DENVER — He came to Coors Field, he rooted for his beloved Rockies ... he wore a Cardinals jersey.

A Nolan Arenado Cardinals jersey.

"He was my favorite Colorado athlete — Broncos, Rockies, Avs (or) Nuggets. And we’ve got some great ones right now,” said Colorado sports fan Ben Woodrum, a real one at 5,280 feet. “Nolan was my favorite of all of them.”

Shuffling forward in a beer line Thursday afternoon on Opening Day at Coors Field, Ben added: “So wearing this jersey, I’m silently voicing my disappointment. It’s a silent protest.”

No joke, at the same time I'm hunting down No. 28 jerseys (Rox, Cards, whomever), a fan rocking a “FIRE BRIDICH” shirt noticed Dick Monfort cruising the concourse: “Dick! Do this! Do this!”

The Rockies beat the Dodgers, 8-5.

“We've been coming to Opening Day since the first one, 1993,” said Ryan Hutton, a Rangeview grad in his Nolan jersey. “That was at Mile High, but I mean, look at this place. It’s beautiful.

“You just really wish Nolan was here.”

Is it better to have loved and lost, or to never have loved at all?

“It stings, no doubt about it,” said Woodrum, a Fort Collins man.

Hey, let’s not pretend the first game with fans in the stands in 550 days was anything but blissful. Sixty-eight degrees as the Rockies took a 5-4 lead in the sixth and never let it go. There will be some goofy sunburns when those masks come off. Beer. So much beer. After Colorado’s ridiculous fan bans kept them away from the ballgames for over a year, 20,570 folks set an unofficial record for, “Hey, want a cold one?”

Still. Rockies diehards won’t soon forget or forgive the trade that sent Arenado and $50 million to the St. Louis Cardinals on Feb. 1. He slashed .293/.303./.434 here. He won all the Gold Gloves and made fans for life here. They’re not ready to let him go, and the swarms of Arenado jerseys soaking up the sun proved it.

“I don’t think I’ll become a Cardinals fan,” Woodrum said, “But I’ll keep track of Nolan.”

Last time we do this — I have a heart — but here’s to tracking Nolan: 2-for-5 and a RBI in his Cardinals debut, an 11-6 win vs. the Reds. Last time we do this comparison, too, but his cousin and replacement at third base (on opening day, at least), went 1-for-5 with a RBI. Josh Fuentes turned sweet double plays in the first and second innings, a best possible start for one of Nolan’s possible successors.

We’ll see Fuentes on third. Got some fire to him, that guy. We’ll see Ryan McMahon at third. We’ll see Chris Owings, who had three hits playing second base Thursday. We’ll see a bunch of Not Nolans at third, and that’s not their fault.

“I’m happy to see Josh Fuentes get an opportunity to show what he can do,” Woodrum said.

Good sports at Coors. Team players. Also a little "I just want her to be happy" after a breakup.

Can’t blame them one bit. It's not just Nolan. It's D.J. It's Dahl. Soon enough, it'll be Trevor.

Despite thumping the World Series champs on opening day, and a giddy crowd that didn’t want to go home, expectations have never been lower for the Rockies. Not in 2012, when the club won 64 games, or in 1993, the inaugural season over at Mile High, with 64 wins. The Vegas win total for these Rockies: 63.5 wins. They’ll need Kyle Freeland back ASAP to get there. They're saying a month, but strained shoulders are a real pain.

How should Rockies fans cope with Arenado long gone? Seeing the Rox batter Clayton Kershaw for five runs on 10 hits was a good place to start. But winning can't be the priority for fans if it's not the priority for ownership, and the other things that make baseball games fun are more important now. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is allowed to criticize "The Wave." Place a friendly bet on the Tooth Trot, if it ever returns. Laugh at the losses, celebrate with every win. Sing a little louder on Charlie Blackmon at-bats toniiiight. 

“Today was one of those days I thought we played really well,” manager Bud Black said.

Come to think of it, maybe the best answer to the dilemma facing Rockies fans — stay, or stay away — came from a diehard in a Nolan jersey.

“It is what it is,” said Brackton Smith.

Sounds of Summer: Listen to all of the Colorado Rockies walkup songs

It is what it is. Until Rockies ownership changes, the only real solution here, it is what it is. The guy trolling Monfort with a FIRE BRIDICH shirt needs to aim a little higher: SELL. THE. TEAM.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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