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A Colorado Springs-Pueblo rivalry could be brewing in minor league baseball

May 23, 2018 Updated: May 24, 2018 at 10:51 am
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Sky Sox pitcher Freddy Peralta delivers a pitch against a New Orleans batter during the first inning of the Sky Sox home opener against New Orleans Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at Security Service Field in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

It's possible that Pueblo could soon lure a minor league team that would play in the same league as Colorado Springs.

Those running the Sky Sox would welcome that possibility.

"While we are not privy to what other cities or team ownerships are doing, the idea of Pueblo having their own team would be great for professional baseball in Colorado, for our franchise and baseball fans in Colorado Springs," Sky Sox president and general manager Tony Ensor said in an email to The Gazette.

"Pueblo, like our Colorado Springs community, is a fantastic baseball town with a knowledgeable and passionate fan base, and a Colorado Springs-Pueblo baseball rivalry would be fun to be a part of! We support the city of Pueblo's efforts to build a new facility and bring professional baseball to the Pueblo community."

Reports in Pueblo have tracked efforts to build a stadium and lure "an unspecified Single-A" team to the southern Colorado city that would play a short-season schedule. If it is indeed a short-season Single-A team that is being courted, Pueblo would have to join a bus-only league in the Northeast where the closest opponent would be located in West Virginia. Or it would join a similar league in the extreme Northwest where the closest opponent would be in Boise.

The more likely scenario would be getting a Rookie Level team from the Pioneer League, which Colorado Springs will be joining in 2019 as the Triple-A team relocates to San Antonio.

If Pueblo does end up attracting this team - and two of the three Pueblo County commissioners have proposed plans to City Council to build a stadium - and it does turn out to be a Pioneer League team, it would help tremendously with future travel in the league. Two teams are located in northern Utah, one in Idaho Falls, Idaho and three in Montana (there are currently four in Montana, but the Helena team is relocating to Colorado Springs). Adding another team in southern Colorado would allow schedule-makers to double up and hit Colorado Springs and Pueblo on trips, even catching Grand Junction on the way out or back. This would greatly ease some of the travel burden for those teams, while also giving Colorado Springs two in-state teams to play and cut down on its travel load.

And don't be surprised if, down the road, another team from this league is drawn to the soon-to-be-built $225 million sports park near Windsor that was approved in 2017 with an eye toward attracting a minor league team.

If that were to eventually happen, half of the Pioneer League would be based in Colorado and travel would no longer be of any concern.

The bottom three teams in Pioneer League attendance last year were Helena (which is moving to Colorado Springs) with an average of 891 over 38 home openings. Great Falls was second-to-last at 1,244. Orem was next up the list at 1,513. Ogden, Billings, Idaho Falls and Grand Junction each averaged more than 2,000, while Missoula was at 1,893.

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