That time I broke into Rockies Stadium

While living in Boulder, Colorado I went down to Denver one night with my friend and roommate Emily to see He Is Legend. After the show, we were walking around downtown with nothing to do when a thought occurred to me...

You know, I would love to run the bases at Rockies Stadium. Like, right now.

So we walked the couple blocks to the stadium and I casually inspected the entrance. In retrospect, the main entrance was not the way to go, but...alcohol. I handed Emily my phone, wallet and keys and told her to go wait by the car a few blocks away.

Photo courtesy of  Say Hello to America .

Photo courtesy of Say Hello to America.

You see those high green fences beyond the columns, in the background? That was the only thing keeping me out, which seemed very doable in my state. I quickly scaled it and jogged through the main entrance, knowing that I should not linger and instead should go right down to the field, run around the bases and then GTFO. I took in the giant empty stadium and the tens of thousands of seats as I ran down the steps. I neared the dugout on the first-base line, the Rockies side, and was all of 20 seconds into my adventure when a loud, amplified voice suddenly cried out, "STOP RIGHT THERE!".

The voice was above me and to the left. Without thinking, I darted right and entered a full-on sprint. I didn't plan for this but I followed my legs, which had already made my decision. I didn't think anyone would be here. It wasn't even the weekend! But I ran as fast as I possibly could which, I can now tell you, is not a long-term strategy. After a minute or so, I tired. And I remember thinking Oh fuck, I'm going to get caught because I'm out of breath - how lame is that!? For some reason, I had always feared this scenario. And now here I was. Before I continue here is a photo of the empty park to paint the picture:

Taken legally, during the day, by  The Ballpark Guide .

Taken legally, during the day, by The Ballpark Guide.

Back to the action. I was on one of the aisles right by the Rockies dugout. I ran past it and got onto the field, somehow thinking this gave me more options. I want you to consider that this was around midnight. There no lights on in the stadium that I recall, so I had no idea how many people were now after me. Was it one or 15? I cut across right field to the bullpen, but there was a high fence (which you can see in the next photo) so I kept running along the warning track. If you look at the previous image you'll see a forest behind center field. Let's see another angle of that:

Photo again courtesy of  The Ball Park Guide , "When the fountains and the bullpens were put in, the team’s management opted to position the visiting team’s bullpen immediately adjacent to the fountains. Why? The prevailing winds blow from left field to right field, which means that some of the spray from the fountains gets blown on the visiting team’s bullpen — not very appealing during an April or September evening game".

Photo again courtesy of The Ball Park Guide, "When the fountains and the bullpens were put in, the team’s management opted to position the visiting team’s bullpen immediately adjacent to the fountains. Why? The prevailing winds blow from left field to right field, which means that some of the spray from the fountains gets blown on the visiting team’s bullpen — not very appealing during an April or September evening game".

As I didn't have time to assess any sort of exit strategy, I thought the forest might provide some much-needed cover. As you can see from the first photo, there is a wall in front of the forest and water fountain area. You know, the home run wall. Which is eight feet tall. However, there were two doors (which appear as black squares just to the right of the forest). Are they open? I think so. They are.

So now I was in the forest. And what was my brilliant gameplan from this point? To um...duck under a tree, hoping I somehow hadn't been seen and just hide out for a couple hours until they gave up. Then I would analyze the situation, figure out my quickest way out and run like I left my car in neutral on a steep hill. Was it a great plan? No, but it was the one I had. In retrospect, if we look at the field again:

coors-field-tour-press-box-view.jpg

I probably could have just ran for the giant exit beyond the third-base line, scaled some other fence and gotten away. But that's not how this story unfolded. So there I am, on a cool Thursday April night in 2015, deep in the forest of Coors Field behind center field, laying on the ground motionless under a tree, wondering what was next for my night. I don't know how long I laid there. It might have been 10 seconds, it might have been five minutes, but from on high - perhaps even the upper deck - a strong flashlight shone down directly on me. Shit. A couple seconds later a security guard runs up and grabs me. I don't try to fight. They got me.

