Apr 2, 2021 - News
Colorado Rockies' return marks a breakthrough in pandemic
Two baseball fans hold a sign that reads Missed You
Lisa Alman, left, and her son Cameron Morse arrive at Coors Field for Opening day. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Colorado Rockies fans returned to Coors Field on Thursday for the first time in 550 days, and for many, it seemed like a turning point in the year-long battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

  • "It’s great. It feels like you have a little bit of your freedom back," said Duke Bradford, a season ticket holder from Breckenridge.

Why it matters: The game represented the largest public event in Colorado since the pandemic hit.

State of play: The Rockies won the opener 8-5 against defending-champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • Don't get too excited. The team is predicted to finish at the bottom and may lose 100 games for the first time in franchise history.

To be sure, Opening Day didn't feel the same.

  • Blake Street vendors sold "Fire Jeff Bridich" T-shirts next to a table offering free COVID-19 testing.
  • The Rooftop — Denver's hottest summertime bar — was closed to standing fans.
  • And no sunflower seeds and bags of peanuts were allowed (given the spitting, after all).

John’s take: But walking through the stadium, it seemed so normal.

  • A sea of purple roamed the concourse buying hot dogs and Coors Banquet.
  • The 20,570 fans scattered in pods made the stadium look pretty full.
  • And I can report (because he stood right in front of the outfield pressbox) that Charlie Blackmon's beard looks more Colorado than ever.

The big caveat: Despite the hopes of fans, baseball's big debut is not a sign that all is fine.

  • Denver remains in Level Yellow with the current average COVID-19 cases per week above the rate when the Rockies started spring training.
  • "We can just as easily find ourselves in another surge if we ... start thinking that the virus is under control enough to drop our guard," Mayor Michael Hancock said Thursday during a briefing that took place simultaneous with the game.

The bottom line: Not everyone will feel safe enough to enjoy Coors Field in the early season.

  • With thousands of people in one place, social distancing was nonexistent and proper mask wearing was spotty, despite a pledge from stadium officials to enforce both guidelines.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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