Beer batter banner
Couple flies purple flag to razz opposing players, promote fan support
Cue the music: “Beer-Thirty!”
A shout rises from behind home plate at Suplizio Field. Don Sekulich jumps to his feet and grabs the banner.
The purple banner, adorned with a silver-and-gold mug of suds, flutters in the breeze as the crowd erupts after each strike.
Opposing teams don’t particularly like the game played for the fans during Grand Junction Rockies games, where a player is chosen for each game. If he strikes out, draft beer is $2 for the next 10 minutes.
Sekulich is known throughout the ballpark — and around Grand Junction — as “the beer batter guy.”
He and his wife, Alma, live in Loma. A co-worker of Alma’s gave her the banner last summer, suggesting it might be something they’d like to hang somewhere on their ranch.
“I said, ‘No, I’ve got something for this,’ and we started flying the beer batter flag,” Don said at a recent game at Suplizio. “It just kind of exploded on us.
“Last year we were at the air show and somebody stopped us and said, ‘You’re the beer batter people, aren’t you?’ “
The players who returned to Grand Junction for their second Rookie season this summer talked about the beer banner, relating the story to their new teammates.
On a normal night, the beer batter gets three at-bats. The first, Sekulich is in his seat behind home plate.
The second at-bat, he meanders over toward the visiting dugout to visit with a friend in one of the handicapped seating areas, where they try to get the attention of the batter as he’s walking to the plate.
On this night, Sekulich’s name was drawn to get the “best seats in the house,” a pair of recliners positioned to the first-base side of home plate, at field level.
“Jose! Jose! The banner’s over here, Jose! Don’t look at it! JOOOO-SEEEE!”
When the Sekuliches heard about the Rockies relocating their Rookie baseball team from Casper, Wyo., to Grand Junction, they thought it could be fun.
“We just have a blast,” Don said. “When they started advertising the first year to get season tickets, we thought that might be a hoot. We love each other, and now we get a date every night of the week every other week.”
Their circle of friends now includes fans who sit in their section behind the home plate portal to enter the seats. They hosted an end-of-season party last summer, and if they don’t make it to a game, they get text messages asking where they are.
They don’t get them very often — they’ve only missed a handful of games the past two summers.
And what about the banner if they’re absent?
“The training is about a three-week training session. We gave them little beer batter diplomas,” Don quipped about the backup banner wavers.
The original banner was signed by the 2012 team and front office and now hangs in the garage in Loma.
Alma made a new banner for 2013, and Don added small flags with a K in a mug of beer that hang by magnets on the rail for each beer batter strikeout.
A former salesman who calls himself a “house husband,” Don is learning blacksmithing, so he’s customized their seating area.
He fashioned a cup holder out of a couple of old license plates and clips it onto the rail in front of their seats. And because they like a lot of leg room, Alma said, they bought the seats behind theirs so they can lean back without disturbing other fans.
They know the ushers by name, and Don hollers like crazy for the Rockies, but he also applauds when the opposing team makes a big play. Like most of the fans, they just appreciate good baseball.
When the gates open, it’s a safe bet the Sekuliches are two of the first people through the turnstiles. Once the little kids have run the bases, they pack up for home.
“We’re the first to come and the last to leave,” Don said. “It’s like a drug. We just laugh and laugh.”