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Paul Klee: Sky Sox move stinks — and makes sense

By: Paul Klee
June 21, 2017 Updated: June 22, 2017 at 7:42 am
Caption +
The Sky Sox team runs onto the field for the start of their 2017 season Thursday, April 6, 2017, at Security Service Field in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Sky Sox played the Omaha Storm Chasers. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

They’re still going to have Two-Dollar Tuesdays.

For $2 you get a parking spot, game ticket, or a beer. Sox the Fox isn’t going anywhere; neither is Princesses and Pirates Night, a favorite with the kids.

But Triple-A baseball in Colorado Springs?

Going, going, gone.

This move stinks and makes sense at the same time.

If replacing the Triple-A club with a Rookie League outfit didn’t make sense, it would be easy to blast the Elmore Sports Group for moving the Triple-A team to San Antonio. If Security Service Field was at or near the top of the Pacific Coast League in attendance, more emotion would be packed into the somber end of a 30-year run for Triple-A baseball in Colorado Springs.

But it does make sense, and attendance at Security Service Field still lags behind its Pacific Coast League rivals. It stinks in two areas: the pride department, where, starting in 2019, a thriving city will have its pro baseball team comprised mostly of teenagers fresh out of school, instead of on the doorstep of the big leagues; and with the seamheads who trek to Security Service Field to see big leaguers on rehab stints, or the stars of tomorrow take their final step before breaking into the majors.

For the latter, it’s a bummer. I’m not holding the trout closer to the camera so it looks bigger. But for most of the folks who attend Sky Sox games, the ones who view minor-league baseball as an affordable, entertaining night out, all that changes is when you can watch baseball in person — a short, 38-home game season from June through September, instead of the current schedule, from April through September. This game of minor-league musical chairs looks like this:

Colorado Springs gets the Rookie League club from Helena, Mont., San Antonio gets the Triple-A club formerly known as the Sky Sox, Amarillo gets the Double-A club currently in San Antonio.

Here, the baseball won’t be as good; the baseball experience will be just as good.

Why are our exes moving to Texas? It’s awfully tough to host a Triple-A team when no one wants their Triple-A team playing at 6,531 feet. Need someone to blame? Blame the Rockies. When the Rockies finally conceded that sentencing their young pitching arms to get shelled at altitude was not in the big-league operation’s best interest, it was the “first domino” to nudge Triple-A baseball out of Colorado Springs, according to D.G. Elmore, president of the Elmore Sports Group. Former Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd wasn’t a fan of the arrangement, and former manager Walt Weiss told me Security Service Field could make young pitchers “gun shy.” Those are just two examples. While the current regime publicly refuses to use altitude as an alibi, their actions suggest the new Rox couldn’t get out of town quick enough.

And as much as it hurts for Springs baseball fans, the Rockies made the smart move. There’s too much money invested in young baseball talent to risk their confidence and potential if you don’t have to.

“There’s no hard feelings. They had to do what they had to do,” said Tony Ensor, president and general manager of the Sky Sox. “We had a great 22-year relationship with the Rockies. That’s a great part of our history. They chose to do something else. They made a business decision. We can’t fault them for that. But we have to make the best situation for Colorado Springs.”

My first exposure to pro ball was minor-league ball, in Albuquerque with the Dukes. Thirty years later, on Wednesday, I had to Google the 1987 roster to remember who was playing, if it was Triple-A ball, and to be certain they were a Dodgers affiliate. The actual baseball was secondary. All I remember, all that mattered, was that 8-year-old me caught a foul ball and ate a hot dog. Perhaps it was a $2 Tuesday, which is what minor-league ball is about, anyway.

Twitter: @bypaulklee

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