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Sports editor’s heaven: 4 ballgames in 6 days

Starting with the photo above and moving clockwise: Troy Tulowitzki (2) watches Cards catcher Yadier Molina catch his foul popup; Amtrak’s Southwest Chief passes Central Park’s diamond in Trinidad, Colo.; a night game in Colorado Springs; two Grand Junction Rockies on their way to the dugout at Sam Suplizio Field.

Rio Rancho Observer—GARY HERRON photos

Yup, time for another vacation column extolling the virtues of America’s pastime.

If you know me, you know this ain’t about the World Cup. I have, however, gone on record predicting the score from the championship game, which I did four years ago: 1-0.

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Not wanting to sound exactly like James Earl Jones’ character in “Field of Dreams,” I had the opportunity to reflect on baseball while visiting four ballparks during a six-day stretch last weekend.

Is there a common denominator? I wondered.

Here are the games, going from top to bottom (Major Leagues to Independent ball):

Denver: The Rockies, “my team,” you could say, were without Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado and Michael Cuddyer, three of their stars, and playing the rubber game of their three-game series with St. Louis.

What made this Coors Field game memorable was the MLB debuts of the starting pitchers, the Cardinals’ Marco Gonzales, who grew up in nearby Fort Collins, and the Rockies’ Yohan Flande, just promoted from triple-A Colorado Springs.

St. Louis scored a total of five runs over the final three innings to turn a 6-4 deficit into a 9-6 win.

Parking within a block of Coors Field costs $30. (We took the bus.)

Colorado Springs: The Rockies’ triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, play at Security Service Field on the east side of “The Springs.”

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More bad pitching and sloppy fielding made this a one-sided rout, won by the Iowa Cubs, 16-3. The I-Cubs led 11-3 at the end of six innings, which was enough for us.

Parking costs $5.

Grand Junction: Here’s something you don’t see at big-league games, or even at most minor-league games: players wandering from the clubhouse to their dugout from behind the bleachers, where the fans have easy access to them to ask for an autograph or merely say “hi.”

Most of the Grand Junction Rockies recently signed their contracts, having just been drafted a few weeks earlier. We had some great seats, just three rows behind the backstop.

This is basically the bottom of the professional baseball food chain, so bad pitching, sloppy fielding and mental miscues are expected.

“It’s like watching an over-sized Little League game,” confides a fan.

The Grand Junction Rockies ultimately have us see three Rockies teams lose in as many games: Idaho Falls Chukars 10, Grand Junction 3.

Parking is free.

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Trinidad: It’s Saturday night in historic Trinidad, home to the independent Pecos League Triggers, a team we became intrigued with the Triggers after watching a recent Fox Sports series on this team’s 2013 season.

About 100 fans turned out on a gorgeous summer evening for the Triggers’ game vs. the Alpine Cowboys.

It’s a 12-11 slugfest, won by the Cowboys, with more sloppy fielding, bad pitching (why does every relief pitcher seem to walk the first batter he faces?) and some mental blunders.

The highlight of this game was meeting the team’s owner — you’d never see the Colorado Rockies owner schmoozing with the fans behind home plate — who seemed pretty busy “putting out fires” all game.

Her name is Kim (Stine-baugh) Schultz and, talk about a small world, she graduated Valley High in Albuquerque in 1987.

There aren’t any promotions, parking is free, the food tastes great and it may have been the most enjoyable.

So here are the commonalities of the four levels of America’s pastime: Sloppy play exists at all levels, pitchers have trouble throwing strikes, fans love their teams, fans can’t stay focused on the games because they have to stay connected to the world for even a few hours on their electronic devices, and the umpires are always wrong.

Really, the basic differences are the prices of the tickets (and parking), and MLB fans love wearing replica jerseys of their heroes.

 

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