Someplace Where They Never Change the Sheets
"Welcome to Coors Field, a strange place where the air is thin and the designated hitter doesn't exist." - Boston Globe article, 2007 World Series
"Seriously, man, do you ever see any bears around here?" Utley asked. He looked around Colfax Avenue a little nervously, as though he expected a pack of bears to come charging towards them at any minute, maybe lumbering out of the Denver Public Library down the street. To be fair, the library did boast a statue of a giant red chair and a disproportionately tiny spotted horse standing on top of the chair, so it was hard to feel entirely secure about anything.
"Dude, I told you a hundred times that there aren't any bears," said Atkins. "This is a city. A big city," he added more tentatively. "We're not actually in the Old West." Sometimes he wasn't so sure about this, especially when you considered that the rodeo seemed to be a bigger draw than their games for most families in Colorado. It was a little disheartening to hear kids who probably had no idea who the Rockies were getting excited about bucking broncos, or whatever you saw at a rodeo. He didn't plan to mention this to Utley, though.
"This doesn't look that much like a city," Utley said. "Those mountains are awfully close, and the buildings aren't that tall." He pointed off towards the mountains, as though maybe Atkins had missed them until now.
Atkins sighed. He wasn't sure why he had offered to show Utley around the city in the first place. He guessed he had wanted to avoid getting all worked up about their game, and being amazed all over again by how annoying his best friend was seemed like a fine distraction from an attack of nerves. A big crowd of people strode by them without any apparent interest, and Utley looked at them curiously. "Don't you get...you know...recognized?"
"Sure, sometimes," Atkins said, feeling defensive. Honesty compelled him to add, "Well, not that often. Most of the guys don't. Not everybody gets to be the Prince of fucking Philly, man."
"I bet if you could kick a field goal, you'd get recognized," Utley offered cheerfully.
"Probably I would," Atkins said. "Tulo gets recognized the most, but people usually think he's a running back, so we don't really think it counts."
"Uh huh," said Utley. Atkins could tell that he was thinking superior thoughts about his own city. Atkins hated it when he did that. He started to mention something about the potential for altitude sickness, then stopped. Let Utley discover it on his own.
"So what's with the humidor?" Utley said. "Do you really keep the balls in there? Can I see it?"
"Why does everyone ask about that?" said Atkins. "Yeah, we keep the balls in there. It's because of the altitude. No, you can't see it."
"You guys blame everything on the altitude. I don't think it even means anything. Has a bear ever run out onto left field? God knows you got enough room for a whole bear family out there. How about a mountain lion?"
"There's no bears," said Atkins. "Not this close to the city. And probably no mountain lions, since they live in the mountains. I'm pretty sure I saw a rattlesnake by second base one time, though."
Utley ignored this, although it was true. Atkins hoped he'd discover that on his own, too. "That store over there looks pretty fantastic, man. Is that some kind of cowboy store? I see chaps in the window. I think they should institute those as part of your uniforms. Especially those off-the-shoulder ones. You know, the ones with the silver glitter?"
"It's not actually glitter," Atkins muttered. He knew he didn't have much ground to stand on here. "It just looks like it." He changed the subject. "You ready for the game?"
"Hell, yes," said Utley. "I just hope you are. We've been - what is that?"
Great. He knew they should have walked a different way. "It's the Colorado Convention Center."
Utley looked genuinely amazed. "Dude, is that real? It's not, like, a joke you arranged to celebrate our coming to town?"
"No," Atkins said, "it's there all the time." They were looking at an enormous statue of a blue grizzly bear. It stared in the second story window of the convention center with its head tilted at a menacing angle. Its paws waved around angrily. You couldn't see its face from the street, but he guessed it probably had its mouth open, jaws and teeth on display.
"So they have meetings in there with the bear's head sticking in the window?" Utley said. "All right, man, you've got to explain this. Why is there an animal statue in front of every damn building in Denver if it's not a warning that we're about to be attacked by animals?"
"I think they're celebrating their Western heritage or some shit," Atkins admitted. "I guess it's pretty terrible. But - " He wanted to say something about how, even if the fans often didn't recognize them, they were also willing to forgive them a lot more than most cities would have. It wasn't just the lack of reproach that he liked, though. Even though they had no business playing outdoor games here in freezing-cold October and it might very well snow at any moment, he liked the crazy reds and oranges and pinks of the sky in the morning and evening. It was different from any other city he'd seen, and it was good to be here with his teammates, or with this guy who'd been annoying him for more than ten years now.
He definitely wasn't going to say any of that, though, because it was gay as hell. Instead he said, "It's all right here most of the time."
"Sure," said Utley magnanimously. "I can tell the weather's definitely a draw. You think it'll snow again tonight?"
"Can't say for sure," Atkins said, truthfully enough. "Be prepared for anything." He pulled his hat down more tightly against the cold, imagined a variety of wildlife running onto the field to eat the Phillies during the ninth, and smiled.