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With the first pitch in Colorado Rockies history on April 9, 1993, Mile-High Stadium became the first major league ballpark in both the mountain time zone and the 14 westernmost inland states. There was clearly a pent-up demand for big-league baseball in this large and overlooked region -- attendance was so high during the team's first few games that the team instructed the architects of Coors Field to increase the already-designed new park's seating capacity in whatever way possible. Thanks in no small part to Mile-High's incredible seating capacity of 76,000, the club smashed the single-season ML attendance record by drawing nearly 4.5 million fans in their first year out of the gate.
While Mile High is principally a football stadium (home of the NFL's Denver Broncos) it originally grew out of a minor league baseball park built in 1947 as the home of the Triple-A Denver Bears. In 1968, after a series of expansions, the park (then called Bears Stadium) was renamed Mile-High. Thanks to an ingenious hydraulic mechanism developed before the Rockies' tenancy, the massive three-tiered left field stands could be moved in or out about 150 feet to frame both a baseball diamond and a football field. While the stadium lacked the charm of a classic ballpark, it was nevertheless a lofty, substantial and impressive structure with a true major league feel. After two years in Mile-High, the Rockies left for the newly-constructed Coors Field before the 1995 season.
Despite a 370-foot right field line and a 423-foot center field, Mile-High Stadium was an extreme hitter's park, thanks to an altitude that reduced the movement on pitched balls and caused batted balls to carry about 10% farther than they ordinarily would at sea level. It revived the flagging career of Andres Galarraga, whose batting average jumped to an NL-leading .370 in 1993 (after he hit only .243 the year before in St. Louis), and helped Dante Bichette go from 5 HR and 41 RBI with the Brewers in 1992 to 21 homers and 89 RBI with Colorado in 1993. (JP)