With six Opening Days on this date, April 1 has been the starting point for more seasons than any other on the calendar: 1997, 2002, 2003, 2008, 2011 and 2013.
While Colorado is 15-12 on Opening Day all-time, only one of those April 1 openers has resulted in a win. Even more sadly, just one of the aforementioned years produced a winning record (1997).
The 1997 season started with a whimper against the Cincinnati Reds as Kevin Ritz made his second consecutive Opening Day start, the first pitcher to do so. He did not record an out until the seventh batter of the game.
Featured in the Reds lineup during their 11-4 victory over the Purples were two legends, albeit, in different sports: Barry Larkin (Baseball Hall of Fame, Class of 2012) and Deion Sanders (Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2011).
After five seasons in Denver, 1997 would be the final season for several of the original Rockies, including one of the Blake Street Bombers.
Andrés Galarraga, cornerstone of the inaugural 1993 club and first All-Star in franchise history, signed with Atlanta at 36-year-old in the offseason on a lucrative three-year, $24.75M deal that would find the Venezuelan-born slugger making two more appearances in the Midsummer Classic.
Walt Weiss also left for Atlanta as a free agent; however, it should be noted the expansion franchise he began with in 1993 was actually the Florida Marlins.
Eric Young Sr, the first man to ever step to the plate as a Colorado Rockies player, was traded to the Dodgers in August for future Opening Day 2000 starting pitcher Pedro Astacio.
Quintin McCracken, selected by Colorado in the 25th round of the 1992 MLB Draft, was taken by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during the 1997 expansion draft ahead of the 1998 season.
Between the 2002 and 2003 Opening Days, only Todd Helton and Larry Walker started in both games. During those two years, the likes of C Gary Bennett, 2B Jose Ortiz and Ronnie Belliard, 3B Todd Zeile and Chris Stynes, SS Jose Hernandez and Juan Uribe, and LF Jay Payton made their only Opening Day starts for the Rockies.
Not surprisingly, Helton and Walker combined for nearly half of all the hits recorded on those April 1 openers: three multi-hit performances by the duo provided seven of Colorado’s 16 hits between 2002 and 2003. Helton also added two more hits each on this date in 2008 and 2011.
Benny Agbayani came on as a pinch hitter in the fifth inning of the 10-2 loss to the Cardinals in 2002 becoming the first Hawaiian born player in Rockies history; he remained the only such player with such distinction until RHP Rico Garcia’s debut this past August 27.
Kip Wells wins the dubious distinction of being the shortest tenured Opening Day starting pitcher for Colorado following Opening Day 2008. Making just fifteen appearances that season – only two of which were starts – he finished with a 5.27 ERA before being released on August 14.
Wells joins Shawn Estes (2004), Jeremy Guthrie (2012) and Kyle Kendrick (2015) as the only Opening Day starting pitchers to spend no more than one season with the Rockies.
Chris Nelson got the start on 2013 at third base and is the last man to occupy the hot corner for Colorado on Opening Day before Nolan Arenado’s reign.
On This Date In Baseball History
In 1914, Hall of Famer Rube Waddell, weakened by a heroic effort to help contain a flood in Kentucky during the winter, dies of tuberculosis in a San Antonio sanitarium at the age of 37.