The return of the Blake Street Bombers did not disappoint in any manner. Not during the pre-game celebration of the Colorado Rockies’ 30th Anniversary, on the field in a pair of wins over the San Francisco Giants and certainly not in a media availability with the club’s first icons.
Larry Walker, Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette gathered in front of the pitcher’s mound at Coors Field to throw out the first pitch, but not before several other former teammates and notable Rockies were introduced for the 30th Anniversary celebration.
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— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 17, 2023
Colorado won 9-5 in the first game of the day and was led by rookie Ezequiel Tovar who had a career-high four runs batted in. In the nightcap, there was more celebration for the 43,885 in attendance during a 5-2 win that clinched a doubleheader sweep, a first for the Rockies since 2014.
Between games of the twin bill, the Bombers spent 30 minutes regaling the media with stories of their playing days, ideas for improving the state of the club as well as complimenting some of the current members of the roster.
“I watch a lot of games,” Bichette said. “And I love the shortstop, (Ezequiel) Tovar. I think he’s gonna be a player, obviously. The Nolan Jones kid I think there’s some big numbers there and that’s going to come.”
Bichette, most known for his walk-off home run in the 14th inning of the first regular season game at Coors Field in 1995, also recognized Brendan Rodgers, a player he coached when the second baseman was only in T-ball. “I have big big dreams for Brendon. Man, he’s gonna be good player one day so that’s three guys that really I see,” before adding, “And I know the guy in center can really, really go get it and throw out there.”
Burks, the first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 30 bases with the Rockies, complimented the organization’s farm system as well as current talents Tovar and Jones. “As far as the future is concerned, just like anyone you have to learn the different pitchers in the league, kind of make your adjustments and that’s everyone. You have to make the adjustments and I think these guys are on their way,” he shared.
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— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 16, 2023
The quartet was also asked about recreating the concept of the Blake Street Bombers, building a roster that could outslug opponents similar to the 1995 roster that earned the first ever National League Wild Card.
“Anytime you could put up 7, 8, 9,10 runs a game, you should do pretty good. But then of course, if you’re given up 8, 9,10,11 runs a game you know you’re kind of chasing your tail,” Walker said. “I think the farm system needs to be built a little bit to have that pool that you can go grab some good players that can come on up. So I think they’re perhaps running a little thin right now in that department. That’s a process that’s got to start and it doesn’t happen over a couple of years. It takes some time.”
Castilla, who’s probably witnessed more games at 20th and Blake than any other player thanks to his role with the team the past 16 years as a special assistant to the general manager, sees an opportunity at altitude.
“This ballpark is for scoring runs and having some guys that can scare people,” Castilla said. “I remember when — usually we were the last group hitting (batting practice) when the (other) team is stretching. And we started yelling, ‘E-R-A! E-R-A!’ Because those guys were scared to come and pitch here. So I mean that’s gonna help a lot.”
The Blake Street Bombers are back in town!
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Walker, the club’s only member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, spoke about staying connected to the Rockies and being a resource to players of today. Ultimately, coaching isn’t his forte as explaining the secrets to his success is much more challenging than the specific actions that led to the success.
“For me (the mental part of the game) dominates any part of the game, of anything physical,” Walked said. “All these kids in this clubhouse are Major League ballplayers. But are they Major League ballplayers between their ears? I think that’s what more people need to work on than the actual physical part of it or the playing part.”
The subject of analytics and the modern game was discussed by the four men as well. Bichette loves the metrics, but feels they may be applied in the wrong manner. Decent concepts, but it doesn’t build championships. Launch angle? That’s just not for every player, according to Burks. “None of us were fly ball hitters. We were all line drive hitters,” Bichette added.
“I’m not a fan of the extra inning starting a guy on second. I hate that,” Walker said. “I’d rather if they want to do it in the 10th inning, how about we started a runner at first base, not at second. Or don’t put the guy in at second til maybe the 11th or 12th inning. At least have a couple of innings to win it in normal baseball fashion.”
“Why don’t you just have a Home Run Derby?,” Bichette joked.
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The only thing missing from the day was Andrés Galarraga, the fifth and final member of the Blake Street Bombers. The first star of the Rockies and owner of 399 career home runs has mostly kept to his home in West Palm Beach, Fla. since his retirement in 2005. “I’ve got his number and we live in the same complex and I don’t see him,” Walker kidded. “All he does is golf. He’s on the course every day, all day.”
Saturday’s wins gave the Rockies their first five-game winning streak of the year and secured their first series win over a National League West rival all season long. The good vibes were sullied when Kyle Freeland exited game two after only three innings of work. The right oblique strain is being described as mild for the 30-year-old starter.
A total of 19 former Rockies were present during the pre-game ceremony, not to mention Alan Roach, who was the team’s public address announcer from 1993-2006.
Roger Bailey, Brandon Barnes, Jeff Barry, Jason Bates, Jeff Cirillo, Jason Hirsh, Mark Knudson, Gabe Kapler, Matt Lindstrom, Jose Ortiz, Jayhawk Owens, Ryan Spilborghs, Denny Stark, Ian Stewart and Cory Sullivan were in attendance and introduced by current public address announcer Reed Saunders.