There are dozens of reasons why you should spend a few hours at UCHealth Park this summer taking in a Rocky Mountain Vibes game.
Baseball, hot dogs and Cracker Jacks make any baseball outing that much more enjoyable, but I like the action on the field the best. You just never know who will go onto stardom, a Hall of Fame career, or be immortalized with having a great baseball name.
I covered my first minor league game in Adelanto, Calif., in 1991. The Southern California city was home to the now-defunct High Desert Mavericks. The Mavericks were the Class A-Advanced California League affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
Bruce Bochy was the team’s manager. Just three years removed from a nine-season major league career as a catcher, Bochy would go on to win three World Series championships as the manager of the San Francisco Giants.
The most notable player on the Mavericks team was pitcher Tim Worrell (the brother of Todd Worrell), who saved 71 games in a 14-year major league career.
I watched my first minor league game in 1987 at Fiscalini Field in San Bernardino, Calif. The Spirit were a co-op of players — mostly castoffs — from other organizations, with a few free agents. Under the leadership of manager Rich Dauer (a two-time World Series champion as a player with the Baltimore Orioles), the Spirit produced a 70-72 record.
Former major leaguer Todd Cruz was among the players on the that Spirit team that played in the Cal League. Four years earlier as a member of the world-champion Baltimore Orioles, Cruz played third base next to Cal Ripken, Jr. Cruz started all five games of the 1983 Fall Classic.
The Spirit became an affiliate of the Seattle Mariners the next season. The star of that team was Ken Griffey Jr., who went on to a Hall of Fame career. (Note: I was working for the California Angels in media relations in 1990 when “Junior” and his father, Ken Griffey Sr., became the only father-son combo to slug home runs in the same major league game).
I will never forget the 1996 Spirit team I covered for The Sun. It was the first year the team was known as the Stampede. Adrian Beltre was the team’s starting third baseman. He was listed as 17 years old, but later it was discovered he was a few years older. Beltre retired after last season and will most certainly be a hall-of-famer.
For some reason, it seems like professional baseball players have some of the best names. A few of the players who stand out in the years I’ve been covering the minor leagues include Arquimedez Pozo, Giuseppe Chiaramonte, Geronimo Newton, Desi Relaford and Stubby Clapp.
You don’t have to have an interesting name to be a standout minor-leaguer. The Pioneer League (that’s the league the Vibes play in as an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers) has had numerous hall-of-famers and future in superstar major-leaguers get their starts in rookie ball. That list includes George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson, Bobby Cox, Trevor Hoffman, Pedro Martinez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Bob Uecker, Steve Garvey, Bill Buckner, Jim Kaat, Dick “Dr. Strange Glove” Stuart, Eric Karros, Kris Bryant, Jose Canseco, Joey Votto, Gary Sheffield, Andres Galarraga, Gil McDougald, Walt Weiss, Josh Donaldson and Dick Allen.
Tommy Lasorda managed in the Pioneer League 10 years before he took over the Dodgers and went onto a Hall of Fame career. Lasorda piloted the Ogden Dodgers to three consecutive league championships from 1966-68.
Joe Maddon, the enigmatic Chicago Cubs skipper, managed the 1981 Idaho Falls Angels.
See you at the ballpark.
Danny Summers has been covering sports in the Pikes Peak region since 2001. Send story ideas and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.