04/08/2003 1:50 PM ET
This is baseball, not football
Baylor reminds reporters, 'I'm the manager'
By Jeff Kingery / Special to MLB.com
When the first day of Spring Training was over, there was a huge media contingent around, guys you've seen from Denver, guys you've never seen before, guys from the national media.
I remember the first question for Don Baylor: "Coach, how did it go today?" And Don said, "Let's get something straight here. I'm the manager. This isn't football."
I think that pointed out how Denver had been, in terms of a football town. But now it was going to be a baseball town.
"The funny thing about the first day in New York, I remember we lost the game and I remember Doc Gooden against David Nied and everything, but I really remember a lot of things before. I remember it was a beautiful day in New York. It could have been nasty, but it was a gorgeous day.
I remember they had Dennis Byrd, who had been a New York Jets player who had been paralyzed and came back to walk, throw out the first pitch. And there wasn't a dry eye in the place. I'll remember that as long as I live, him walking out to the mound and that 50-something thousand at Shea just going nuts. Then I remember Glenn Close sang the National Anthem.
The game was just kind of a blur. It was so good just to have played that first game. There was a feeling that this group of guys that nobody knew had come together just a month before and was actually out there playing baseball.
I, of course, remember Opening Day in Denver. I think everybody does.
Obviously, everybody remembers Eric Young hitting the home run. What I remember just as vividly is the crowd had barely quieted down when Charlie Hayes came up and blasted a home run later in that inning, and we were going to be off and running.
John Vander Wal, who was going to be a Rockie another year down the road, was playing left field for the Expos that day. He told me that when Eric Young hit that ball, for a couple of minutes afterward the field was shaking.
He turned to the center fielder and said, 'This is not going to be our day.' I think it was Marquis Grissom, and he said, "You know, you're right. This is not going to be our day." I'll remember that, just for the intensity of that moment.
The day before Opening Day in Denver, they had the parade downtown.
They had gotten back from New York, the next day was an offday then we opened on the ninth. I just remember guys saying, 'Do we have to go to this parade? What's this all about?'
Then they were just blown away.
There were thousands of people that were out there to see these guys in these cars going through town and everything. I think that was the first time, unless maybe somebody had been in Denver a little bit, that they realized that they were something special.
There was going to be baseball in this city and it was going to be nuts.
Jeff Kingery is heading into his 11th season broadcasting Colorado Rockies games on KOA 850-AM. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.