Triple-A baseball in Colorado Springs may have been given a terminal diagnosis, but there’s some beauty left in this last gasp.
Top prospect Lewis Brinson took his place in center field for the Sky Sox again after his first big-league stint with Milwaukee. His first four plate appearances on Monday brought a single, a walk, a double and a home run.
Shortstop Mauricio Dubon, a 22-year-old who is already an accomplished base stealer, earned the call-up from Double-A and doubled in his second at-bat.
Right now, the collection of talent for first-place Colorado Springs is as good as I can recall in my nine years of covering the team.
I’m not encouraging anyone to get excited about results at the minor league level. I fully comprehend that a snapshot of talent at this level is just that, a snapshot. Brinson and Dubon weren’t with the team on Sunday. They may be gone again by next Sunday. Everybody here wants to be gone. That’s the point.
But for right now, a baseball fan wanting to watch high-level, up-and-coming talent here in Colorado Springs might want to take advantage of this opportunity, because it is unlikely to ever be this good again as the team is ready to disappear into – or, rather, out of – thin air.
The four outfielders – Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Brett Phillips and Kyle Wren – form as good a position group as can be found in the minor leagues (and could replace some big league outfields without skipping a beat). Garrett Cooper (.352, 12 home runs, 62 RBIs) is enjoying a monster year at first base. Veterans Nate Orf and Ivan De Jesus provide professional play in the infield.
The pitching staff has shipped its most exciting arms to Milwaukee, but there are still plenty of remnants from the staff that has defied the altitude to post a 4.37 ERA that ranks fourth in the 16-team Pacific Coast League.
It won’t be like this for long. The Elmore Sports Group is taking this Triple-A team to San Antonio in 2019 in a shift of franchises that will slide a Double-A team from San Antonio to Amarillo and bring a short-season Pioneer League team from Helena to Colorado Springs. The net result in the transaction is that the Elmore Group will gain a team situated in a new ballpark in Amarillo, lose one in Helena that has averaged less than 1,000 fans per game and play in Colorado Springs only in the nice-weather months and without the background noise of bickering big league clubs that don’t want some of the top commodities in sports – young pitchers – ruined by altitude. For those of us who have grown accustomed to seeing the almost-ready-for-prime-time players that Triple-A brings, this move will be a bummer. But it makes sense.
The move hasn’t been met with much in the way of uproar. Monday night’s game marked the first home game since the announcement and there was nothing in the way of a Save The Sky Sox Protest or even a loud heckle or two about the situation. It was, by Triple-A standards, a tiny crowd that could be hand counted in the hundreds on a night with rain in the area and no big-draw promotions on the docket.
Even those running the team said most of the feedback they’ve heard was from fans who understand the situation and are curious only about how much their season ticket prices will drop as the home schedule drops from 70 to 38 games.
Those employed by the team don’t know what their future holds.
The actual storm clouds missed on Monday. The figurative clouds on the horizon will not.
On the field, the game carried on with players we’ll soon see at the next level. On both sides. Visiting Omaha put on the field names like Raul Mondesi, Jorge Soler and Kyle Zimmer – names that should be familiar to anyone who tracks the top prospects in the game.
There will be talent on the field in the rookie Pioneer League, but it won’t be this polished or this top-to-bottom stacked.
No one ever seems to recognize the Good Ol’ Days when they’re still living them. So, do yourself a favor: Come to a ballgame. Check out the lineups. Pay attention. And realize that things might never be this good again.