A rudimentary internet search reveals the first game played at Coors Field took place April 26, 1995.
Dante Bichette stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 14th inning and launched a three-run walk-off homer into the night to christen the new stadium in the grandest way possible.
However, that’s not entirely accurate.
Before the delayed start of the 1995 season cause by an ugly work stoppage between players and owners, all 30 MLB clubs decided to move forward with replacement players on January 13 and play an abbreviated 144 game schedule to accommodate the less-than-stellar stand-ins.
After a most unusual Spring Training – excluding that of 2020 – an exhibition game between the new Colorado Rockies and even newer New York Yankees was played just days before Opening Day.
Players from all levels of the minors and former big leaguers crossed the picket line and participated in what was the first game held at 20th and Blake in front of a near-capacity crowd of 47, 563. They even did it again the next day.
According to a New York Times article in February of 1995, the Yankees featured a roster comprised of a 5’7″ second baseman who had never played baseball professionally, a 275-pound first baseman who accidentally crushed a metal folding chair at his locker, a part-time big leaguer that hadn’t seen time in the majors for five years, as well as a nine-year minor league veteran who had transitioned to a career in construction.
Eventually, future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor levied a temporary injunction to halt the use of replacement players and the rest is history… according to Google.
In the 1997-98 offseason, RHP Darryl Kile agreed to a three-year, $24M deal with Colorado that made the 29-year-old the fourth highest starting pitcher (per average annual salary) in the game behind Greg Maddux ($11.5M), Tom Glavine ($8.5M) and Roger Clemens ($8.25).
He made the first of two consecutive Opening Day starts on this day against the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, who reportedly offered Kile $19.5M over three years to be a part of their new club.
Kile worked seven strong innings in the DBacks inaugural game, picking up the win thanks to an offensive explosion in the middle of the purple lineup.
Vinny Castilla recorded two home runs, Dante Bichette went 4-for-5, and Todd Helton made the first of sixteen straight Opening Day starts, adding two doubles in the 9-2 victory.
After being traded to St. Louis following two seasons in purple, Kile tragically passed away midseason at the age of 33.
While 1998 may have been Helton’s first Opening Day for the Rockies, the 2014 variety was Colorado’s first without their 17-year veteran.
Instead, 2014 ushered in a new era in Rockies history with the first Opening Day starts for center fielder Charlie Blackmon, second baseman DJ LeMahieu and franchise cornerstone and third baseman Nolan Arenado.
That game in Miami would mark the first of five-consecutive seasons for the trio opening up a season, a streak that would end in 2019 when the Rockies played against those same Marlins.
Fresh off a the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Award and a third-place finish for the Cy Young Award, 21-year-old RHP José Férnandez limited Colorado to one run on five hits in the 10-1 loss to begin Colorado’s worst season since entering Coors Field.
On September 25, 2016, Férnandez perished in a boating accident at the age of 24.
On this date:
Jerry Dipoto, current General Manager of the Seattle Mariners, recorded the final three outs of the 1998 Opening Day victory as a reliever with the Rockies. The New Jersey native was also the first relief pitcher to make an appearance at Coors Field as he entered the April 26, 1995 game for the final out of the fifth inning as a member of the New York Mets.