Blake Street Bombers say new players can see success
BY LUKE ZAHLMANN firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT
The Gazette, Colorado Springs
The crowds of Mile High Stadium made a difference for the Rockies in their opening years, and the bats of the Blake Street Bombers paid them back. Led by the team’s only Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker, the group put as many balls in the seats as any iteration of the high-altitude Colorado franchise. The fans have not stopped coming, but the power of yesteryear with Walker, Ellis Burks, Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga has diminished. A group of rookies is leading the next pack of Rockies hoping to return the franchise to its glory days. And they were able to meet the Blake Street Bombers for Colorado’s last 30-year anniversary celebration of the milestone season. Their words rang even more true after Monday’s 11-9 loss to San Diego. The Bombers see some similarities with the new wave, and believe the old-school philosophy of power and outhitting teams in Colorado can still work. It just takes the right pieces. “Any time you can put up (runs) in a game, you should do pretty good,” Walker said. “The farm system has to be built to have that pool that you can go and grab some good players from. “That’s a process and it doesn’t happen over a couple of years.” Ryan Mcmahon is the team’s leading “bomber” this year and has hit 23 homers. When Colorado at San Francisco, 7:40 p.m. Tuesday. ATTSN, 850 AM the 1995 team started to put the lineup together, four players had more than the third baseman’s team-high total. In 1997, five did and catcher Jeff Reed nearly made it six with his 17 home runs. The totals only stacked up after the group had been together and developed into a lineup that could scare opponents. In batting practice before games, they would even chirp opposing pitchers to get in their heads. “This is ballpark is for scoring runs and we had guys who could scare people,” Castilla said. “Usually the last group hitting when the team was stretching, we would start yelling ‘ ERA, ERA’. Those guys were scared to go in and pitch here.” For their own staff, the Rockies focused on weird more than good, at times. Funky windups and deliveries were sought after instead of high-velocity like today’s scouting. The goal was never to shut down other teams, it was just to do so enough for the offense to carry the load. In the franchise’s first 10 seasons from 1993-2002, the Rockies hit over 200 home runs as a team five times. That led the way to at least five runs per game in seven of the 10 campaigns. Since 2018, the Rockies have scored at least five runs per game in one season and are on pace for their third-worst average in franchise history this year (4.48). The potential for more exists in the bats of Tovar, Jones, Mcmahon and others. Colorado has six hitters who hit double-digit homers this year and another three in Brenton Doyle, Elehuris Montero and Blackmon, who could pass the mark in the final two weeks. The early iterations of the Rockies also stole bases the most frequently of any group in franchise history. Tovar, Doyle and Jones each have the speed to add aggression on the bases, and not just the plate. An explosive offense carried those early teams, but pitchers played their own niche role too. The arms the Rockies brought in were attached to a brain that did not care about stats. Bichette brought up Kevin Ritz as a pitcher to learn from. The veteran righty never won awards or stuck out on Cy Young ballots, but he managed to win 17 games with a 5.28 ERA in 1996 and another 11 the year after with a 4.21 mark. “He just didn’t care about his stats — that’s a big (thing) here,” Bichette said. “If you’re trying to win a Cy Young, this isn’t the place to pitch.” And yet the club has options who have already found more success in the majors. Kyle Freeland nearly won the National League Cy Young in 2018 with his 2.85 ERA. Germán Márquez finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2017 before being named an All-star in 2021. In 1996, the Rockies rotation had a 5.68 ERA. Despite losing their entire rotation in 2023, and being forced to use multiple pitchers off waivers, this year’s group carries a 6.00 ERA in 150 games — the humidor is in place now, too. Colorado’s teams of the past celebrated their respective eras all year during the franchise’s 30-year anniversary. It was a callback to the days of 80,000-plus fans packing into Mile High Stadium to regularly watch slugfests. The crowds are more limited, and the Rockies installed a humidor to deaden the ball at altitude since then. Lessons from those teams can still be applied, and may be the key to fielding another consistent winner in Colorado. Learning history is normally in an effort to avoid repeating it. For the Rockies and the Blake Street Bombers, the history together may need repeating.