Category Archives: former colorado rockies affiliates

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, COLORADO

Number of states: 28
States to go: 22

Number of games: 1
First game:  August 11, 2008, first game of DH (Colorado Springs Sky Sox 6, Portland Beavers 5, 8 innings–scheduled for 7)

(Security Service Field is now known as UCHealth Park. It switched from Pacific Coast League baseball to Pioneer League baseball in 2019.)
(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

My first minor league ballgames were in Colorado, at Mile High Stadium, 

But, according to the rules, my quest to get to a minor league game in each of the 50 states didn’t officially begin until 2003, so this necessitated a trip to Colorado Springs in August of 2008.  I was taking my bride to my 20-year high school reunion in the Denver suburbs, and it was very easy to take the jaunt down I-25 to see our local team, the Portland Beavers (who my wife rooted for vociferously) take on the Sky Sox.

There, we found a great ballpark in a highly unfortunate location.

It’s not the ballpark’s fault that it faces east (as is the convention for ballparks everywhere) and

therefore does not afford a view of the Rockies.  Indeed, it’s not really the ballpark’s fault that it’s located quite a ways east of the city and of the mountains, and therefore doesn’t really have any natural Colorado feel to it at all (eastern Colorado is not what one thinks of when one thinks of Colorado).  But the view beyond the outfield fence of endless tract housing is depressing to say the least.  When I’m pinned between strip malls and condominiums, I don’t have any feel for where I am.  The rule for ballparks is the same as the rule for real estate, and Security Service Field strikes out on three pitches when it comes to location, location, location.

However, the ballpark itself was quite lovely if one didn’t look beyond the outfield fences.  It has many touches I enjoy.  Visiting ballplayers walk past the kids’ area to get onto

the field, thus allowing for autographs.  The kids on the grassy hill are sedate and watching the game, probably because the Sky Sox, while not immune to promotional shtick, put baseball first.  And the retired numbers from past Colorado Springs teams are an especially nice touch–they bring us back to a local level that tract housing can’t.  So does the US Olympic flag flying under the state flag.

Security Service Field is a pretty small ballpark for AAA, which I like.  Rarely does a fan get a chance to be so close to AAA talent–and a ballpark of this lesser scale (it felt like a class-A or AA ballpark) is a pleasant surprise in the high minors.

Sox the Fox, the Sky Sox’s mascot, was simply wonderful…as energetic as any mascot I’ve ever seen.  He started the day by doing a

backflip off of a golf cart and didn’t stop moving the entire afternoon.  He actually did a couple of things that made me laugh–rare for a mascot.  I say this even though he gave me some grief for wearing a Mariners hat.  I was in the front row behind the dugout (prime mascot territory) and he removed my hat and pretended to urinate in it.  A little blue humor never hurt anyone.  But it was his athleticism that most impressed me.  He’s as good as I’ve seen.

This particular day featured a doubleheader for the Sky Sox…my pregnant wife’s second doubleheader in four days.  (The first wasn’t a scheduled doubleheader…it

was created by a rainout the night before.)  Thunderstorms gradually rolled all around us, with ominous, distant thunder leading me to wonder whether we’d be able to get one game in, let alone two (which were both slated for 7 innings).  Sprinkles occasionally would hit near us in what was as close to a muggy day as anyone can get in Colorado’s dry climate.

At some point during the fifth inning, my bride turned to me and asked the following:

“You know what would be better than watching a baseball game under the clouds?”

I shrugged.

“Watching the Olympics in our hotel room.”

Pregnancy, altitude, and doubleheaders don’t mix.

But still, my bride was a fantastic trooper.  The game went into extra innings (meaning the 8th), and in the top of the 8th, the skies opened up.  The thunder wasn’t too close, and the umpires were eager to get at least one ballgame in, so the game continued in the downpour.  Everyone in the ballpark headed up to the sheltered area behind home plate…and almost nobody left, either because they didn’t want to miss the end of the game or because they didn’t want to run through the rain.  Colorado storms usually don’t last too long, and this one passed quickly, but still, most of the crowd headed home, including Michelle and I.

Still, I give the crowd and the Sky Sox credit for a good experience and a nice ballpark.  It’s just a shame that experience and ballpark couldn’t be next to mountains instead of next to suburban blight.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel: 4.5/10
The Sky Sox do well to get the score this high, actually.  I’d have no idea where in the U.S. I was based on what I can see from the ballpark, but Colorado-themed concession items and retired Sky Sox numbers prevent this score from going far lower.

