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Rockies fans savor view from the top

Rockies fans savor view from the top

DENVER -- Welcome to the top of the world.

It doesn't get any higher than this in October.

Baseball heaven, maybe.

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The 103rd World Series is being played at one mile above sea level, or about 5,280 feet higher than they played it during the 99th World Series at Florida.

Fittingly, the purple-hued throngs at Coors Field here for a frigid Game 3 were as naturally sky-high as they could possibly be on Saturday night, literally feeling like they are on top of the baseball world. At the moment, who cared that the Red Sox had a 2-0 series lead? They are actually playing a World Series in Colorado.

"It's surreal -- like it's not really happening to me," said Grace Stephen of Estes Park, Colo., standing near the monster line of people trying to get into the Dry Goods Diamond Store on the main concourse an hour before game time. "I was offered $1,500 for a $125 ticket. I said, 'No way.'"

The sight of purple minions majesty was truly something to behold on this night, at this time of year. Red Sox fans predictably made their presence known, but barely a blip on the color chart. It's nothing like that first game of the National League Division Series, when Cubs fans accounted for a conservatively estimated 33 percent of the crowd at Arizona's Chase Field. Rockies fans have waited, and now they are here.

In absolute and total force. Their reaction to Carrie Underwood's rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner -- with the giant flag unfurled and the scoreboard fireworks exploding on cue with the "rockets' red glare" and followed by the F-16 flyover -- was priceless. We see this every year now, someone else finally getting in on the glorious action (Detroit last year), and it is impressive to see Rockies love.

"It's amazing. I couldn't sleep for nights," said Jennifer Warren of Ft. Collins, Colo., proudly wearing a flowing purple cape that she had bought at Wal-Mart and purple-glued eyelashes that she said will require all night to remove. "I think I stayed awake all night for the two nights before tickets went on sale."

And fortunately they did go on sale. Warren said she quickly got over that noted delay earlier in the week. "My theory was, it's not like Boston where you always had this many fans wanting tickets," she said. "But now I'm seeing why. There are lots of Red Sox fans, too. It's all their fault."

Game time temperature was about 44, but it felt like 40 and was dropping fast. The wind chill is expected to plunge through the night to near freezing by late in the game.

"This is like a walk in the park, weather-wise," Warren said.

Tom Guyon of Denver has had partial season tickets ever since Coors Field opened in 1995. As he walked to his seat for the start, he said, "It's incredible."

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"It's amazing how different this year has been, how everybody's attitudes have changed," Guyon said. "There are a lot of bandwagon fans, but that's OK. Hopefully our owners continue to play these players and build on this foundation."

Top of the world.

Jim Fick of Centennial, Colo., was wearing a purple blazer in front of the main gate. MLB.com spotted him easily, because he was representing Rockies fans in the first two games at Fenway Park. He showed a $250 ticket that put him in the middle of the first row behind the Rockies dugout.

"We're new, and you've got over 100 years of tradition there," he said of Boston. "Ted Williams ... Dom DiMaggio ... It's just an apple-and-orange comparison. I think we'll have it, it will just take that time. Who knows, [Troy] Tulowitzki, maybe [Todd] Helton could be that player that you think about years from now.

"It's just the difference in the passion. They're good fans, they want their team to win. The first night when we came into Fenway [on Wednesday], John Henry shook our hand and said, 'Good luck.' When the owner of your team does that to an opposing visiting fan, that's a nice touch. We've never gone through it.

"Now it's kind of a new experience as a fan of baseball."

Rockies manager Clint Hurdle appreciates the significance of his team's success: "For me, as much as anything, it gives an entire generation of children a lifelong memory, to start with. And that is probably as gratifying to me as anything that's going to happen here outside of victory that it will give a huge generation of young children, both boys and girls, a date and a place to go back to, and say remember when the World Series was here in '07." And the fans could get used to it.

Jim Warner, 73, always wondered what it would feel like.

"It's unbelievable, because I'm a native of Denver," he said before entering the main gate, as Rockies fans outnumbered a small Iraq protest out front. "I remember going to games at old Merchants Park, seeing Minor League teams like the Denver Bears."

As a former head of the Rotary Club of Denver, Warner said he was one of the people behind the creation of "The Player" statue in front of the main gate. The statue represents the Branch Rickey Award, which the Rotary Club is presenting to Atlanta's John Smoltz this year, for community service. But the statue also speaks volumes about the disparity in tradition during this World Series. Perhaps the Rockies have a player right now who one day will be "their" statue.

"It's new for us, because the Rockies are not that old. We're still building our tradition," Warner said. "To have a World Series here is just unbelievable. The fact that no one expected it for most of the season is what makes it even more exceptional. Our guys have done so tremendously well."

He and the whole crowd on this night were on top of the world.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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