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There's something about Mary: At Coors Field, Rockies fans flock to the stadium's longest-serving usher

Mary O'Dell 2
Alana Schreiber
/
KUNC
Rockies Usher Mary O'Dell hugs longtime fan Catherine Plymale before a game

This year was arguably less than stellar for the Colorado Rockies. And while fans have known for weeks that their team wasn't headed to the post-season, many still showed up to support their players as they finished off the year.

But many also came out to the last handful of games to spend time with one of the most valuable players off the diamond — Mary O’Dell. The 84-year-old Fort Collins resident is quite possibly the most popular usher in the ballpark’s history.

Colorado Edition’s Alana Schreiber attended a Rockies game last week to speak with the legendary usher. She was joined by KUNC's Alex Hager.

Transcript
This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Alana Schreiber: It's a Tuesday night at the end of September and at Coors Field in Denver, a handful of Rockies fans are making their way to their seats. Granted, this game is kind of meaningless. The Rockies, a fourth-place team, are facing off against the Nationals, a fifth-place team. Neither is bound for the playoffs. But despite a lackluster end of the season, Coors Field Sections 125 and 126 are packed with fans. That's because many of them didn't really come out to watch the Rockies play. A lot of them came for Mary.

Mary O'Dell is an usher, and at 84 years old, the Fort Collins resident is the longest-serving one at the stadium, so it's no surprise that she's got some fans of her own. But despite her reputation as a larger-than-life usher and dedicated baseball fan, Mary wasn't always this way.

Mary O’Dell: When I up, I was very shy. I was a skinny, shy little girl with long red hair and a lot of freckles, and I just was a shy little girl. And then as I got older, I just blossomed into something else.

Schreiber: Mary was raised in an isolated rural area, which is why now she loves having a job where she gets to interact with people every day.

O’Dell: I grew up on a farm in upstate New York, near Syracuse, as a poor farmer's daughter, and we didn't have anything. I milked cows by hand, I had to make all of the butter and all homemade bread, and we lived off on the farm. But I think when you grow up as being poor, you have good values. And values are people that are loving and caring.

Mary is the only surviving member of eight siblings. She has two children and another daughter, who passed away in 2002. Six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. But at Coors Field, her family is even larger.

Dina Martin: Oh my gosh, she's one of the reasons we look forward to coming to these games.

Schreiber: Dina Martin has been a regular in Mary section for about 10 years.

Dina Martin: She's the first thing you see, and she's always happy. She's excited and she is a fan through and through, and it's contagious. And I have never seen anything anywhere like, you know, how people greet Mary and how she greets people. There is not a stranger to Mary. She treats everyone amazing. And she's just she's just unbelievable. We're so lucky to have her.

Bob Martin: Baseball, apple pie and Mary.

Schreiber: Dina's husband, Bob.

Bob Martin: She runs a tight ship. That's what I'd like. We've been to other ballparks and, you know, people come and go up and down the aisles, and it's kind of annoying. Mary, she takes care of us.

Schreiber: It wasn't just the fans who were lining up to share their stories about the legendary usher. It was also some of the staff.

Charlie Felix: Charlie Felix, AT&T videographer.

Schreiber: Charlie's known Mary for about 15 years.

Felix: I don't know where she gets it from, but she has an infectious personality. You can't be around her enough.

Schreiber: Her special relationship, is it just with the fans? It's also with other employees here?

Felix: It's with everybody, with the players that she gets to interact with, she especially has a relationship with the fans and with other employees of the Rockies. She's phenomenal all the way around.

Schreiber: But for Charlie, there's one particular memory of Mary that stands out.

Felix: I got to know her during fantasy baseball and Mary was a camper.

Schreiber: Baseball fantasy camp is an opportunity for regular folks to try their hand at the game. For about a week or so, fans get to run the bases and practice drills with former stars and on more than one occasion, Mary has been one of those fans, Because baseball isn't just her field of work, it's her passion.

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Alana Schreiber / KUNC
Mary's personal baseball card from her time at fantasy camp

O’Dell: I love the people. I love the game. I love my players. I'm close to a lot of them. A lot of them are new, and they kind of are standoffish. But I always bring them into my little circle, and I hug them. And I have many of them come by and they always kiss me on the cheek. And I just love doing what I'm doing.

Schreiber: Part of the reason Mary has such tight bonds with Rockies players and fans is because she sees many of them year-round. For the past 11 years, she has ushered for Rockies’ spring training in Arizona during the off-season.