Charm:  2.5/5
Again, when I walked into the place, I thought this score might be a zero, but the Sky Sox put on a very nice show.

Spectacle: 3.5/5
A bit too much for AAA ball, but oh, that mascot was something else.

Team mascot/name:  4.5/5

“Sky Sox” is a fine name for a Colorado team, and Sox the Fox also a fine name…and the guy in the outfit earned this score with all his running and jumping.

Aesthetics:  1.5/5
Ballpark is OK…the view really, really dull.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  4.5/5
The Sky Sox did a fine job.  I especially featured the large, prominently-displayed lineups on the concourse.

Fans:  4/5
I can’t blame them for going home after the first game…to be fair, we did too.  (But also to be fair, they weren’t pregnant.)

Intangibles:  2.5/5
Lots of good here, but I’m afraid what I’ll remember is the tract housing.

TOTAL:  31/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

An incredibly dramatic ending.  Cedric Bowers uncorks a wild pitch in the downpour in the top of the (extra) 8th inning, scoring the Beavers’ Peter Ciofrone.  But the Beavers’ Edwin Moreno couldn’t seal the deal, as Sky Sox catcher Adam Melhuse crunches a 2-out walk-off home run to give Colorado Springs the victory.

(Written August 2008.)

John Thurman Field, Modesto, California

modestoinprogress

John Thurman Field, Modesto, CALIFORNIA

Number of states: still 13
States to go: 37

First game:  July 2, 2006 (Modesto Nuts 6, San Jose Giants 3)

After the horrendously loud and promotion-saturated experience at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium the night before, I welcomed this retreat into a quieter ballpark in a smaller city.  While John Thurman Field wasn’t exactly perfect, it was good for a number of reasons.

The ballpark itself is in a bit of a non-descript area, between a golf course and a somewhat-seedy residential area.  Before the game, it’s possible to enjoy some California Almonds while reclining under an umbrella and modestogolferwatching people tee off.  It’s also possible to walk right up to Modesto players as they make their way from the clubhouse to the dugout.  On the day we visited, anyone who wanted to could play catch in the outfield was welcome to head out there and do so.  Of course, this late afternoon and many others in Modesto were insufferably hot, so where I normally would have been disappointed to have forgotten our gloves, on this particular day I was fine not to be out there running around.

The concourse is also nondescript–a few concessionaires tucked back by the golf courses.  The promotions were reasonable–there could have been one or two more at the single-A level, but for the most part, they were fine.  Sure, the hot-dog eating contest that followed the game was disgusting, but it didn’t interfere with the game, so I can sit back and enjoy the disgusting modestoexteriorspectacle.

By the way, if you’re thinking of going to the ballpark, believe me, you want to sit on the first-base side in the shade, and not on the third-base side in the sun.  But you will have to get up if you want food. At the start of the game, I experienced one of my favorite ballpark perks:  an usher who offered to get me food while I stayed in my seat watching the game.  Too bad I never saw her again.

Among John Thurman Field’s biggest problems are a horrible PA system:  it’s actually easier to hear the PA in the pavilion than it is to hear it in the seats.  Not that there was much to hear:  the PA guy actually took the time to wish his wife a happy second anniversary.  I don’t like that stuff when it comes from the crowd; why would I like it from the staff?

Additionally, I was a better scorekeeper and scoreboard modestofromlfoperator than Modesto had.  There was a tough scoring call–fielder’s choice where everybody reaches, or error?–in the sixth inning.  As I waited to figure out what the scorer would decide, an affable usher saw me scoring (I didn’t notice anyone else scoring the game here, continuing the trend of nobody scoring games in California…is it banned by the state Constitution?).  He jokingly said:  “Just give Modesto a double.”  I laughed, but pointed out that there was a fairly large error on the scoreboard:  San Jose had two hits, but the scoreboard only had one up there.  It’s not like one of them was tough to miss…both were doubles down the line, one in the second inning and one in the sixth.  The usher immediately walkie-talkied the booth and pointed out the error.  modestoretirednumbersHe received an angry, harried response, something along the lines of “I have 5 people at once talking to me!  Stop bugging me!”  Nothing happened for another inning, when the usher called back a second time.  I actually managed to change the scoreboard!  I’m totally confident it never would have been fixed were it not for me.

