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Rockies celebrate 20th anniversary before opener

Young Sr., who hit first homer at Mile High, one of many former Rox in attendance

DENVER -- In a world short on rituals and passages, the Rockies' celebration of their 20th anniversary was a nice one, with Eric Young Sr. and his son, Eric Jr., acknowledging each other on the infield at Coors Field as the crowd cheered.

Young Sr. drew some of the biggest applause when members of the inaugural 1993 team were introduced. It was Young who led off the bottom of the first in the home opener with a home run off Montreal's Kent Bottenfield to touch off an 11-4 victory in front of 80,227 at old Mile High Stadium.

The '93 Rockies stayed on the field as Friday's squad was introduced, and utility man Young Jr. was able to remove his cap and point to his dad. Young Jr. was seated in the family section at Mile High back then, not knowing he would one day be wearing purple pinstripes like his dad.

Young Jr. worked with his son and the Rockies as a special instructor during Spring Training. He might spend some time with the team during this season, although he works as an analyst on Astros pre- and postgame shows. No matter what his job or which team he represents, he understands and appreciates his importance to the Rockies.

"Opening Day for the Rockies will always be special, and the home run will always be cherished, will be remembered, will be held in a special place for a lot of people," Young Sr. said. "For people who had kids who were at the game, and now their kids are coming, it will be passed down to every generation."

Young Jr. was married during the offseason. His dad laughed and said he wouldn't mind a Rockies uniform passed down to an unborn heir.

"Without a doubt, we're supposed to keep it going," Young Sr. said. "There's going to be an Opening Day every year, so let's make sure someone's representing the Youngs.

"Really, it's special that my son is here. For him to experience 20 years, to see how the fans responded to us. We really understood and respected the fans and the opportunity we had. I don't think there will ever be 80,000 to witness a baseball game in a stadium again. Then we'd go out to Utah, Wyoming, the whole viewing audience tuned in watching and listening to Charlie Jones. People will take that to their grave."

Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette and special front-office assistant Vinny Castilla, who helps with instruction, were in full uniform and participated in the ceremony. David Nied, who started the club's inaugural game on April 5, 1993, at Shea Stadium (a 3-0 loss to the Mets); Bryn Smith, the winning pitcher in the first game at Mile High; longtime relief pitcher Steve Reed and many other members of the expansion club were also honored on the field.

The Padres had some representation as well, in bullpen coach Willie Blair and television broadcaster Mark Grant, who both played for Colorado.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.
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