A look into the National Ballpark Museum
Article and photos by Julie Matuszewski
While spring training was cut short this year and baseball fans will not be able to experience the traditional Opening Day this month, the “boys of summer” are still in our hearts.
Days before social distancing became a mandate, I visited the National Ballpark Museum in Denver. Walking through the front doors transported me back in time; back to a time where the first crack of a baseball bat meant summer had officially arrived. Even though I grew up a softball player, I played my share of baseball. I ran the diamond bases with the neighborhood kids and attended every evening game under the stadium lights. Nestled in our stadium seats, laps full of peanuts and Cracker Jacks, we took in every sound, sight and smell. Ballparks were truly a place where a kid could lose themselves in dreams – where baseball dreams did come true.
For Bruce “B” Hellerstein, founder and owner of the National Ballpark Museum, baseball had always been a companion and best friend. Just west of Coors Field on Blake Street, B’s lifetime of experiences and memories are on display for baseball lovers and dreamers to enjoy.
The original idea of the museum was to concentrate on ballpark memorabilia. Since that time, B’s ballpark collection has grown from original house ballpark seats to one-of-kind treasures, including vintage ticket game stubs, game programs, baseball gloves, cards and more.
A few treasures that caught my eye included an original Cincinnati Reds usher uniform and an old Yankee turnstile etched with the words, “Property of the New York Yankees.”
Not being a Colorado native, the history of Colorado’s own Denver Bears and the Bears Stadium was a lesson in and of itself. The Denver Bears were a minor league baseball team that played primarily in the Western League. In 1911, they were recognized as one of 100 greatest minor league teams of all time. An original Denver Bears game ticket dated August 1948 was also included in the display.
My son explored the museum like a kid lost in a candy store. At every turn, he explored an era he will never experience except in his wildest imagination. He found signed baseballs from the greatest players of all time, visited old ballparks through reproduction models, sat in original ballpark seats and wore a 1940s catcher’s glove and “spitter” mask. In that moment, he went back in time. For a moment, he too was one of the great All-Stars.
While closed as of press time, the National Ballpark Museum is usually open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays. The museum is closed on Sundays and holidays. Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for seniors; children 16 and younger are free. Call 303-974-5835 to schedule tours and for other general information.