I got to see a pitcher, Ching-Lung Lo, give a great performance for the second year in a row.  Lo had pitched a gem and lost when I visited Asheville in 2005.  His promotion to Modesto was not off to a great start, but he sure had a great game when I arrived for this visit:  3 hits in 7 innings–2 runs, one unearned.  Mr. Lo, I’m happy to watch you at the AAA level in Colorado Springs in a year or two.  (But, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not modestosignreturn to Drillers Stadium in Tulsa, so get through AA as quickly as you can.)

My wife and I met a nice woman–a mother of two from Southern California who was conned  by her 11-year-old son into stopping in Modesto on the way home from a holiday weekend in the mountains.  She could not believe that my wife and I were in Modesto only to see a baseball game, even though her husband does similar tours of ballparks.  My main concern for her was that she was turning around to talk to us.  Since we were in the second row behind a dugout, I had images of her or her daughter getting their heads exploded by a foul ball.  Hadn’t she read the sign which stated that that could happen?  When I offered to have her join us in the third row so that she could see any threatening line drives heading her way, her response was “No, I’m fine.”  Thank goodness she was right.

All in all, a fine, quiet evening in an ordinary–blessedly ordinary–ballpark.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  6.5/10
Tough to score this since I have no real image of what Modesto’s region should feel like.  They do well with all the nuts they sell in concessions and in the team name, but they fall short in the view from the seating bowl.  Also, the neighborhood and golf course could be anywhere in the USA.

Charm:  3/5
Not bad, but not great.

Spectacle: 4/5
Could be one or two more at the single-A level, but not too shabby.  I liked the multiple mascots getting around–and that they didn’t interfere with baseball.

Team mascot/name:  5/5

modestomascots

modestorobot

Wally the Walnut is on the left, Peanut the Elephant (I believe a leftover from the old Modesto A’s) is on the right.  Not pictured:  Al the Almond.  Modesto Nuts is an ideal name, and the multiple mascots are quite nice.

Aesthetics:  2.5/5
Nothing too special here.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  1/5
If I have to tell your scorekeeper and scoreboard operator that there’s been a double down the line, well, that’s a serious problem.  (But thanks to the usher for fixing it.)

Fans:  2.5/5
I sat with a nice woman and her daughter, but other than that, the game was sparsely attended and what fans there were stayed very quiet.

Intangibles:  4/5
On the whole, I liked it here, mostly because it was so cozy and calm.

TOTAL:  32/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Ching-Lung Lo pitches 7 innings of 3-hit ball to pick up the win, striking out 10 and walking none.  Here he is signing an autograph for a fan in the dugout before the game:

modestochinglo

Chris Frey has a pair of RBI.

(Written July 2006.)

Tri-Cities Stadium/Dust Devils Stadium/Gesa Stadium, Pasco, Washington

Tri-Cities Stadium/Dust Devils Stadium/Gesa Stadium, Pasco, WASHINGTON

Number of states: still 5
States to go:  45
Number of games:  5
First game:  July 7, 2004 (Everett AquaSox 16, Tri-City Dust Devils 4)
Most recent game:  August 3, 2017 (Tri-City Dust Devils 8, Boise Hawks 7, 11 innings)

Stadium was called Tri-Cities Stadium in 2004, Dust Devils Stadium for my second visit, and Gesa Stadium now.

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

What might have been…Michelle the Girlfriend worked for this franchise for a couple of years, overseeing its 2001 move from Portland.  And I was all set to head out there during the summer of 2002 to serve as a general dog’s-body for the organization. 

(Michelle said she was considering using me as official scorer until they found someone who could do it more regularly, then having me pinch-hit wherever I was needed for the rest of the summer.)  But, alas, Michelle left the Dust Devils before the season began and moved to Seattle with me.  Oh well…lose summer employment, but gain Michelle the Girlfriend’s constant presence.

If anyone ever asks you what public relations staff must do for a minor-league team, keep in mind (and this I never knew) that one of the duties is to dress as the mascot for winter appearances.  This makes The Dust Devil (who technically  does not have a name, although I was encouraged by Tri-City staffers to call him “Dusty”) was, when my girlfriend was in the costume, the sexiest mascot in the United States and Canada.  But take a look at that thing…what IS it?  A dust devil, I know, but does it look at all like one?  The nickname of Dust Devils is a fine nickname, and totally appropriate (I walked through

a few on the way to the ballpark, and a good number of them popped up on the field during the game).  But this thing doesn’t look like much of anything, and on top of that, it’s got to be difficult to walk around in that getup.

