|NL champion Colorado Rockies face Diamondbacks in home opener|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 03 April 2008 14:10|
It's not quite the World Championship banner that Boston gets to boast about, but for a team that had never won a playoff series before last fall, it'll be a permanent reminder of the club's incredible run to the World Series that included 21 wins in 22 games.
The Rockies make their 2008 home debut Friday against Arizona, which won the NL West last year by a half-game over Colorado. The Rockies reached the playoffs by beating San Diego in a wild-card tiebreaker.
Colorado, which swept the Diamondbacks in the NLCS after sweeping Philadelphia in the first round, will send right-hander Mark Redman to the mound to face right-hander Micah Owings in what has become baseball's latest brewing rivalry.
``We're looking forward to getting back home,'' said manager Clint Hurdle, whose team started the season by scoring just five runs in three games, losing two of them in St. Louis. ``We're looking forward to reuniting with our fans.''
``Hopefully it'll be the same enthusiasm and intensity the fans brought at the end of (last) year,'' right fielder Brad Hawpe said. ``We've got the same team. If they were excited about our team then, I'd sure hope and expect them to be excited about our team now.''
Indeed, the only new starting position player is Jayson Nix, a slick-fielding rookie who replaced Kaz Matsui at second base and whose great glove fits right in with a team that posted the best fielding percentage in major league history last season.
The Rockies get to spread out their celebration of a new season beyond opening day for a change.
On Saturday, they'll unveil their pennant, and on Sunday they'll get their NL championship rings.
On Monday, when the Rockies begin a four-game series against Atlanta, left fielder Matt Holliday will be presented the 2007 Silver Slugger and NL batting champion trophies, more reminders of last year's remarkable ride.
``It will be awesome to finally get back to our home stadium,'' reliever Taylor Buchholz said. ``There will be a lot of festivities going on this weekend. The fan base will be great. There will be a lot of excitement going on, so we'll all be happy to get back.
``With everything that happened last year, it would have been nice to start out at home. We're all ready to get back there and show off what we can do.''
Team owner Charlie Monfort said there was a 20 percent bump in season ticket sales this year to go with a 30 percent jump in player payroll, to just under $69 million.
Throwing out the first pitch Friday will be 18-month-old Kaige Kennedy, the son of former Rockies pitcher Joe Kennedy, who died in November from heart failure. His wife, Jami, who lives in Colorado, is pregnant with a girl she plans to name Jo.
The Rockies are eager to return to Coors Field, where they haven't played since watching the Red Sox celebrate their sweep on Oct. 28.
``There's an adrenaline rush,'' Redman said. ``It's a sold-out game in April and it's a big game. It's sort of like throwing in the World Series. I guess the best way to put it is the first race of NASCAR is in Daytona. It's a big one. And I guess if you put it like that, it's a big game. There'll be a lot of fans. It'll be pretty exciting.''
Hurdle is excited to go home, too.
``I haven't slept in my bed since Super Bowl Sunday, so I'm looking forward to it,'' he said.
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.