John F. Russell: Banking baseball memories

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John Russell

John Russell's sports column appears Sundays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by John here.

— Dean Vogelaar loves the game of baseball.He can talk about the game for hours, has enough sports memorabilia to fill a museum and calls some of the game's greatest players his friends.

But when you walk into his office at Mountain Valley Bank, you might never guess he spent 23 years working for the Kansas City Royals in various roles with the club's sports information department.

Sure he has a few knick-knacks - including a replica of the 1985 Commissioner's Trophy - lying around his office. But he decided to downplay his major league experiences when he moved to Steamboat Springs a few years ago.

"Nobody cares about what you've done, that was in the past," Vogelaar said.

Instead he keeps his memories of two decades of professional baseball, including a glorious run with the Royals that led to the 1985 World Series championship, close to his heart where they belong - not on his walls.

In 1993, Vogelaar left the Royals, who were in the middle of a transition after the death of longtime owner Ewing Kauffman, to come to Steamboat Springs. A Colorado native, Vogelaar said he loved working in baseball, but all those years on the road had taken a toll and he was looking for a change.

These days, he's a banker, not the former vice president of communications and public relations for the Royals.

When the World Series begins this week, baseball fans in Steamboat will be cheering for the Rockies, but for Vogelaar, the series will be much more personal - he will be pulling for an old friend.

Vogelaar has been a close friend of Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle since the day the Royals drafted Hurdle in 1975. He said Hurdle's fun-loving personality immediately made him a good friend, and that friendship has gotten stronger throughout the years.

Vogelaar says he doesn't talk to the Rockies skipper on a daily basis, but a few years back, Hurdle and his family came to Steamboat Springs and stayed with the Vogelaars during the all-star break.

"It's been so much fun to watch Clint through the ups and downs," Vogelaar said. "He's come so far. The other night my wife, who doesn't normally like to watch baseball, asked me to move out of the way so that she could see the television," Vogelaar said.

Better move over, Dean.

These days, everybody wants to watch the Rockies play baseball. Forget the time when you could show up at Coors Field and expect to purchase game-day tickets.

It's enough to break a true Rockies fan's achy heart, but you have a better chance of landing a Hannah Montana ticket (I'm told that's the hardest ticket to get in the country, if you can believe that) than a seat at Coors Field this week.

Vogelaar's support of the Rockies has been constant, win or lose. When the Rockies were in the middle of a 1-9 road trip earlier this season, Vogelaar said could relate to what Hurdle and the Rockies were going through. And nobody in Steamboat was happier when the Rockies beat the odds, and San Diego in the 13th, to advance to the playoffs.

Maybe that's because Vogelaar wasn't just cheering for a good baseball team, but supporting a lifelong friendship he owes to the game he loves.

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