The ballpark itself is nice.  Not a standout. It’s a part of the local recreational complex, and is therefore surrounded by a billion soccer and  softball fields.  I took my customary walk around the ballpark before play began, and saw people taking softball batting practice on the soccer fields, which, come to think of it, would be a fine place to take a catch before the game.  Also, if you wanted to attend the game for free, please note that on this night, not one but two gates along the left field wall were open.  One led directly onto the field (kinda hard to get in that way) but the other actually led to the seats.  Not that I advocate this kind of thing, but it would have been

very, very easy to walk right in–nobody watching and a gate already open.

The Dust Devils might consider letting people in for free, actually, since their attendance has been quite low in their four years of existence.  I’m told it can be stiflingly hot even for evening games (please note that the third-base side is the sunny side).  But this July night was unseasonably cool, so the dust-devil winds not only kicked up dirt but made it  a chilly, unpleasant night.  Very few fans were there for the first inning, and after an awful night of baseball (7 errors, 3 by the Tri-Cities in the seventh inning, and a 14-0 Everett lead at one point), there was more or less nobody left but me.  The day started quiet like a bookstore, but ended quiet like a tomb.

The ballpark was huge–335 down the lines.  I’ve not seen a game with so many Texas League doubles and backpedaling middle infielders in my life.  I haven’t looked up the stadium’s history to see if it’s always been that large, but my guess is that they’ll

certainly keep it that way as long as the Dust Devils are a Rockies affiliate.  Coors Field is that large as well, and those young outfielders need to practice patrolling all that real estate.

The Tri-Cities workers did their best to keep everyone involved and active.  Erik the Peanut Guy had a microphone on him, and the PA announcer would kick it down to him for promotions and even a few random announcements.  It was a nice touch.  The affable Erik would do his schtick on the microphone, then resume hawking.  By the way, I absolutely loved the personalized T-shirts that the hawkers wore (the backs had their names and statements like “Cotton Candy Expert”).  Erik even did an interview with the mother of the Dust Devils’ third baseman who was seeing her son play professionally for the first time.  His first question to the mother was bizarre.  “So, is this your first time in the Tri-Cities?”  Gee, Erik, what do you think?  Why would this young woman have ever been to Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, or 

West Richland before?  (That’s right…there are FOUR cities in the “Tri-Cities.”)  The third baseman had two hits, as the mom said to anyone who would listen to her after the terrible loss–“My boy had two hits!” she said–but really needed to work on his arm.  Like clockwork, at least one of his warmup throws every inning would sail into the front row.  I was in the front row.  I’m fortunate I was not hurt.  It took me until later in the game to figure out what was going on…he was trying to throw to his mother!  What a sweet gesture.  UPDATE:  The kid, Matt Macri, eventually made the majors with the Twins.

One of the nicest

moments I’ve ever seen at a ballpark arose out of a scary one.  A foul ball looped over my head and hit the ankle of the adorable kid in this picture.  He screamed and cried while his mother held him.  The ball rolled down past my feet to a fourth- or fifth-grader in the front row.  He then walked up and handed it to the still-crying little guy.  Would I have had that kind of kindness and grace at that age?  I’m not sure.  In my mind, that gracious young fan is the MVP.  I tried hard to get a ball for the rest of the game–maybe one of the third baseman’s errant throws?–so that I could give it to the kind, charitable youngster, repaying his kindness.  But no such luck.

All in all, a decent night of bad baseball in shivery, windy cold.  Yup–to me, that’s not a bad night.

UPDATE 2009: I’ve been back twice since, both for July 4 family baseball jaunts, and have improved my view of the ballpark.  First, some significant changes:  Most importantly, blessedly, and thankfully, the Dust Devils have installed a sun screen behind the first-base stands.  I’ve heard

it called an eyesore, but I don’t care.  No more desert sun and desert heat for the third-base side…the screen blocks it beautifully, and it was worth every dime.

Second, the name has changed.  Gesa, a local credit union, has affixed its name to the ballpark.  Not a fan of corporate naming, but if that money helped build the sun screen, then I’m all for it–and might have to transfer all my money into a Gesa account.