I am walked back to some holding cell deeeeep in the ballpark. This is the drunk tank, perfectly described as:

...enclosures to which stadium security personnel takes fans who may have edged over the line of acceptable rowdiness. But they're definitely not places where anyone would like to hang out, especially during a game. The spaces are small and narrow, with the main decor being a metal bench. Source

"They're used from time to time for unruly fans," says Rockies spokesman Jay Alves. They're not really jail cells, but are there to be used "as seen fit by the Denver Police Department." Source

So there I am. It looks and feels like a jail. I'm not feeling wonderful about my adventure anymore, but I have an ace up my sleeve: I don't have any id on me.

1xa3a4.jpg

The interrogation lasted a while, due to my lack of identification. I told them I just wanted to run the bases and then I was going to leave. They asked me who the girl was and where she was. So they had cameras out front, saw her, and probably saw me climbing the fence and likely followed some protocol they have for this exact scenario. I'm no rat so I feigned ignorance about Emily. Besides, she wasn't a part of this at all so they were never going to get her name.

The next part is a little fuzzy because, let's face it, I was drunk. But mostly I remember just sitting there, alone, waiting. They asked me who I was but I said I didn't have to tell them. I'm guessing this threw them for a loop - I'm sure people climbed the fence at night before, but they probably had their id on them. Eventually they said they would let me go if I just gave them my name. I thought about this for a long while. This wasn't Denver Police - this was Rockies Security. I knew they weren't going to have a police officer on location for non-game days.

I really didn't know what to do. If I gave them my name, would they just call the police and arrest me for trespassing? Most likely that's a low-level misdemeanor with no real implications beyond embarrassment, fines and inconvenience. If I didn't give them my name, not only would this likely piss them off, but it probably wouldn't get me out of trouble. Despite the above meme I created specifically for this post, people can be arrested as John Doe...right?

I looked it up and basically, there is what is known as Stop and Identify statutes, which "authorize police to legally obtain the identification of someone whom they reasonably suspect of having committed a crime". I'll go out on a limb and say they had reasonable suspicion that I had, in fact, entered the stadium illegally. This statute applies in about half of all states, which includes Colorado. And from a different article in the LA Weekly:

Both attorneys seem to agree that refusing to ID yourself when you're the subject of a police investigation will not end well. Denton of Berkeley says, "The practical reality is if you do that you will probably be detained and searched."

But back to the holding cell. A couple people had been in to talk to me but I asked the first guy, the one who said he'd let me go if I gave him my name, if he would give me his word that he would let me go. I figured this was the best I would get. I like to think that a man giving his word still means a lot. He gave me his word, so I opened up and revealed my name. They left the room for a while, I assume to have the police see if I had a criminal history. I did, but not in Colorado and not in over a decade. A long half hour later, they came back, saying my record was clean and that I would be escorted out of the building. Whew. Naturally a huge wave of relief washed over me.

As I was being walked out, I had a friendly chat with the security guard that had grabbed me in the forest. He happened to be black and I wondered how things might have been different if I had been black. Maybe it would have gone exactly the same, maybe it wouldn't have. Hard to say. I asked him if this happened often and he said "Oh, all the time." It was, after all, next to a bunch of bars, as are most ballparks that are downtown. Then he asked me, "Why did you run?". I turned and looked at him and said, with complete sincerity, "Man...what would you have done?". He smiled and left me to walk out.

Epilogue

The story ends there but for the purposes of closure, I was led to the back of the stadium. I will forever wish I could remember our parting words but all I can say is I'm certain I made a joke. He let me to walk down the long pathway out myself so naturally I turned and sprinted for the bases.

I kid. I walked up 20th Street, glanced over at where I had climbed the fence, and continued on. I made sure I was not being followed by making a couple evasive maneuvers, then walked to where Emily had parked some blocks away, fully expecting that she had left. After all, we had parted ways probably two hours ago. But her car was there, and Emily was in it. I got in and told her the story as we drove back to Boulder, my desire for adventure satiated for the night.