There was something fitting about seeing Mickey Mouse in a purple-pinstriped uniform yesterday at Coors Field. The cartoon character’s name has been evoked as a way to explain the Rockies organization for years, so he might as well become a de facto member of the club.

And his presence at a baseball game in the middle of August, when a team and its fans should be squarely focused on the stretch run, is a prime example of why the franchise is always an afterthought this time of year. The reality is that even the Rockies themselves don’t expect to be relevant after the All-Star break.

With the Broncos well into training camp and their preseason schedule, as well as the local college teams practicing and scrimmaging in preparation for their respective season openers, this is the time of year when sports fans in Colorado have turned their attention away from the diamond. Instead, they are focused squarely on the gridiron.

As a result, the local nine have to get creative in order to keep the team even remotely in the public eye. While another lost season sputters toward a merciful conclusion, the brass on 20th and Blake has to think like Walt Disney or P.T. Barnum in order to get respectable crowds at Coors Field.

Of course, this is nothing new for the Rockies; they’re used to being out of the race after the Midsummer Classic and far from the front page of the sports section once local football teams start donning pads. It’s basically an annual occurrence in Colorado, one that has led plenty of fans and media members to enter each new season with a simple goal for the team: Just get us to training camp.

The Rockies have put their vast experience at being an afterthought to good use, as it has allowed them to come up with the perfect solution: Late in the season, gimmicky promotions are used to attract non-baseball fans to meaningless games.

As a result, the standings don’t matter. The folks coming through the turnstiles aren’t there to see the game; they’re there for the giveaway, concert or other attraction. Baseball, much to the chagrin of long-suffering and supportive fans of the team, isn’t the product the folks at Coors Field are selling this time of year; it’s an entertainment experience, with a ballgame as a sideshow.

There’s nothing wrong with this marketing tactic, per se; after all, the Rockies are simply running a business, trying to do all they can to attract an audience. But the premeditated manner in which they implement this plan is cause for concern, as is the fact that most of the promotions have absolutely nothing to do with baseball.

The team’s marketing department maps out these themed nights well before the season, so having nine of the 13 games on the docket this month as part of the promotional calendar is a clear sign that nobody responsible for attracting people to the ballpark was counting on diehard baseball fans to still be attending games as the season progressed. It’s a sign that no one on 20th and Blake was confident before the year began that the team itself would be a late-season attraction.

If they did, they wouldn’t litter the schedule with promos that have little to no connection to what’s taking place on the diamond. Giving away bobbleheads, t-shirts with a player’s name on the back (so long as they stick to something that is easy to spell) and honoring the team’s alumni are fine; those are aimed at baseball fans. It’s when things veer 180 degrees from that direction that it’s a problem.

This past weekend alone, the Rockies hosted University of Wyoming Night, CSU Night and the aforementioned Mickey Day. This coming week, they have Bark at the Park day for dogs and their owners, as well as Star Wars bobblehead giveaways. A high percentage at the people attending these five games probably aren’t keeping score, debating the merits of Jon Gray’s pitch count or fussing over the way Walt Weiss manages the team; most don’t have any idea what that sentence even means.

That’s not to say those people aren’t welcome at the ballpark; trying to expand the overall customer base is smart business. But that’s not what these promotions are about. The Rockies aren’t trying to get a new demographic to sample their product, hoping they’ll become fans of the team; if they were, these types of non-baseball promotions would take place in April, May and June.

Instead, it’s a sign of desperation; it’s the Rockies waving the white flag of baseball ineptitude, begging for people who don’t know or care about the quality of the product on the field to spend a day at the ballpark. The franchise is using tricks developed in minor league baseball, whereby definition – because the roster is always changing and the purpose of the team is development over winning – the baseball isn’t the main attraction, to keep the cash registers ringing deep into the season.

The sad part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. In both 2007 and ’09, fans in Colorado proved that they’d put football on the backburner if the Rockies were compelling down the stretch; they proved that they would support a quality product, even when the state’s most-popular teams were in the midst of their seasons.

But that would require a lot of work on the Rockies’ part. After all, fielding a contender isn’t easy; it might require firing some people, spending some money and making some tough decisions. It’s much easier to find a uniform that fits Mickey, trot him out in front of a big crowd of unsuspecting Disney diehards and count the dollars.

As a result, there won’t be any meaningful games at Coors Field between now and the end of the season. But there will be a BBQ contest, brew fest, Fudd hat giveaway and fireworks show.

That’s a stretch run befitting of a Mickey Mouse organization.