Not just the fact that they are back in Colorado ready to open their season on Friday. They are back in the sense that once again they are at the forefront of Colorado sports.
When the honeymoon ended between the Rockies and their fans, a honeymoon that lasted the better part of five years, a marriage didn't begin, a divorce was in the works. Instead of fans simply being used to having baseball in their backyard, they abandoned their team.
The fans weren't solely to blame for the split. The Rockies front office was in disarray, stuck in an identity crisis that would take the team through dark days. Because of the early love affair with the Rockies, ownership thought that they were a big-name franchise, a place where big-name free agents would desire to come. Finally, after outbidding the New York Mets for Mike Hampton, and watching that move blow up in their face, the Rockies looked in the mirror and realized that they play in Denver, not New York, Boston or Los Angeles. The money simply isn't their to miss on a big signing.
While the front office discovered who they were, and what they needed to do to become competitive, the fans didn't understand the about-face. They didn't understand why the team was allowing names like Jose Hernandez to take the field at shortstop, and Jeromy Burnitz to play outfield everyday.
When the young crop of Rockies finally arrived in the big leagues, fans were still skeptical. They thought that the club was simply going to deal the talent once they reached their expensive arbitration years. It was fun to watch the Rockies, but fans were hesitant to jump back on the bandwagon in earnest, for fear of clinging on to a favorite player who would simply be killing time before getting their career started with a big-name team.
Apparently this winter was what it took to finally lure the fans back. The Rockies front office proved their naysayers wrong, signing not only Troy Tulowitzki to a long-term deal, but also locking up Carlos Gonzalez, a Scott Boras client, to a long-term deal of his own.
In addition to those signings, the Rockies also brought in Ty Wigginton, a proven hitter who can play multiple positions, as a fall back, just in case Ian Stewart doesn't turn the corner, or if Todd Helton can't find a way to stay healthy.
For years, the Rockies were a popular pick for either last in the National League West, or second to last. The questions were not whether they could contend, but if they could avoid losing 90 games.
For fans, going to Coors Field was just something to do on a beautiful summer night in Colorado. Baseball was just a distraction until the Broncos opened training camp in late-July.
Those days are over.
The Rockies are not only beyond the days of being the NL West doormats, they are poised to be the team wiping their feet on the other teams in the division. With new hitting coach Carney Lansford insisting that he has the formula that will help the club get over their road-hitting woes, and the security of knowing that the core of the club will be in purple pinstripes for years to come, their is reason to be hopeful.
For the past four seasons, the excitement for the Rockies has been simmering. Finally, as the Rockies roll into the beginning of their 2011 campaign, the fans excitement level is boiling over.
Now, with the fans back on their side, it is time for the team to capitalize on the field, and win the hearts of the fans back for good.
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