You can disagree with Jared Polis on a lot. Trust me, I have. The one thing you must say is he’s Colorado's best baseball governor, just as it’s hard to deny John Hickenlooper was the best beer governor.
Bill Owens is the best governor. He cut taxes, passed infrastructure bonds and reformed education. Polis is catching up on all three, but Owens has been there and done that.
Polis is the state’s official host of the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Coors Field on Tuesday. The Midsummer Classic fell to Colorado when the league balked at Georgia’s new election laws, poorly timed, thinly reasoned and racially loaded.
Joey Bunch: "Denver’s good luck was Georgia’s bad, a product of the balls and strikes of politics: the Big Lie, fake news, woke corporations and election integrity."
Colorado has been home to mail-ballot elections since 2013. Under Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, Colorado's elections became known nationally as the gold standard for security.
Let me load the bases here. I gossip about politics for a living all day and have for a few years now, so I’ve filed away anecdotes and factoids in the cluttered filing cabinet in my head. One of the oddball things I know about Polis is that he was a pretty good baseball player when he was a kid.
He’s remembered around Boulder as a fastball pitcher and a sticky-gloved third baseman, then he hit a few more in high school at LaJolla Country Day School in Southern California.
Baseball has been a constant.
Polis still remembers his first game vividly, he told me in a phone call. He was 5 or 6 years old visiting his Uncle Paul and Aunt Ivy in New York. Uncle Paul was a big Yankees fan. Polis pulled for the California Angels. The duo went to see the two teams play at Yankee Stadium, where Polis stood and cheered when the Angels scored, a lone dissenter in a Yankees crowd. A baseball fan was born.
When he was in college at Princeton, he took the ride to the city for Mets and Yankees games, West Coast allegiances aside.
He’s not a golfer, the official game of business. He’s a ballplayer, and that’s two different people.
"There's that quote, ‘Golf is a nice walk interrupted,’ ” Polis said, recalling the three times he tried it. “I guess it might be fun for socializing with friends, but baseball is just (pause) great. I grew up with it. My mom coached my Little League team. I played high school baseball, so I grew up with it and love the game.”
The game helped him master statistics and higher math, tracking batting, slugging, earned run and on-base averages. He used some money he’d saved up to buy a box of ball cards. Most 10-year-olds would have torn through them in minutes.
“I was smart enough to say, ‘I'm never going to open any of these. I'm going to leave them all in this carton, and someday I'm going to open these and see what I have inside,'” he said. “And Lord knows what's in there, ya know? Cause it's a whole box, like you would buy at the store.”
He’s right: George Brett, Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, the San Diego Chicken, the possibilities are endless.
Lingering embers of it remain. When he was in Congress, he was one of the annual charity game’s best hitters, an RBI record-holder still.
“I still go to the cages,” the 45-year-old slugger told me.
When the game was moved to Denver in April, Polis, of course, wasn't alone in his enthusiasm.
“I’m excited,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “We’ll get to see the best baseball players in the world showcase their skills … . It’s been a long year, and I can think of nothing more energizing to help boost our recovery and advance our economy than to bring the Midsummer Classic back to the Mile High City.”
He called Polis “dogged” in working behind the scenes to land the game, which, as I’ve said, should have come as no surprise.
The boon to Hick's brewpub when Coors Field came to LoDo put him on the business map, which put him on the political map to become mayor a decade later. As a player, Hick wasn't exactly the MVP of the Wynnewood Warriors, his Little League in the Philadelphia suburbs. ("My Coke-bottle thick glasses would wobble on my nose when I swung, and it seemed every bat was too heavy for me," Hick reported in his book "The Opposite of Woe.")He boasted in 2007 he could still name all the players on the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies.
Polis, however, joins Gov. Roy Romer, on history’s roster as an All-Star game's head of state the only other time Colorado hosted the All-Star Game in 1998, a year before Owens took office.
Romer competes, as well, having appointed the committee in 1990 that put together the ownership team that brought the Rockies to Denver.
For one night in July, regardless of party or skill level, Coloradans can take a figurative front-row seat to baseball royalty, hoist an overpriced draft beer and play ball.