Thursday, July 7, 2016

Day 7: RMBL All-Star Night: Boulders in Denver, Dingers in Boulder

A week into our journey, we found something more enticing than a mere minor-league game. We went to a minor-league all-star game. And more importantly, a minor-league HOME RUN DERBY. In Boulder, where the air is thin and theoretically conducive to DINGERS. We were pumped. But first, we were in Colorado, so we had to go hiking.

After a leisurely morning, we took a spin out to Red Rocks Park, home to a variety of striking geological formations and also a major concert venue. The Red Rocks Amphitheatre, in a move that probably wouldn't fly under current environmental regimes, is built into the terrain of the park and seats nearly 10,000. We hiked our way up the amphitheatre stairs -- no small feat on a hot day at high altitude -- to the visitors center, and then took a short circuit among the park's more accessible rock formations. Then we had to head to Scott Carpenter Park, home of the Boulder Collegians, host of the Rocky Mountain Baseball League All-Star Game and Home Run Derby (RMBLASGHRD), starting at 3pm sharp...

Seriously, though. That's a stage at bottom center.

And that's a pretty big rock.

Or so we thought. While the RMBL website told us 3pm, when we arrived at the park for the RMBLASGHRD, we found no crowd and only a few staff members starting to set up. We were informed that the actual start time (listed correctly on the Collegians website, but not on the league's) was 5pm for the derby and 7pm for the game itself. So we did what any self-respecting trio of amateur bloggers would do: we went mini-golfing. We played two rounds at the Gateway Park Fun Center, which delivered a respectable amount of fun and one unexpected wildlife encounter.

That's a living, breathing rabbit, who was so used to life on a mini-golf course that it did no more than twitch its ears as we rolled three tee shots past it. It didn't move until Zach went for his follow up shot and got within five feet of it. Just all sorts of chill, this rabbit, is what I'm saying.

Our lust for putting sated, we headed once again to the RMBLASGHRD, and this time there was actually something going on. The derby was organized similarly to the MLB ASG derby, except each player only got five “outs” (any non-HR swing of the bat) to go yard as many times as possible. Swarms of Little Leaguers played the outfield, tracking down any flies that fell short. We got there just a few minutes late, but there were 10 or 11 contestants, since not all of the 12 teams in the league fielded one. Now, the RMBL is a college summer league, so most of the players are only around 18-22 years old, and they were using wooden bats, so even in high altitude any display of power hitting would be fairly impressive. In the first round, the highest total was a respectable 7 homers by JJ Bissell of the Sterling Xpress, but only three other players cleared the fence at all, with totals of 3, 1, and 1. The second-place total belonged to Rough Riders 1B Josh Peterson, a giant Georgian who told the announcer “I just want to put on a laser show for the fans. I’m a big hairy-chested American winning machine.” Needless to say, he was an immediate crowd favorite, especially among the Atlantan Scrappy Journeymen. 

The park, and the giant Georgian in action.

Thanks to fatigue or bad luck, no one would manage multiple home runs for the rest of the day. In the second round, the four players who had managed to launch a bomb in the first round were given five more outs, and three of them managed exactly one long ball. A hasty conference between the event organizers resulted in some dubious ad hoc tie-breakers. The first of the two finals spots was chosen on the basis of longest non-HR, and the second was given to JJ Bissell for having the most total jacks. Bissell won the final by a score of 1 - 0, firing his single decisive tater over the right-field wall.

Another view of the field, players starting to warm up for the game.

Having previously made plans for dinner with our hosts, we were unable to stick around for the proper ASG, so consider our scoring somewhat tentative. We met our hosts at Breckinridge Brewery, a standout of the Colorado craft scene, and had a very satisfying meal featuring elk burgers, beer-braised meatballs, beer-glazed pretzels, and beer, as well as some surprisingly good hummus.

