Gov. John Hickenlooper almost hit one out of the ball park Tuesday night at Churchill’s Bar at the Brown Palace Hotel. Commenting on the official opening of baseball season next Friday and the importance of Colorado Rockies star players Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzales staying off the disabled list, the sporting guv couldn’t emphasize it enough. Shortstop Tulo’s got to stay healthy, Hickenlooper told several dozen heavy hitters who gathered for a fundraiser for the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund. “If Carlos Gonzalez doesn’t stay healthy,” he added, “I’d give up my reelection bid.”
And then he quickly added, “Do not tweet that, it’s just a joke.”
Good thing he threw in that caveat at the end as this was a bipartisan crowd that included numerous political figures — former Gov. Bill Owens, himself a baseball fan who actually named his youngest son Brett after a Hall of Famer — and several dozen others were in attendance.
Similar to last year, this worthy fundraiser was held a week before the Rockies open their season on April 4, and the baseball theme was paramount.
Consider some of the auction items available that evening: A Tulowitzki autographed Louisville Slugger (apparently the premier name in MLB baseball, fastpitch and slowpitch softball for over 129 years); another ball signed by CarGo, and, as Owens proudly explained, the official game ball from the June 27, 2006 softball game between his Capital Maulers team and then-Mayor Hickenlooper and his “alleged staff team” mostly composed of “semi pro raiders.”
Owens’ team won that game 9-4, the former governor crowed, which included an inning ending ground ball from Hickenlooper which Owens turned into a double play. The ball was signed by both officeholders at the time and the former governor has kept it ever since.
“Another memento of state primacy,” Owens joked about his team’s prowess on the field that year.
“I obviously hold state primacy in a very different perspective than I did then,” Hickenlooper shot back.
Matt Wasserman, chair of the GRPF, also welcomed guests and talked about the important mission of opening the Governor’s Residence — a “rare jewel” he said — to as many people in the state as possible. So far 50,000 have visited the official Residence since the fund was established. Proceeds raised from this evening’s event would help preserve the historic home.
Roger Hutson, president of HRM Resources and one of the hosts, introduced both governors and provided a short history lesson of the Mansion as well as the Brown Palace, itself an historic landmark.
“We can disagree on politics from time to time, but we can always have respect for that office,” Hutson said. “Leave politics and egos behind,” he said about this bipartisan affair. “We’re all equals in this, all come together for the betterment of this state.”
The two governors present that night, he continued, epitomize that trait “because they’re from two different sides of the aisle, but here for the state of Colorado first, party politics second, and any personal ambition doesn’t enter the equation,” Hutson added.
Besides, Hutson pointed out, the two gentlemen both share a great lineage of having been involved in the oil and gas business. Owens, Hutson reminded, was head of the industry back in the 1980s, and Hickenlooper, a former “wayward geologist,” eventually got into an honest business: “Not politics, but the brew pub business,” Hutson joked.
Owens reminisced about the tradition he used to share with Hickenlooper as the baseball season was about to begin. Halfway between the capitol and the city& county building, the two elected officials would gather and play catch. They would celebrate the startup of the baseball season.
“Hickenlooper was born and raised a Philadelphia Phillies fan, and I was raised as an LA Dodgers fan, but we both came home with our roots with the Rockies,” he said.
“I think it matters, we need to learn the lessons of previous generations,” Hickenlooper added about the purpose of the evening. “Walk in their buildings, breathe the air they breathed. One great way to have a real symbol of preservation is to have the Governor’s Mansion kept in top form.
“Occasionally we’ll take a very small amount of money raised, a few thousand dollars, and put it into the first draft system in a governor’s mansion in the United States,” he continued about the recent installation of craft beer taps at the Residence. “It’s only appropriate,” Hickenlooper said. “There are now over 230 federally licensed breweries in the state of Colorado, by far [we’re] the number one craft beer state.”
Before the evening ended, the top item was auctioned off — dinner for 12 at the Governor’s Residence with ”one young virile guv and several older governors,” Hick promised. “We guarantee a great floor show, the guvs will do a roast of each other,” he added in upping the ante.
The dinner would be served in the Mansion — not the carriage house where most events are staged — and Hickenlooper promised that the good state china would be used. He also said he would use his influence as a former restaurateur to get one of the top chefs in the state, probably Frank Bonanno who owns four out of the top 10 restaurants in town, to oversee the meal.
After some ribbing about how much dinner with the governors is really worth, the successful bidder was newspaperman Dean Singleton, who pledged $6,500 for the opportunity.
Marie Patterson, past chair of the GRPF, offered up a whiskey toast to conclude the event. In glasses emblazoned with the GRPF logo, guests raised their glasses. “Good better best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best. Go Rockies!”
See the March 28 print edition for full photo coverage.
The Colorado Statesman