No matter the sport, athletes of any level can appreciate a good team when they see it. For University of Colorado basketball players and Colorado baseball fans Derrick White, Josh Repine and Mitch Lombard, this highly talented Rockies team has been a long time coming.
White, who was recently drafted in the first round by the San Antonio Spurs after his sole season at Colorado, has been a huge Rockies fan “since birth,” adding that he’s a “Colorado guy.”
The Parker, Colo. native, 23, identifies himself as a true fan of the team, through all the thick and thin over the past two decades.
“I’ve been watching through it all,” he said.
Now, as the Rockies have played their best baseball this early in the season since entering existence 25 years ago and are sitting comfortably over .500 with a near-20-game surplus of wins over losses, White said he’s interested to see where this team can go this season.
“They’re playing really well, I can see Rocktober in the future,” White said. “I’m super excited for that.”
Repine, 22, who grew up in nearby Englewood, said that baseball for him has always been a family affair.
“Ever since I grew up,” Repine said. “Probably, the ‘07 run is what really got me going. I used to stay up with my dad, so it’s something me and my dad would do, watch the games together.”
Lombard, on the other hand, took a little time to catch up to the Purple bandwagon after he moved to the Centennial State from Cleveland.
“I didn’t move here until I was six years old, and up until that point, baseball was the only sport I played, and I was a Tribe fan,” Lombard said. “Over the past 13 years since I moved here, I started gradually like them more. It all started with Todd Helton for me. Once I started to see how great of a player he was, that made me want to play to baseball, and that started my love for the Rockies.”
Over the past 14 years, Lombard, 20, said that the Rockies have slowly grown on him, to the point that they may have even replaced his original favorite team, a realization that he made just this season.
“I went to the first game that the Rockies played the Indians this year, and I sat behind home plate with my dad, and I was wearing Indians gear,” Lombard said. “I found myself, throughout the game, rooting for the Rockies. When Senzatela hit the runs in, I got up and started cheering. I don’t know. I think at this point, I’m starting to become much more of a Rockies fan, and I think a lot of that is due to Nolan Arenado and players like that.
“My dad was wearing a Story jersey, and he had a Tribe hat on. So everyone was like, ‘Dude, who are you rooting for? You can’t do that.’ I think my family and I are slowly starting to become huge Rockies fans. We watch every game and keep track of every game, and just see how things are going.”
For the guys who have been fans since almost the beginning, there’s something special about this year’s team, and it’s not hard to see.
“We’ve always had great hitters, but our pitching has always lacked,” Repine said. “It feels like this year, we started getting some pitching, and with our hitting, it seemed like an easy combination.”
That improvement is something that Lombard has noticed as well through the 13 games he’s already attended this year.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Lombard said. “Every day, my friends are always in our group messages just texting and tweeting each other about the game. ‘What’s happening? Did we win? Did we lose? This guy’s awesome.’
“I think the biggest thing we’ve noticed, following this team for so long, is that this is the first year where this is an all-around effort. The pitching is unbelievable. I don’t know how these rookie pitchers are doing so well. Just the pitching staff to the overall batting, back when I was growing up, there was a lot of times that it was lopsided.”
When asked who they looked up to most on this Colorado Rockies roster, all three agreed unanimously, without hesitation.
“Nolan Arenado; he’s a stud,” White said. “Best third baseman in the game.”
Repine went a bit farther, specifying what he thought made the 26-year-old third baseman so great in his fifth year in the pros.
“He makes the hard plays look effortless, barehanded play every time. He plays hard, like [a few] nights ago when he has the triple, just the emotion was great,” Repine said.
Lombard grew up playing baseball as a shortstop, but ultimately chose the hardwood over the diamond. If Arenado had been playing a decade ago, Lombard said things may be different now.
“It’s nice to have a guy like that in Nolan Arenado that’s just so fun to watch. He’s my favorite player,” Lombard said. “I think I used to just be in love with shortstops. My favorite player ever was Omar Vizquel, he used to play for the Tribe. Now, I’m like, I would want to be a third baseman. I was telling my dad that if Nolan Arenado had been here when I was growing up, I would probably be still trying to play baseball. That’s the big thing I tell him just because of how much I love Arenado.”
After they fell off the wagon a bit the past few weeks with a couple losing streaks and one within their own division, Repine’s starting to become concerned.
“I’m worried about the NL West, because obviously it’s strong with the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers,” he said. “I bet we make the playoffs, then you never know, anything can happen. We have a couple hot starts from our pitchers, and then our hitting, obviously, I think is one of the best in the Majors, so we can make anything happen.”
Lombard, on the other hand, has faith that they can overcome this rough skid and that they’ll know how to bounce back, like real winners.
“I’m pretty superstitious, so I’m not going to make any major, major predictions,” he said. “I think we can finish with the best record in baseball and hopefully ride that out to the World Series.”