Wearing a stocking hat that also has a face protector is not part of the preferred uniform for baseball players. That’s one reason the coldest game of my college baseball career is also one of my most vivid memories.
I thought of that game — seems the temperature was in the high 30s — many times while working as the beat reporter covering Colorado Springs Sky Sox games a decade ago. It was nice to be in the friendly confines of the heated press box while those professional players endured cold, windy weather as they tried to avoid injury and advance their careers before a mostly empty stadium.
Did I envy those professional players? Absolutely — but not on those frigid days at Security Service Field.
Those days will see their final chapter during the months of April and May of the 2018 season, as the Triple-A Sky Sox will be moving to San Antonio for the 2019 season. Replacing them will be a Short Season Class-A team, whose season begins in mid-June following the draft. So fans in the Pikes Peak region will have the chance to see No. 1 draft picks — both of the Milwaukee Brewers and visiting teams — beginning in ’19.
“This could be the greatest Short Season market in the country, from mid-June to Labor Day,” said Sky Sox General Manager Tony Ensor. “We can condense the best promotions and every event is a must-see event.”
Plus, he said, it’ll allow the franchise to operate a higher level of efficiency; 72 percent of canceled games occur before June 1, he said, while 70 percent of total attendance comes after June 1.
“Look at any business, and they don’t want to operate during their slowest time,” he said. “They only want to operate at peak cycle. That’s what this allows us to do. I think it’s a great win for our community.”
Warm weather, pro players, entertainment and ballpark refreshments are a good combination.
Ensor said the team has “a couple hundred” advertisers. One of those, Andy Holloman, an American Family Insurance agent, has been a suite holder and advertiser since 2007 and said he’s not concerned that the number of scheduled home games will drop from about 70 to 38. The Sky Sox played 62 home games last season due to cancellations because of weather.
“So many games have been cancelled or have very low attendance in the first two months of the Sky Sox season,” Holloman said. “I’m not sure that you will see a decrease in people that will see our advertising. I think it may stay about the same, as we would be advertising during the height of attendance.”
While some fans may wring their hands over the loss of the more experienced players, Ensor said the Pikes Peak region has always seen change when it comes to baseball.
“We haven’t always been the Sky Sox, and we’ve had so many different identities, different affiliates, different uniforms, even different stadiums,” Ensor said. “The only thing that has remained constant, other than change itself, is Colorado Springs and professional baseball.”
To honor the past and remind fans of how things change, the Sky Sox will wear replicas of the Colorado Springs Millionaires’ uniforms from more than a century ago for Friday home games in April. They’ll follow that pattern in subsequent months while wearing versions of the 1950s Sky Sox uniform, followed by four versions of the Sky Sox uniforms since the team moved to the Springs in 1988.
“It’s not just the uniforms, but we’ll ask the fans to engage and dress in period costume from that era, and the staff will also dress that way,” Ensor said. “We’ll play music from that era, and put facts and history from those eras up on the scoreboard. We’ll invite people back from those eras — players and dignitaries.
“It’s all about showing that 2019 will be another progression of change for baseball in Colorado Springs.”
Since the Millionaires became the first pro baseball team in Colorado Springs in 1901, the Springs has had a professional team for a total of 45 years. The Millionaires played sporadically (1901-05, 1912, 1916) before leaving the Pikes Peak region without a pro team for more than three decades. The White Sox affiliate came to town in 1950 as part of the Class A Pioneer League. They left after eight years, creating another drought, until owner Dave Elmore brought the Hawaii franchise to the Springs in 1988, as the Cleveland Indians’ Triple-A affiliate.
When the Colorado Rockies were born, the Sky Sox became its Triple-A team from 1993-2014. When the Rockies abandoned the team, the Brewers picked it up.
“So we’re going to start our ‘Cheers to 45 More Years’ campaign,” Ensor said. “The concept behind this campaign is to educate our community about baseball’s amazing history in Colorado Springs. We want to celebrate this history and get everyone excited about what is to come in 2019 and beyond.”
Read more about the Sky Sox in this week’s print edition of the Business Journal.