O’Dell: I work at spring training in the first part of February with the players. And I love them very much and I spoil them, and they spoil me. And I love their family too.

Schreiber: And many fans have seen that commitment and caring up close. When one fan injured her ankle and couldn't afford to see a physical therapist, Mary took her to the team's trainer when former Rocky Dexter Fowler returned to Coors Field as a member of the Chicago Cubs. He snuck up to the stands to give Mary a kiss before a game. And for one Rockies fan, Mary helped her heal from a difficult chapter in her life.

Catherine Plymale: My name is Catherine Plymale and I live in Aurora, Colorado.

Schreiber: Catherine is a lifelong Rockies fan. In 2008, she and her husband, Mike, became season ticket holders.

Plymale: We probably attended somewhere between 40 to 50 games every year between 2008, up until 2018.

Schreiber: But in early 2019, Catherine's husband was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away not long after during a surgery.

Plymale: After having gone to so many games, Coors Field was really an integral part of our lives. And during the rest of that season, I tried to go to a few games, but each and every time I went, I broke down in tears and found it very difficult to go there.

Schreiber: Catherine thought her season ticket days were over, but in 2021 she came back, this time sitting at Mary's.

Plymale: My friends would sit in Mary's section that I knew. They encouraged me to go to her section and I found her each and every time I went just completely welcoming. It was awesome to be able to go there and know that there's somebody there who would always be there to, you know, just to reassure you, just to reach you with a warm smile. And she really helped me to be able to enjoy going to Coors Field and enjoy the Rockies games all over again.

Schreiber: Mary knows the impact she has on her fans, which is why she plans to stick around for as long as possible.

How long do you plan to stay working at Coors Field?

O’Dell: Until I'm 100. I'm going outlive Dick Monfort.

Dick Monfort: This is Dick Monfort. I'm one of the owners of the Rockies.

Schreiber: The Monfort family is actually the main reason Mary is here today. After six years working as a meat packer for the Monfort Company in Greeley, Mary was laid off in 1998. Dick Monfort's brother Charlie encouraged her to apply to Coors Field, where she's worked ever since.

Monfort: She's, you know, she's a cornerstone of all our ushers and the people that work here, and she's friendly, always bubbly, has got a good personality, and I think people just migrate to her and live like being around her.

Schreiber: Mary said, she's planning to outlive you and work here till she's 100. What do you think about that?

Monfort: I think it'd be great. And I don't think she'll have much problem outliving me.

Schreiber: While most of the people in Mary section have known her for years, there was one person I spoke to who was meeting her for the first time. Alex Hager is a reporter for KUNC, and he was also at the game that night.

Alex Hager: I am blown away by just how many Mary fans there are here. The amount of people who came up and she gave a full-on hug was impressive. I'm a romantic about baseball. I think it's a beautiful game and I think it's a beautiful part of the fabric of American culture.

Mary O'Dell 1
Alana Schreiber / KUNC
Rockies Usher Mary O'Dell greets a stadium security guard with a hug.

I've been to a lot of ballparks and every ballpark has something that makes it special. And every hometown club has, you know, something that makes that place different than the others. And I get the sense that Mary is one of the ways that coming to Coors Field is different than going elsewhere. I mean, she put a lot of smiles on a lot of faces and I can tell is very appreciated.

Schreiber: At that moment, we were interrupted by a homerun from Rockies’ shortstop Trevor Story. The crowd in Mary's section went wild. And that homerun helped the Rockies to beat the Nationals 3-1. Again, this game doesn't mean much. Still, the crowd at Mary's — and Mary herself — could hardly contain their excitement.

O’Dell: Oh, I love that we won the game. My guys were awesome. Well, they’re awesome all the time.

Schreiber: Are you proud of them?

O’Dell: Yes, I am.  I'm very proud them. I love them all. They're like me and my own kids.

Schreiber: At the end of the game, fans lined up in front of Mary once again, not to get their tickets checked, but to get their hugs.

But of course, his goodbyes aren't forever. Mary's only 84, and remember, she's not retiring until she's 100. That's 16 more years to go.

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As a radio producer, I help make the Colorado Edition program come to life. I help to schedule guests, produce interviews, edit audio, and write for our weekly newsletter.
Alex is KUNC's reporter covering the Colorado River Basin. He spent two years at Aspen Public Radio, mainly reporting on the resort economy, the environment and the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, he covered the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery for KDLG in Dillingham, Alaska.