A bittersweet night at Security Service Field, with an emphasis on bitter.
This was the beginning of the ending. This was the opening night of the farewell season of the Triple-A version of the Sky Sox, who romped to a convincing, entertaining 8-1 victory Tuesday over the New Orleans Baby Cakes.
Next summer, some of us will watch rookie league baseball, a genuinely minor version of minor league baseball. This summer, we’ll watch a highly promising Triple-A team that will spend next summer in San Antonio.
Yes, the Sky Sox still will live a year from now, but there’s no doubt we’re facing a big drop in quality. It will be a vastly diminished version of baseball.
The final summer of Triple-A baseball should be full of thrills and victories.
Why am I confident?
Sky Sox manager Rick Sweet.
The first time I met Sweet, these were the first words he spoke:
“Winning is important,” he said, using language every minor-league manager should copy.
"If all you do is development, it's a cop-out. I think you develop winners. If the game wasn't important we wouldn't keep score, we wouldn't keep stats and we wouldn't keep all the crap we keep."
He paused to take a gulp of water.
“Winning is important.”
Yes, it is, Rick.
And so is talent. Fortunately for Sweet, and for baseball fans in the Springs, the Sky Sox are loaded. Mauricio Dubon, Tyrone Taylor, Freddy Peralta, among others, rank among the more promising players in the minors. Sweet should direct the Sky Sox to near the top of the Pacific Coast League. The summer should be filled with winning.
Turns out, the Milwaukee Brewers are much better baseball parents than the Colorado Rockies. From 1993 to 2014, the Rockies oversaw the Sky Sox, and we can all agree the baseball brainiacs with offices in downtown Denver were lacking in their oversight. They were disinterested parents with a bunch of kids, the kind of family we all fear meeting at restaurants.
The Sky Sox stumbled to eight losing records in their final 10 seasons under the Rockies' (mis)direction. The worst was saved for last, a hideous 53-91 finale in 2014.
Triple-A baseball is mostly about development. I get that. But the Brewers understand that winning, or at least making an honest effort to win, is a vital part of development. The Rockies forgot this truth. It was fun to watch future Rockies develop in Colorado Springs. It was no fun to watch those prospects lose game after game.
Now, Triple-A winning has finally arrived, and Triple-A is skipping town.
For decades, spring and summer nights in the Springs often meant Triple-A baseball was being played under the lights just off Powers Boulevard.
Did we take this blessing for granted?
Yes, at least a little bit. Not enough Springs residents took the trip to an unambitious, cozy ballpark on the east side of the city. Small crowds, combined with an altitude hostile to pitchers and their development, helped chase Triple-A baseball to San Antonio.
It’s bittersweet, for sure. A promising team will be playing on the east side on the warm nights ahead this summer.
But Tuesday night was the beginning of the end.