So You Wanna Go To Colorado Springs…
Needing a new Triple-A affiliate is something that hasn’t been a thing for the Milwaukee Brewers since following the 2003 season when the Brewers and Indianapolis Indians ended their relationship. The Brewers affiliated with the Nashville Sounds beginning in 2004 and spent 10 productive, is at times contentious, years together.
But that’s where the Milwaukee Brewers officially found themselves on Wednesday, September 18, 2014 as the Nashville Sounds finally officially announced that they would be affiliating with the Oakland Athletics for the next four years. I could go into a soapbox diatribe about how the Sounds were petty and disloyal and unappreciative, but I won’t. “Business is business”, after all.
Instead, let’s be excited together about new beginnings. Over the next several hundred words, I hope to give you some information — both important and frivolous — about the Brewers’ new Triple-A affiliate…
…the Colorado Springs Sky Sox!
From the team’s website:
The Sky Sox were honored by Baseball America as the Bob Frietas award-winner in 2011 as the Triple-A Organization of the Year, the highest award given to Minor League Baseball franchises.
The 2014 Sky Sox baseball season was one of the most exciting and memorable in the organization’s 26-year history. Sky Sox fans showed up in record numbers as the team drew 350,374 fans over 70 openings to mark the sixth season in a row that the franchise has eclipsed the 300,000 mark and the first season over 350,000..
The Sky Sox franchise is an original member of the Pacific Coast League, which was founded in 1903. The franchise operated in Sacramento, CA (Solons 1903-1960) was relocated to Honolulu, HI (Islanders 1961-1987) then moved to Colorado Springs (1988-present). The name “Sky Sox” was adopted in honor of Colorado Springs’ Western League Sky Sox (Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox) that played at Memorial Park from 1950 through 1958. When Colorado was awarded a Major League franchise, the new Rockies arranged for the Sky Sox to become their AAA affiliate. From 1993 through 2014, Colorado Springs were the top affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
In 1988, Sky Sox ownership (Elmore Group, LLC) privately funded the construction of a new $3.7 million ballpark, which was built on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs, near the corner of Powers Blvd. & Tutt Ave. The 8,500 capacity “Sky Sox Stadium”, now known as Security Service Field, was home to the Cleveland Indians’ Triple-A team from 1988-1992, culminating in a PCL Title in the Sky Sox’ final season with the Indians.
The Sky Sox have won two PCL titles, in 1992 and 1995.
And here’s some more about the currently-named “Security Services Field” (the naming rights for which belong to Security Services Federal Credit Union):
Baseball – 8,500
So as you can see, the facility is rather old although it’s still 10 years younger than the consensus “worst ballpark in the Pacific Coast League” that the Brewers just left behind in Nashville. There was a significant renovation in 2005 which included replacing the entire field along with a vastly superior drainage system. And while old Herschel Greer Stadium had a seating capacity of 10,300 fans, you’ll notice in the pull from the Sky Sox’s website that they enjoyed record attendance in 2014. That’s a number that outdrew Nashville (323,961) in total attendance by more than 26,000 fans. Despite the Rockies being so close in proximity, it’s clear that there’s a passionate baseball fanbase in Colorado Springs. Hopefully the local residents will be able to let themselves embrace the Milwaukee Brewers as a parent club. That the new Player Development Contract is but a two-year pact will impact just how rapidly they embrace their new group of dreamers.
In what I’ve read and watched over the past several hours, the baseball staff of the Sky Sox is committed to a quality baseball experience for their fans. Part of that comes from the quality of the team on the field, and the Brewers have fielded a much more competitive team at the Triple-A level over the past year, including featuring the Pitcher of the Year in the Pacific Coast League each of the past two seasons (2013 – Johnny Hellweg, 2014 – Jimmy Nelson).
Here is the official press release from the Brewers which includes comment from Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin:
The Milwaukee Brewers have announced a two-year player development contract with Triple-A Colorado Springs of the Pacific Coast League that will run through the 2016 season. The announcement was made by Brewers President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Doug Melvin.
“We are looking forward to our partnership with Dave Elmore and Colorado Springs,” said Melvin. “The Brewers have a familiarity with the Elmore group, Dave and D.G., and their understanding of the player development process. We have had a successful history working with D.G., owner of the Helena Brewers. Many players on our current roster have come up through our minor league system and we believe that Colorado Springs will continue to help us produce talent at a Major League level.”
Colorado Springs is a member of the PCL’s American Northern Division along with Omaha, Iowa and Oklahoma City. The Sky Sox play their home games at Security Service Field.
“We couldn’t be happier to start the newest era in Sky Sox baseball with a world-class organization like the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Sky Sox President and General Manager Tony Ensor. “Their long and rich baseball history, as well as their commitment to a winning culture is something that we know our fans will embrace. We can’t wait to get started on this new and exciting partnership.”
The Brewers are the third Major League affiliate of Colorado Springs. The team had previously been affiliated with the Cleveland Indians from 1988-1992 and the Colorado Rockies since 1993.
And here is the press release from the Sky Sox:
The Colorado Springs Sky Sox are excited to announce today that they have agreed to a new, two-year player development contract with the Milwaukee Brewers that will run through the 2016 season. A formal announcement ceremony will be scheduled in the coming days.
The National League Brewers become the third affiliate in the history of the Sky Sox, following the Cleveland Indians (1988-1992) and the Colorado Rockies (1993-2014). This will also be the second time a Milwaukee team has affiliated with a club in Colorado. The Milwaukee Braves were affiliates with the Denver Bears from 1963-1964.
“We couldn’t be happier to start the newest era in Sky Sox baseball with a world-class organization like the Milwaukee Brewers,” said Sky Sox President and General Manager Tony Ensor. “Their long and rich baseball history, as well as their commitment to a winning culture and player development is something that we know our fans will embrace. We can’t wait to get started on this new and exciting partnership.”
“We are very pleased to be working with the Brewers in Colorado Springs,” said Sky Sox Owner and 2014 PCL Hall of Fame Inductee, Dave Elmore. “The Brewers are a first class organization that we are very familiar with as we have been working with them for many years through our Rookie level team in Helena Montana.”
This season, the Brewers are locked in a battle for the 2014 playoffs. Coming into today, the club boasts a 79-73 record and are just 2.5 games back in the wild card chase. Recent Minor League affiliates who have won titles with the Brewers include the Nashville Sounds (AAA-Pacific Coast League, 2005), Huntsville Stars (AA-Southern League, 2001), Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (A-Midwest League, 2012) and the Helena Brewers (Rookie-Pioneer League, 2010,1996,1995).
Five players who played significant time with Milwaukee, including Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, and Don Sutton, are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Both Yount and Molitor are depicted on their Hall of Fame plaques wearing a Brewers cap insignia. The Brewers also have one of the most legendary broadcasters in Major League history on the mic in Bob Uecker. In 2003, Uecker received the Ford C. Frick Award, bestowed annually by the National Baseball Hall of Fame to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball”.
A new Brewers era of Sky Sox baseball begins on April 9, 2015 as the Sky Sox begin their 28th season of professional baseball in Colorado Springs. For ticket and team information visit www.skysox.com.
So all in all, the Brewers appear to be a comfortable, if not ideal, spot for at least the next two seasons of Triple-A baseball.
(Oh, and can we talk for a second about how their annual Police vs Fire Departments charity softball game is called “Guns ‘N Hoses”? Because that’s fantastic.)