In the twilight of their Triple-A run in Colorado Springs, the Sky Sox (also known as the Lame Ducks) have developed into a powerful, entertaining team. Too bad this development didn’t happen several years ago.
On Friday, the Sky Sox begin their final homestand of the regular season against Memphis before battling Memphis, again, in a Pacific Coast League playoff series starting next week.
All season, the Sky Sox have been consistently superb, which only adds to the bittersweet tone. Colorado’s Triple-A team will depart for San Antonio after the 2018 season, leaving behind memories and fans.
For 28 years, Dan Karcher has been the Voice of Summer in the Springs. He sits in the press box at Sky Sox games, announcing the action to fans listening in cars and living rooms.
He’s seen thousands of games and a multitude of teams. The bond between Karcher and the Sky Sox is strong. Notice, he says “we” when he talks about the team.
This edition of the Sky Sox is among the finest he’s seen.
“It’s right up there,” Karcher says. “It’s definitely up there. To me, the defense in the outfield has been spectacular. It might be the best we’ve ever had. There have been such incredible, amazing catches.
“Pitching wise, this might be our best-ever team that we’ve put on the field. With the fielding and pitching, it’s as deep and as talented as any team we’ve ever had.”
The team’s success leaves local baseball fans in a tough position. The temptation is strong to travel to Security Service Field to watch a hustling team filled with top prospects.
The temptation is also there to ignore the Sky Sox and pay attention to the Broncos and Falcons and Buffs and Rams. Hey, it’s even tempting to watch the Rockies, who were once such lousy parents to their top farm club.
The Elmores, owners of the Sky Sox, showed no loyalty to fans, who will have to decide whether to show loyalty to the Sky Sox, anyway.
Karcher has not noticed a change in the mood of fans at home games. He notices the same devoted fans at games, the same fans he’s seen year after year.
Until this summer, those fans had often suffered. From 2005 to 2016, the Sky Sox stumbled to 10 losing seasons, including a 53-91 catastrophe in 2014. Losing was the norm, which makes this summer’s success both enjoyable and painful.
Triple-A baseball is not long for Colorado Springs. Nolan Arenado, Vinny Castilla, Todd Helton and Jim Thome, among others, spent summers playing baseball in the Springs, a stop in their journey to bigger crowds and bigger paychecks in the majors.
Fans enjoyed beer and popcorn and Triple-A baseball on gentle, warm summer nights. We’re not going to talk about those viciously bitter spring nights.
On their next-to-last summer as a Triple-A franchise in the Springs, the Sky Sox have earned a journey to the playoffs with their precision and their passion and their balance.
But that postseason reward is also a grueling challenge:
Memphis has devoured the PCL this season. In the twilight of Triple-A, one of the best baseball teams ever to compete in Colorado Springs faces a fierce task.