DENVER -- Never mind the 41-degree temperature, Saturday night was a perfect night for baseball for Denver-area native David Bote, who made his Major League debut by knocking the first strike he saw for an extra-base hit in the Cubs' 5-2 loss to the Rockies at Coors Field.
Bote, the Cubs' No. 14 prospect, was called up Saturday when Benjamin Zobrist went on the disabled list with tightness in his lower back. Bote started the game at third base and batted eighth, and after not seeing any action in the field in the first inning, he came up to bat with one out in the second and the Cubs ahead 2-0.
With lefty Tyler Anderson on the mound, Bote drove the second pitch he saw the opposite way into the right-center gap for a standup double. Bote raised his hand triumphantly when he landed at second, acknowledging his teammates along with a huge cheering section of friends and family who had come out to see the Colorado native play his first game in the ballpark where he grew up watching baseball.
"[Kyle] Schwarber told me if I didn't swing at the first strike I saw, he'd yell at me," Bote said. "[Anthony] Rizzo said, 'You only get one chance to hit the first pitch of your career out of the yard.'"
Even after the defeat, the team took time in the clubhouse to celebrate Bote's debut, and the newfound camaraderie was the thrill Bote, 26, had been imagining all his life.
"I was just like, 'Man, did this happen? Did that really just happen?'" Bote said of the feeling he experienced reaching second base. "And seeing my teammates on the top step, that was the coolest moment.
"That's a huge thing with this team, everybody's in that at-bat with you, so when you get a hit, when you succeed, they feel it with you. That's just great to have as support, and a great group of guys to play with."
Bote's perfect day began in the wee hours of the morning when he got the call he'd been waiting seven years to answer.
"I got the call at midnight last night," a jubilant Bote said before Saturday's game. "My wife was sleeping, I was about ready to go to bed. The kids were sleeping, and she was like, 'Ssshhhh!' And I was like, 'Wait a second, this is the phone call!' She got up and got really excited.
"They said, 'Hey, you're going to the big leagues tomorrow.' I was really excited. Really awesome moment. I was really blessed to have my wife and kids there with me in Des Moines in our apartment. It was a really special moment."
Though he has been a Cub since he was drafted in the 18th round of the 2012 Draft, Bote grew up watching the Rockies. He's the same age as the Rockies' franchise, and his earliest baseball memories are a mixture of his father's decades of coaching at the high-school level and watching the all-time Rockies greats define baseball in Colorado.
"I was born two days before their Opening Day here in Colorado, so I grew up watching Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, Todd Helton, all those guys," Bote said. "It's the same stadium, but it's fun knowing you belong there, you're going to work there, instead of going there for entertainment."
Among his earliest memories at Coors Field was the game when watching baseball turned a corner for him. As a high-school shortstop, he sat in the left-field bleachers to study Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies and Tulowitzki with the Rockies.
"I didn't watch a single part of the game except those two play shortstop," Bote said. "I didn't see a single pitch, I didn't see any hits. I was just watching their movements, seeing their pre-pitch setups. I was just locked in on how they approached [the game]. At the time, I was a shortstop, probably 14 or 15. I was kind of like, 'This has something to it.'"
Bote remembered looking around the visitor's clubhouse on a public tour he took in recent years and figuring out roughly where his locker would be someday. But the long journey he took to make the big leagues had him on the verge of giving up in 2016. He'd spent parts of five years in various levels of Class A before finally clicking at Double-A in 2017.
"I really believe it's the culmination of six years," Bote said of his callup. "The hard times, really tough times. Just grind through it, grind through it. If I didn't have my wife, I'd probably be out of baseball. I was going back to high-A to play every day in 2016, and I was like, 'I'm done. I'm over it.' She was the one that said, 'Hey, we didn't stay in Class A ball for four years for you to give up now.'"
His wife and kids, his parents and other family members and friends accounted for 32 tickets Bote left at Will Call Saturday, and while he'll have his own cheering section at Coors Field, he also has at least one enthusiastic fan in the visitor's dugout.
"Because of his bat, he can play all over the place," manager Joe Maddon said before the game. "He's a second baseman by trade, but he played some really good third base for us in Spring Training. You can throw him at shortstop if you want, and outfield.
"Here's the thing with a guy like him. We have a nice team, but if his bat's ready and there's a need, you want to be able to say, 'Bring him on up.'"
On paper, Bote looks capable of filling Zobrist's versatile shoes. Zobrist has started at four positions for the Cubs so far this year, and Bote has played every position but pitcher and catcher through his Minor League career.
"I love that he's from down the street. I didn't even know that," Maddon said. "If it wasn't the right matchup, he wouldn't be starting. I like getting first-time guys out there fast. But left-handed pitcher in Colorado, Major League debut. It couldn't have been more perfect."