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America’s new team

Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I’m a baseball fan.

I watch as many games as I can every year, mostly of my beloved Orioles, and read and learn as much as I can about the sport. And as a baseball fan I can tell you one thing.

If you love baseball like I do, go out and buy some purple and black.

It’s Rocktoberfest.

I’ve never claimed to be a Rockies fan and I am still not one – or at least I won’t be by December.

But this postseason, if you can’t support this team, you just don’t like baseball.

This team used to be the laughingstock of baseball. Most people outside of Colorado never took them seriously, what with their humidors and dino-mascot.

That was the past. Now the Rockies mean business.

Who would have thought in April that a team made up of young no-names Troy Tulowitski, never-weres like Kaz Matsui and old standbys like “Mr. Rockie” Todd Helton could have won a pennant?

But they did.

The Rockies became the first team ever to sweep its way to the World Series, winning 21 of 22 games along the way. They won games easily and they won games excitingly. They had traditional heroes and unlikely ones.

The team with only one truly great man in uniform – Helton – gelled together to make a great team.

Josh “The Giant Killer” Fogg toppled some of the greatest pitchers in the game, hurlers like Curt Schilling, Roy Oswalt Brad Penny and Jake Peavy. Fogg managed to outduel Peavy – who finished the season with a 19-6 record and a 2.54 ERA – in the one-game wildcard playoff to reach the postseason.

Matt Holliday strengthened his MVP candidacy by hitting .340/.405/.607 with 36 home runs and 137 RBI and won the NLCS MVP after having a .733 slugging percentage and two home runs.

Matsui completed his career comeback with an amazing performance against Philadelphia, hitting a triple, a double and a grand slam against the Phillies in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Manager Clint Hurdle – who the Rockies front office stuck with despite back-back 90+ loss seasons in 2004-05 – managed to mold talent into a ball club, and a ball club into champions.

But the most impressive so far has been Helton.

Fittingly, Helton caught the pennant-clinching out – a groundball to Tulowitzki off a check swing from Diamondbacks left fielder Eric Byrnes. The Rockies first baseman looked like a little kid on Christmas when he caught that ball, and anyone with a heart not made of stone felt happy.

Helton’s emotion was well-deserved. He was drafted in the first round by Colorado in the 1995 first-year players draft and has been with the big club since 1997 – but this is the first time he has tasted clubhouse champagne. The Rockies with Helton only have a .438 winning percentage before this season – but that all changed in 2007.

So it doesn’t matter if you are from downtown Denver, New England, Ohio or anywhere else in America.

Start rooting for the Rockies.