Brewers have Triple-A deal with Colorado Springs
ST. LOUIS -- The last untethered Major League organization and the last open Triple-A affiliate came together Thursday, when the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Springs Sky Sox announced a two-year player development contract, news of which generated a muted reaction in the Brewers' clubhouse.
"Like anything, anywhere, players are going to have to adapt and make the best of it," said journeyman catcher Matt Pagnozzi, who played for the Sky Sox in 2011. "There's nothing anybody could do. Pretty much everybody's hands were tied. We could sit here and complain about it, or we could look at the positive things about it."
Pagnozzi articulated the four major concerns shared by many who have coached or played in Colorado Springs: Uncertain weather coming over the Rocky Mountains, shifting winds, a so-so stadium and the altitude, which is higher than Denver's. To help offset the latter, baseballs are kept in a humidor.
The Brewers also will face additional travel challenges compared to Nashville, which had been their top affiliate for the past 10 seasons. The Brewers wanted to remain with the Sounds, who are moving from antiquated Greer Stadium into a new facility for 2015, but were informed Wednesday the relationship had been terminated. A day later, the Sounds announced a four-year partnership with the Oakland A's.
Although they won't be moving into a new stadium as they would have in Nashville, the facilities at Security Service Field in Colorado Springs will be an upgrade over what the Brewers had for the last 10 years. The batting cages are top notch, which is important, Triple-A manager Rick Sweet said, because of the weather. The home clubhouse is old but spacious, according to Pagnozzi, marking another upgrade over Greer.
"And, Colorado Springs is a good city," Sweet said. "They really get decent fan support. They're very bitter, too, right now, that the Rockies left them."
The Rockies had played their Triple-A games in Colorado Springs -- about 90 minutes south of Coors Field -- since 1993 before jumping to Albuquerque for a newer ballpark and lower altitude.
Sweet's chief priority is player development, which could be impacted by the move away from Nashville. Pagnozzi remembers the Rockies holding some of their top pitching prospects down at Double-A Tulsa to avoid them pitching in altitude.
The Brewers happen to be in an excellent situation at that level. They announced Wednesday a four-year extension of their PDC with Double-A Biloxi, which is moving from Huntsville into a new stadium that is not expected to be ready for Opening Day, but should be open for business by midseason.
Colorado Springs is a member of the PCL's American Northern Division along with Omaha, Iowa and Oklahoma City.
"It's not in the top tier of the PCL -- I'm not too shy to say that," said outfielder Logan Schafer, who has played parts of three of the past four seasons at the Triple-A level. "It's going to be a grind for a little bit [early in the season], but the summer months are great in Colorado Springs and it should be a good place for guys to get their work in. Who knows whether they're going to make some changes or fix it up a little bit."
Sweet noted one awkward coincidence: Early word, he said, is that Colorado Springs will open next season in Nashville.