Country music on a Rocky roll
Underwood, Yearwood, others sing at Series games in Denver
DENVER -- Colorado is known for several things: beautiful mountains, great ski resorts, Coors beer, high altitude and ... country music.
Apparently so. Perhaps at first glance, country music is not embraced by Coloradoans as it is in say, Texas, but if the World Series has given any indication, there is quite a country flavor in the Rocky Mountain State.
Two-time Grammy Award winner Carrie Underwood, a country singer, performed the national anthem prior to the World Series' Game 3 at Coors Field on Saturday, and the next night, country music sensation Trisha Yearwood did the same.
During the seventh-inning stretch at Game 4, country music band Lonestar performed "God Bless America." So what gives? According to the band, country music has received a boost from legendary artists who have managed to fuse together the country listening crowd with more mainstream America.
"It's people that have been out there like Garth Brooks and Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith, that kind of keep country music in the mainstream," said Lonestar drummer Keech Rainwater. "You open a magazine and you see those people.
"We're just trying to keep the country rockin' out there and try to keep [bringing] newcomers to country. We hear people all the time say, 'I never listened to country before, but because of y'all's show or because of your video or whatever, I listen to country all the time now.' "
Plus, it helps that traditionally non-country superstars have crossed over.
"Then you've got Sheryl Crow, John Cougar Mellencamp, Jon Bon Jovi coming over to country so it's getting a lot bigger than it used to be," Rainwater said.
Ballplayers, regardless of where they were raised, tend to listen mostly to country music. Such is the case for a handful of Rockies players, namely Brad Hawpe, a Texas native, and Todd Helton, who grew up in Tennessee.
Hawpe, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and fan of more traditional country artists such as Robert Earl Keen and George Strait, has noticed a deep respect for country music in his seasonal hometown of Denver.
"There's a lot of country people in Colorado," he said. "You have a lot of people who have come from California that aren't fans of country, but then you have a lot of people from the middle of the country and Colorado that do appreciate country. It's pretty funny, it's definitely a diverse area here."
Helton defended Denver as a good country music city, pointing out the Greeley Stampede in nearby Greeley, which every summer boasts one of the largest rodeos in the country.
"It's not Nashville, and we don't have George Strait living here or anything," the longtime Rockies player said. "But we've got good country radio stations here and a lot of country music fans."
That appears to be the case all over the United States. Just look at the Billboard charts, said Lonestar band member Dean Sams.
"The two biggest selling acts last year ... were Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood," Sams said. "The two of them, I think they sold close to 15 million records. That's big."
If country music is a major part of Americana, so is baseball, long known as the country's pastime. In that respect, Lonestar was more than pleased to perform "God Bless America" during Game 4. Even if it meant forgoing a good night's sleep.
"We had a show last night [in New Orleans] and got to bed a little bit late -- because we had to watch the game," Sams said. "We got to bed a little after that midnight hour, got up at 4, been flying all day to get here. But we look fresh, don't we?"
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.