Making sure visitors feel at home at Coors
Visiting clubhouse manager Alan Bossart strives to remain neutral
For one Rockies employee at Coors Field on Opening Day, the game will not be all about celebrating the Rockies. Alan Bossart's Friday will be spent making the opponent, the National League West-rival D-backs, feel as home as they possibly can, with about 50,000 fans rooting against them.
Bossart went from a career in the catering business to working with the Colorado Baseball Commission -- the task force whose effort brought the team to the city -- to being hired as one of the franchise's original employees 20 years ago. That's saying something, considering the Rockies are about to play their 19th opener. At the team's original expansion draft, Bossart was the one placing names of the players on the draft board for fans to see. He has served the Rockies in promotions, special events, in-game entertainment and TV/radio broadcasting.
But Opening Day will begin Bossart's fifth season as visiting clubhouse manager. Everything about the care, nutrition, cleanliness and comfort of the opponent falls under the umbrella of Bossart's duties. The 18-hour days are long and the work is heavy at times.
But what may be most interesting is the emotional balance Bossart must exercise. After all those years making sure the Rockies look good and their fans are happy, Bossart spends his time catering to the guys who want to ruin the experience. To do the job correctly, the professional in him, and his six-person staff, has to win out over the purple, black and silver blood that runs through him.
"The hardest part is the connection I had with the baseball side," said Bossart, 49. He who was born in North Hampton, Mass., but attended South High School in Denver and went to college at Colorado College in Colorado Springs and the University of Denver. "When I ran fantasy camps, I was blessed to get in close proximity to players, coaches, [former manager] Clint Hurdle, and build that relationship. You know how much I want them to succeed, because that means the organization succeeds.
"Now I have all the other guys come in, from the Sedona red of Arizona to the black and gold of the Pittsburgh Pirates to the red of the Cardinals. We are the neutral guys. Even in our shirts, we're black and green. We're neutral. Everything we do is neutral to serve."
It's a wonder there's any energy to even think of cheering come game time.
Bossart will arrive Monday night, and spend all of Tuesday shopping for bulk foods such as dry goods, milks, juices, designer waters. Then it's on to preparing tuna salad, chicken salad and fruit.
The D-backs will arrive Wednesday night, and the visiting clubhouse crew will unload all of their equipment, player and personal bags, bats, video equipment, baseballs, strength and conditioning equipment. They will start at around 9:30 p.m. and spend 2 1/2-3 hours setting up equipment. Often the crew is doing laundry from the team's previous city on the road. In this case, the Sedona red will be crisp and clean. Then the crew will set up players' lockers, and equipment and materials for coaches, video staff and athletic trainers.
The season opens with an afternoon game, which means being ready to cook breakfast when the players arrive, having snacks ready for after batting practice and a nutritious dinner for after the game.
Of course, the cleaning and making sure laundry and shower materials are ready never stops.
Even after the game begins, Bossart said he always has to remember where he is. Just put it this way: It's not the place to pull openly for the Rockies.
"When we're winning, you kind of smile behind the scenes," Bossart said. "But when there are close games, you're watching with their relief corps, guys who have come off the field already, or their staff. You can't roll with the happiness.
"We quickly move over and start getting the salad ready for dinner, cutting the fruit for the platters, making sure we receive the postgame foods. We're scurrying to be ready for the next phase of the three or four phases of the food service. When the Rockies win, it's very quiet."
But in recent years, Bossart has made sure he and his staff can share in the joy when the Rockies reach their goals. The team has made it to two playoff series and won two in the last four years. All of those clinching victories occurred at Coors Field.
"That was hard," Bossart said. "But we were blessed with the opportunity. When the Rockies were celebrating, I'd send a few of my guys over just to experience the jubilation while some of us continued to work.
"On the flip side, over the course of the years when the Phillies or Diamondbacks or Red Sox celebrated in our clubhouse, we were soaked in champagne, from ducking and covering from spray or literally handing out the bottles. We're a part of the operations of the celebration, from plastic-ing the room to moving out furniture so it's not soaked to ruin. So we're amongst the revelry, but we just quietly function and don't partake.
"We're neutral service staff."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.