Chris Phillips knows he’s taking over a lot more than a baseball team.
The soon-to-be general manager of the Sky Sox must conduct a public information campaign to explain what is happening with minor league baseball in Colorado Springs. He’ll dabble in concert promotion, starting with a Jake Owen show in September. Other non-sports events like music and beer festivals will also fall under his jurisdiction as he controls a facility that will seek different purposes as it hosts 32 fewer baseball games each year.
And when it comes to baseball, Phillips will oversee the transition to Rookie League, and the voluminous changes that will come with a major level downshift after three decades at Triple-A.
“I’m excited,” said Phillips, who has spent 17 seasons in minor league baseball – the past seven as the assistant general manager in Colorado Springs.
Phillips will take over at the end of the season as current president and general manager Tony Ensor moves to the new Double-A team in Amarillo, Texas.
Keith Hodges, the senior director of group sales for the Sky Sox, will move up to assistant general manager.
The Sky Sox front office moves are part of the continuing game of musical chairs among Elmore Sports Group minor league teams.
Beginning with the 2019 season, the group will move Triple-A operations from Colorado Springs to San Antonio. The Double-A team currently in San Antonio will slide to Amarillo. The Sky Sox will then take the short-season Rookie League team currently based in Helena, Montana, that plays in the Pioneer League.
“I’ve had the fortune of working at every level in minor league baseball, and I have to be honest with you, short-season ball is probably the most fun,” said Phillips, a New Jersey native. “Triple-A is kind of a tough level – you’ve got a lot of guys on the way up, but a lot of guys on the way down, too.
“On this level guys have just signed their first professional contract. They’re young, they’re hungry, they’re willing and able to do a lot more in the community, which I think our fans will really appreciate. And it’s just a fun level of baseball.”
Phillips has already taken the torch from Ensor in pushing the positives of the drop in level, stressing the quality of the team promotions as it will be in position to pick and choose among its current 70 to fill a 38-game home schedule. There’s also the advantage of warmer weather for a team that has already had four home dates washed out and several others that were played in frigid conditions.
Ensor, meanwhile, will tackle a new set of challenges in building a team in the Texas League after logging 14 years in Colorado Springs that included a shift in affiliation from the Colorado Rockies to the Milwaukee Brewers and $10 million in renovations to Security Service Field.
“We don’t have a logo yet,” Ensor said of the team he’ll help build in Amarillo. “We don’t have a ballpark yet. To be on the ground floor and really be in that creative process, to me, is thrilling.”