AP Sports Writer
DENVER (AP) -- On the eve of his team's home opener, Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort stepped into the role of tour guide as he showed off more than $6 million in renovations at Coors Field.
Strolling around the stadium, Monfort proudly pointed out revamped suites, a sustainable garden out back that features fresh herbs and vegetables, a new restaurant/bar called "The Press Club," seats behind home plate with more leg room and a play area for kids who are more interested in fun than the actual game.
As for the upgrades on the field, well, those have been a little more modest. The Rockies didn't make much noise in the offseason, which is why many pundits have predicted the Rockies will finish near the bottom of the NL West this season.
Monfort understands the skepticism, especially after losing a franchise-worst 98 games in 2012.
"We've got to get better," said Monfort, whose team will send Jeff Francis to the mound in the home opener on Friday afternoon to face Jason Marquis and the San Diego Padres. "We're just as disappointed and embarrassed as anybody with our record last year and the year before that.
"We can have the nicest guys in the world, the most talented guys in the world. But at the end of the day, you've got to win."
So far, the Rockies are on the right track, taking two of three from the Brewers in Milwaukee. The lineup was as potent as advertised, too, as they scored 20 runs and pounded out 41 hits.
Even more, Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio -- a trio of injured starters the Rockies are relying on heavily to return to health -- were all solid.
"If we can keep doing those things, we're going to win our share of games," said Monfort, who saw home attendance drop to 2.63 million last season, the lowest figure since 2007. "We've got a lot of talent but we've got to keep working it."
Asked what he considered a fruitful season, Monfort didn't even hesitate: "Success is a world championship to us.
"Now, we understand we can't win it every year. But our plan and everything we do is to try to do that," Monfort added. "That's our goal. Along that line, we need to be good corporate citizens and have a fan friendly place where anybody that wants to come to the ball park can come to the ball park."
Hence, the upgrades.
Monfort sauntered all over the park like a proud parent, explaining the makeovers in detail:
-- Suites that feature an island kitchen to foster a more social atmosphere ("Aren't they nice looking?" he said).
-- A ground-level party suite in right field with a perfect view of Michael Cuddyer or another right fielder ("I had them add shuffleboard," Monfort explained).
-- A play area called "Dinger's Dugout" so parents can entertain young kids.
-- A garden in the back featuring chives, rosemary, scallions, tomatoes and peppers that will be used in one of the stadium's kitchens.
-- The backstop being moved up six feet so that fans will have more walking room in the premium seats behind home plate ("Our park is a very pitcher friendly park -- that's a joke by the way -- and so we wanted to take some of the foul area out," Monfort said).
-- A new restaurant/bar that cuts press row to roughly a third of its original size.
"If you don't keep these things up, all of a sudden, you have (a park) that can't compete or isn't a friendly place," Monfort said. "You have to get something new. Part of it is to keep up and part of it is to enhance the experience for the fans."
Now, it's up to the team because upgrades may get fans to the park, but winning keeps them coming back.
"I've told people that I was more surprised than anybody that we lost 98 games," Monfort said. "We didn't change a lot of the people, so we'll just see."
In the series finale at Milwaukee, Monfort didn't even stay in his seat for the ninth inning. He was just too nervous.
"I usually leave my seat and go up to the concourse. I can see the game but I'm walking," he said. "Even with a four-run lead, I was walking the concourse."
Francis knows the feeling. He's already a case of nerves as he draws the start in front of the home fans against Marquis, a former Rockies hurler.
"I'm trying to treat it like another game," Francis said.
"I say try to treat it that way," he said, grinning. "It's exciting, the crowds are full. We want to show everybody what kind of team we have."
Todd Helton couldn't agree more, in what just may be his final home opener.
"Everybody is a little more on edge," Helton said. "The crowd is going to be into it. It's going to be a full house. Hopefully, we go out and give them a good show and give them a reason to come back."
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