Next, Tri-Cities sprawl threatens the character of the area just a little bit, but the view hasn’t much changed…the view beyond the outfield fence still features several rows of soccer fields.

The only negative to the visit were some jerks in the section next to us, who I heard were the Dust Devils grounds crew–let in free for the game.  If that’s the case, they need to tone down the heckling, especially since

they were in my original seat (no big deal, as I just sat in a better one).  Shouting “Ichiro!” at the Boise Hawks’ two Korean players, Hak-Ju Lee and Jae-Hoon Ha, is a rare combination of racially insensitive, geographically stupid, and boorish.  Tone it down, guys.

Finally, and for the first time ever, I was recognized for this website.  I was on my way to the head when Erik the Peanut Guy flagged me down, noticing my Tennessee Smokies hat.  “Is that the Tennessee Smokies?” he asked.  I replied in the affirmative, and Erik asked if I’d been there.  I talked about my effort to get to all the minor league parks, and recommended he visit my website–and I wrote down my name.  He said “Oh, I know you!  I LOVE your website!” and then said “We need to

get you a hat.”  He then had the team store give me my choice of hat.  I picked the $22 TC model to complement my wife’s Dust Devil model.  He took some time out from hawking to hang with us for a while.  He and Michelle remembered each other from his days hawking in high school when Michelle worked for the team.  We spent a pleasant inning hanging out.

I’ve got to say, wearing random other minor league hats to ballparks is a good move.   Wearing an Everett AquaSox hat in Princeton, West Virginia bought me a free sledge-hammering of a car.  And now wearing a Smokies hat…and having this website…got me a $22 hat. Thanks, Erik.  You just brought your score up significantly.  Remember–this is not Congress.  Bribery is acceptable.  Giving me presents can increase your ballpark’s score (although there’s no guarantee).

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
Lovely views of soccer fields and mountains.  Actual, literal dust devils on the field help out a lot, although those can hardly be planned.

Charm:  2.5/5
Not much going for the physical edifice here, but Erik and his fellow hawkers help out quite a bit.

Spectacle: 3.5/5
A fair number of them, pulled off with nice energy.

Team mascot/name:  2.5/5


They call him Dusty.  He looks like–nothing.  And they have since put him in a Dust Devils uniform, which actually makes him more perplexing.

Aesthetics:  2.5/5

Pavilion area:  3.5/5
Could be larger.  It includes an “alumni report” featuring the stats of former Dust Devils, wherever they may be.  This is a fantastic idea that I”d like to see reproduced elsewhere.

Scoreability:  1.5/5
Not good here at all.  Many errors on the scoreboard.

Fans:  4/5
As much as I appreciate Erik, crowds here are pretty sparse.  And while I like the kid who gave up his foul ball, I don’t like the grounds crew acting like jerks to the opposition.  Just cheer and watch the game.  Don’t try to be Andrew Dice Clay.  (I upped this score in 2013 after a much better experience sitting next to Erik the Peanut Guy’s parents.)

Intangibles: 5/5
In spite of all of its flaws, this place leaves me with positive memories.  I’ve been there for a decade now, and thanks to Erik the Peanut Guy, I feel welcome there every time.

TOTAL:  33.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

My, what a terrible game I saw on my debut visit.  Three hits for the AquaSox’s Omar Falcon led their attack.

Two errors–on back to back plays–by Dust Devil shortstop Pedro Strop (each a throw through the first baseman’s legs), plus another by second baseman Jason van Kooten stretch the top of the seventh into six outs, eight runs, twelve batters, and about fifteen years.  Not that I’m complaining.

In July 2005, I saw what looked to be a stud-pitcher-in-the-making…Shane Lindsey, a free-agent pitcher, struck out 11, walked none, and gave up only 3 hits in 5 innings in a Dust Devils victory.

A crazy close to a game in July 2009.  Tri-Cities scores their winning runs in the eighth inning on a combination of two hit batsmen, a wild pitch, a passed ball, an intentional walk, and a sacrifice fly.  Low-level A baseball.  Catch it.

D.J. Peterson scored on a Huascar Brazoban wild pitch in the 11th inning of a 2013 game to give Everett a victory.

Crazy game in 2017 is highlighted by an ejection: pitcher Mike Bunal was tossed for some word or other: just walked off the mound after he was, too. The Dust Devils win in the 11th on a double, sacrifice, and fielder’s choice.

(Written July 2004.  Updated July 2009.)