuring the Rockies someday.


LITTLE%20BIG%20LEAGUE.jpgBaseball books are great too. I like and recommend all kinds for baseball lovers. I read anything from stats/learning books to biographies on teams or individuals to novels just relating to baseball. It’s also great to read up on the various sites and blogs to see what it is going with all the teams in the offseason, although I hate the reality of seeing some of my favorite players move on. I really want to read Watching Baseball Smarter by Zack Hample, as well as his other books. I plan to post some other good baseball reads and sites on my blog this offseason.

Additionally, I feel I can keep connected with the Rockies in particular by listening to the player batting songs as well as songs played at Coors Field. This music is one of the ways I can feel closer to my team, any time or any place. I really like a lot of the player music, although a few stick out to me such as “I’m a Flirt” by R. Kelly which was Tulo’s old song. For whatever reason, the song just caught on with me and is always playing in my iTunes. Some other favorites are “All the Above” by Maino (Ian Stewart), “Somos De Calle” by Daddy Yankee (Yorvit Torrealba), “The Way I Are” by Timbaland (Garrett Atkins), and “I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas (Rockies montage/celebration song). I feel like I have been hearing I Gotta Feeling a lot in particular this offseason, reminding me of the great times the Rockies have had and the awesome times still to come in 2010.

Finally, I find the very best way to cope with the absence of baseball is by talking to fellow fans. I have made quite a few contacts through my love of the Rockies. Beyond that, some of my closest friendships have come from baseball and I am very grateful for that. Being able to be around and converse with people who understand is a huge benefit and relief when you are really missing your team. Not only that, but you learn so much more about baseball, your team, and other teams from the viewpoints of other fans.

I plan to blog about more things this offseason and look forward to talking to more of my fellow baseball fans. I know these next few months will seem to go on forever and times, but it’s a good time to get rested up and refreshed for next season. Don’t worry…’10 will be here before we know it!

Cue Intro

Hello, my name is Nikki and I am a Rockaholic. :) After much procrastinating, I have finally created an MLBlog which I will look forward to updating. I have wanted to do this for awhile since becoming friends with iliveforthis and Kylie, along with a few others. I enjoyed reading their blogs so much and this seemed like a great thing to start doing since I love the Colorado Rockies, baseball, blogging, and writing in general.

  Even though this might seem like a late time to be starting a baseball blog, what more appropriate time to begin then the start of the postseason. October Rocktober…the month that begins that time of year that we all start anticipating at the begininng of spring training. This is what we all fight and claw for…what we wish and dream about…the thing that every baseball fan lives and dies for. I feel so lucky to have my team be part of it this year and to follow all the stories of other teams’ journeys to fall baseball, past and present.

I plan to update as much as I can, about a variety of things in the postseason including my own personal reactions, feelings/passions of other fans, and of course about the Rockies’ and their celebrations and struggles. Once the postseason is over, I still feel like I will have plenty to update about. I already have a few ideas including sharing about my most memorable experiences as a fan this season, ideas for coping in the offseason, player profiles, and more.

Now, a little about myself as a fan and a few things about my individual fandom. I pretty much started being a baseball fan in 1993 when the Rockies came to Colorado. I was fortunate enough to have a grandfather and father who loved sports, so they taught me the game. I followed pretty consistently through the years and feel that I learned more about the team each year that I followed them (and I still have a lot to learn). I first witnessed the amazing experience that is spring training and went to my first photo day there in 2007…two of my favorite things in the world. It was so neat to be able to talk to a bunch of the guys up close and I think it really added to my experience as a fan. I also felt like it was around that time period that I really started talking to people on the internet about the Rockies through message boards such as the team mb and the Purple Row on SBnation, as well as meeting more friends through baseball. It is such an important thing to have people that understand what you are going through as a fan and who can relate.

As for personal player favorites, I have a few. I honestly tend to like most guys that play for the Rockies, but a few stand out to me.

 

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weiss.jpg In the earlier years, my two favorites would have to be Walt Weiss and Dante Bichette. In the later years, I have a few more favorites. I think this is mostly because I became even more involved and evolved as a fan.

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My first favorite in the early era was Matt Holliday…I watched him grow and blossom as a player, which will always be special to me. Even with the contraversy that surrounds him now, I will always think of him and his time here in the purest way.

 

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My next favorite player is the player who I consider to be my favorite of all time and the player I have followed most in depth…Garrett Atkins. I have followed him since he began in the majors and my appreciation for him never wavers. He has had an off year this year, but I don’t doubt his numbers and success will come back. I have also had more encounters with him as a fan than I have with most other players and though I admit to being biased, he has been nothing but nice to me and seems to notice and appreciate fan support greatly.

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Third on this list would be Troy Tulowitzki aka Tulo. I have admired Tulo literally since he was interviewed in the FSN booth right after being drafted. His dedication, drive, passion, effort, skills, and just general respect for the game have had me hooked from the beginning and I have never wavered.

 

cargosnowangel.jpg Last, but certainly not least, is Carlos Gonzalez aka CarGo. My fandom of CarGo has been different from most, in that I definitely wasn’t a big fan of him from the start and he just grew on me as time went on. I admire CarGo for many reasons, not the least of which being that he was on two other teams (Diamondbacks & A’s) who didn’t give him much of a chance, especially the former. Despite much frustration and hardships, including during the start of his time here, CarGo didn’t give up. He just gave it his all and kept moving forward with the same confidence and great attitude that turned me into one of his biggest fans. He has an energy that is contagious and is wonderful to the fans. I consider meeting CarGo one of my best fan experiences. I think he will be a great asset to this team for Rocktober ’09 and beyond.

My other big favorites would include: Chris Iannetta, Ryan Spilborghs, Matt Daley, Josh Fogg, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, and many more! As for favorites from other teams: Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, Ryan Howard, Homer Bailey, Dontrelle Willis, Tim Lincecum, Juan Pierre, Vladimir Guerrero, Josh Hamilton, Adam Wainwright, Torii Hunter, AJ Pierzynski, and many more. Also, my AL team is the Minnesota Twins.

Sorry to have written a novel, but I look forward to reading more MLBlogs and writing more entries!

As always, Go Rockies!

 

 

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