A recent post on the Denver Post’s “On The Rox” blog addressed a question asked during The Press Box, a Rockies radio program. Host Peter Burns bounced the question of unplugging the humidor off his guests. Burns suggested that a return of “high scores and home run bombs” would drive more fans to Rockies games. For those who aren’t familiar with the humidor, it is a storage unit that the baseballs at Coors Field are stored in. When previously stored in a regular cabinet, the balls would dry out, making them harder, and more prone to flying farther. The humidor was introduced in 2002 to help reduce the number of games that finished with football scores, but to also ease the strain on pitching staffs.
I’m going to give Burns a pass as radio programs aim to generate buzz, which he has done by my writing this. All that aside, it’s pretty obvious what would drive more fans to Rockies games; a playoff contender. Denver is a great sports city. As pointed out in a recent comment I received, Denver is only a small market in the eyes of the media. For instance, Broncos games consistently fill Mile High Stadium. The Colorado Avalanche continually receive great support, and with the addition of Hall of Famer Patrick Roy as head coach, that support is likely to grow. Even the Denver Nuggets were in the top half of the league in season attendance for 2012-2013. Hell, the Rockies are ninth in average attendance (34,896) this season, despite falling out of the NL West race and dealing with injuries to their big name players.
Denver is a sports city. The fan base is there for the Rockies. Considering they are at best a middle of the road baseball club, they draw pretty good crowds. The only reason they don’t fill Coors Field is not the lack of population. It’s the lack of winning. Outside of 2007, the Rockies have been nothing more than an average ball team. Even the play of All-Stars Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and most recently Michael Cuddyer aren’t enough to draw the 40,000 crowds Coors Field is capable of holding. To start filling seats, the Rockies need to be consistently relevant. Want to see an example? Look to 2007, which served as revitalization for the franchise. For two months, Denver not only re-discovered their Rockies, they flocked to them.
To drive more crowds to Rockies games, they have to be in the thick of the divisional race, getting to the playoffs every few years, and field a superstar or two. With Tulo and Cargo, they’ve got one piece of the puzzle. VP of Major League operations Bill Gelvett recently stated, “We’re happy with our core group of players…”, and he has a solid core there. Gelvett acknowledges that they are still not to the level of a playoff contender, but from where they were a year ago they are heading in the right direction.
In Denver, the Rox will likely never garner the attention the Broncos get. Football is America’s game now. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have Peyton Manning as your starting quarterback or ESPN, an infamously NFL driven network covering their every move. Bottom line, Denver will always be a football town. But it is a city with plenty to go around. For the Rockies, in the short term it will take another 2007 run to pack Coors Field and generate the memorable “Rock-tober” scene that swept Denver six autumns ago. In the long run, the building blocks are in place to drive even more people to the ballpark. Now it is time for the front office to bring in a power bat and some hurlers to stabilize their rotation.
For now though, we’ll watch the Rockies try to keep from sinking to the bottom of the division. They’ll take the field tonight against the Braves hoping to avoid a four game sweep. Barring a turnaround like 2007, the epic masses won’t be rushing down Blake Street anytime soon. One thing is for certain, if the Rox can start making winning common practice they’ll see attendances of 40,000 plus. After all, they still draw 34,000 as a so-so club. As for the humidor, take it or leave it, it doesn’t really matter. Last time I checked fans only pack the houses of winners.