Deadline deals and unexpected moves may be a part of baseball, but that doesn’t ease the disruption for the prospects who MLB front offices regularly flip from one city to the next.
Five days ago, second baseman Charlie Culberson took the field for just another game with the Fresno Grizzlies, his sixth year playing in the San Francisco Giants organization that drafted him. Things quickly changed. Fresno coaches pulled him out of the game and he dialed the Giants’ front office to find out he would be calling Colorado Springs home as a result of the Marco Scutaro trade.
“Sometimes you hear your name brought up with trade talk,” said Culberson, who MLB.com ranked as the Giants’ No. 6 prospect before this season. “It was definitely a shock to me because I had no idea that was going to happen.”
His discernible pile of curly, dark brown hair didn’t appear until game two of Tuesday night’s doubleheader when he went 1-for 4 with a single. The Sky Sox took the first game 9-4 and lost 7-3 in game two.
"Both times we had the bases loaded with two outs, we couldn't come up with a big hit right there," Cole said of the second game. "We get a hit in that situation, it changes the complex of the game.
"Those two-out RBIs are huge ... (it's) one thing we were doing whenever we were winning a few games and that definitely helps you."
Third baseman Brandon Wood gave the Sky Sox a lead they never lost in game one when he blasted a grand slam over the left field wall that Grizzlies left fielder Juan Ciriaco didn’t even attempt to field as he watched it sail over his head. In game two, the four runs Cory Riordan surrendered in the third inning were difficult for the home team to overcome. “He’s been playing the game a long time, and hopefully he still has some stuff left in the tank,” Cole said of Wood on Monday.
Adding to the intrigue of Culberson’s situation was that the Grizzlies started a five-game series at Security Service Field the next night, meaning Culberson stayed at the hotel with the rest of the Fresno players but then headed to the Sky Sox’ home clubhouse.
Wearing unblemished purple and white batting gloves before Tuesday’s doubleheader, he exchanged jokes across the infield with his old teammates in the all-too-familiar black and orange jerseys.
“Here I am going to the home clubhouse down here in Colorado Springs … watching my old team take BP,” the 23-year-old said. “Yeah, it’s definitely different after being with the Giants for five years.”
Culberson arrived Sunday night after making the 1,200-mile drive from Fresno to Colorado Springs, his car loaded with whatever possessions he could squeeze in. The next challenge was finding a place for him and his pregnant wife, to stay in their newly adopted hometown.
After five years in the circular pinwheel that is minor league baseball, he saw some familiar faces in the clubhouse. Culberson previously played with center fielder Charlie Blackmon and shortstop Tommy Field in a fall league.
A new team, a new uniform, a new city. But some things haven’t changed since Culberson’s Little League days in Rome, Ga.
“When things don’t go as well, we need to simplify it and go back to what has helped us (get this far),” he said. “It’s the same game we’ve always played since we were little kids, we can’t think too much.”
Hitting the century mark: Wood’s game one grand slam marked the 100th homer with the bases loaded in Sky Sox history and the team’s fourth in 2012.