Highlights & Lowlights

  • Scott Carpenter Park was the smallest we’ve seen this trip, with just three sets of bleachers set up around a field in a municipal park.
  • The Boulder Collegians doubled their normal ticket prices from $4 to $8 for the RMBLASGHRD. Shrewd business practice, for sure.
  • A free program! Granted, it was just a single sheet printout of all the players and teams participating in the RMBLASGHRD, clearly produced in a spreadsheet, but given how few programs we’ve seen on this trip, it counts as impressive.
  • Also shrewdly, the Boulder Collegians had a robust array of hats, shirts, and other merch available for sale.
  • The announcer, who was strolling around the field with a wireless microphone, was charmingly irreverent and had a ready supply of quips:
    • “Baseball is all about butt slaps,” encouraging teammates to congratulate a derby contestant.
    • “Pee in a cup,” when a particularly long home run was hit.
    • “Other way, Jaron,” when one of the sluggers fouled a ball back on a big swing.
    • “If you hit a skater, one of the realty companies will buy you a house” — since there was a skate park just beyond left field.
  • Teammates repeatedly came out to encourage and “cool off” the sluggers when they took a break, giving them Gatorade, fanning them with towels, and of course providing a couple butt slaps for encouragement.
  • Several of the hitters eschewed batting helmets during the derby, since the pitching is all soft tosses by friendly coaches, but one added a stars-and-stripes bandanna. Nicely done.
  • One of the all-stars was the son of a coach and had been in the league four years, and he was among those who failed to go deep even once. Boo, nepotism.
  • Home plate was moved up slightly by means of a painted turf rug, to aid the pitchers and hitters in getting the ball over the plate and out of the park. Not something we’ve seen before.
  • For a small park, the field was respectably sized, 334’ at the corners and 388’ in center, with an even deeper 397’ to center-left. Accordingly, almost all of the day’s moon shots went to right.
  • The derby catcher got a special introduction as the "#1 fan" of the RMBL as a long-time volunteer (maybe? didn't catch the exact explanation) with the league.
  • While the main concessions tent was sans-alcohol, we belatedly realized that there was a separate tent for a local brewery (Wibby Brewing) offering a very tasty IPL. Even more confusingly, we weren't allowed to leave the small, vaguely fenced area around the tent while drinking it.


  1. Men’s Room: One is the loneliest urinal. 9/10
  2. Price of Beer: $5/12oz. of craft beer. 3.33/10
  3. Most Caloric Concession: A burger off the grill with all the fixings. Generously, 3/10.
  4. Free Seats for Bloggers: Well, ticket prices were doubled, so... no. They did offer us a drink to make up for our being two hours early. 1/10.
  5. Promotions: Well, we didn’t stick around for the game, but counting the derby as a pregame promotion for the game, let’s say 7/10.
  6. Crowd & Personalities: They might all have been the players’ friends and family, but they did fill the stands pretty well, and the field was positively littered with Little Leaguers. There were some minor league groupies and/or players’ girlfriends as well. 6/10.
  7. Best Name: A fairly thin crop here, but Arvada Colts derby representative Kaleb Geiger’s HRs were tallied by a “Geiger counter”, and Slammers C/3B/OF Titan Marler is named Titan, so that’s something. 4/10
  8. Tailgating: None to speak of unless you count the skateboarders, who for the sake of argument get a 2/10.
  9. Subtotal: 35.33 base metric points.
  10. Bonus Points: +1 for shrewd business practices, -1 for poor scheduling practices, +1 for program made in Excel, +1 for merch selection, +2 for irreverent announcer, +1 for teammate encouragement, +1 for stars-and-stripes bandanna, +2 for "laser show", +1 for failed nepotism, +1 for home plate carpet, +1 for #1 fan, -1 for sketchy tie-breaking procedures, +1 for delicious local beer, -0.33 for arbitrary alcohol zone.
For a grand to total of 46 points on our entirely arbitrary and furthermore tentative scale. This is definitely one of the more minimalist stops on the trip, as we often see with college summer teams. On the other hand, it was a unique event with a lively crowd, and the RMBL players and staff seem like they're having a good time with the whole thing. I don't think we could call the Boulder Collegians a must-see, but you probably won't be disappointed if you drop by. 7/10.

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