Eric Cummings has been attending every Colorado Rockies Opening Day for nearly two decades.
It's become a tradition to drive downtown, grab a bag of peanuts and watch the game he has loved since he was 4 years old.
And, on Friday, a new tradition began as he and his fiancé pulled their 4-year-old grandson out of day care for his first Opening Day.
"It's a holiday for me so I think it should be a holiday for everyone," Cummings said.
Cummings and his family were among the thousands who flocked to downtown on Friday in purple, black and white — while some wore Dodger blue — as the Rockies hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers to kick off the 2022 Major League Baseball season. For many, the day marked the "real" opening of America's beloved game since a shapeshifting virus upended lives around the globe.
High schoolers Lukas Beisner and Zach Hardin arrived at the stadium just after 10 a.m. to be among the first people inside the stadium to watch batting practice.
Beisner said he and Hardin have been going to Rockies games together for several years, but they have never attended Opening Day. They were beyond thrilled for the day to finally be here, they said.
"I couldn't sleep last night I was so excited because it felt like Christmas Eve," said Beisner while playing catch with Hardin in front of Gate E. "Baseball's back and I couldn't be more happy."
The excitement and celebration wasn't restricted to Coors Field as it extended over to McGregor Square, Denver's Union Station and the bars and restaurants scattered along Blake Street.
In anticipation of a "record day," The Blake Street Tavern opened its doors two hours earlier. The change worked – people began flooding into the establishment as the clock struck 9 a.m., said Chris Fuselier, the owner of the restaurant and bar.
The flood of customers wasn't a surprise. Fuselier said Opening Day is, year-after-year, the biggest day of the year at Blake Street Tavern.
"It feels like things are getting back to normal times," Fuselier said. "A day like today is a real opening and really shot in the arm (for our industry)."
Down the street, Sharon Kindell, the owner of Coffee High Co., said they were feeling the impact of Opening Day as people were continuously flowing through their coffee shop for pastries, breakfast burritos and coffee.
"This is bringing more business and life back to downtown," Kindell said.
Fort Collins resident Travis Hand was one of the thousands who returned to downtown for Opening Day. Like others, he, too, has been attending Opening Day nearly every year for two decades. The only years he missed, he said, were 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
Hand said even though he'd only been in the city for a few hours, he sensed a reenergized feeling in the air that had been missing since the start of the pandemic.
"The environment today has been fantastic," Hand said. "There's just so much stuff going on and everyone seems to be excited. It hasn't felt like this since before the pandemic."
While many people who flooded the streets of downtown were excited for the return of baseball, others like Joshua Pugh, were looking forward to getting his favorite stadium food for the first time in eight months.
"I'm ready for some stadium food," said Pugh who had a purple mohawk with "Rockies Opening Day" written on it.
But to Cummings, Friday was about passing a decades old tradition to his grandson and spending time with his family.
"Words can't express the way I feel about it," Cummings said. "I'm going to take him out of school every year for this.
Cummings added: "It's one of those things where I didn't believe I'd be able to have this opportunity at this young age I'm at, and I'll be able to do this for the next 20 years with him."
"I said on Facebook this morning that we were starting a new tradition," he said.