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Giants coaches recall early days of baseball in Denver

DENVER -- Tim Flannery got the feeling that Denver was destined to establish a bigger presence in the baseball world when he participated in an exhibition game here with the San Diego Padres against the Boston Red Sox in the late 1980s.

As Flannery recalled, more than 30,000 tickets were sold in advance. Snow had to be scraped from the playing surface at Mile High Stadium, but that didn't diminish the fan enthusiasm. "It was out-of-control loud," Flannery said.

With the Colorado Rockies observing their 20th anniversary, such memories were easy to conjure for Giants coaches who passed through here during the '80s while playing at the Triple-A level.

"At that time, it didn't feel like a baseball city," bench coach Ron Wotus said. "It was kind of a new experience, baseball-wise. It was a little bit odd the way the ball flew, because of the altitude."

Pretty soon, though, everybody grew accustomed to the conditions. Bill Hayes, the Giants' bullpen catcher, said that he imagined what Denver would be like as a big league town when he was playing for Iowa in the Chicago Cubs system.

"I thought they'd have a good turnout, they're going to score runs, it's going to be an offensive ballpark, and that's just what it turned out to be," Hayes said. "You knew the ball was going to jump and the pitchers would go, 'Aw, jeez.'"

Hayes recalled a bell that was situated alongside the Mile High Stadium press box that would ring for each run that Denver scored in each inning. "It sounded like a locomotive bell going off," Hayes said. "We couldn't get them out."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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