Saturday, July 14, 2012

6/19/12 Salt Lake Bees 2, Colorado Springs Sky Sox 8

Security Service Field, Colorado Springs, CO
Game 1 of 4

There are a number of ways that this was a most memorable game for me, more so than just about any other game, Major League or Minor League, that I might find myself attending this year. There are even more words that I could use to describe the events that led up to this game, and my family's visit to Colorado in its entirety. This is a baseball blog, baseball and life have a way of intertwining metaphorically. Most of the details are, indeed, a story for another time (and another place) but I'm writing this because I was there, and I have a scoresheet to attach...and this is going to be my best attempt to avoid a novel-length post.

I'm not well known for my timing, especially on family vacations, when it comes to visiting or passing through a city when the "home team" is at it usually turns out, they are away when I'm there.  The Colorado Rockies were on the road, of course, when we arrived in Colorado, but the day after we did so the Colorado Springs Sky Sox returned from a road trip.  That was pretty good news, but there's more: it's $2 Tuesday ($2 admission, $2 parking) and LHP Drew Pomeranz is starting tonight!

Pomeranz began the 2012 season with a "rocky" start at the Denver MLB club (sorry, I couldn't resist the pun), with a 2-3 W-L record and 4.70 ERA in 5 games during April and early May.  Since returning to the AAA Sky Sox, he's done a little better, a sullen yet misleading 2-4 record belies a decent 3.06 ERA and an even more formidable 9.1 SO/9.  However, he's coming back from what is probably the most dismal start of his professional career, 10 hits and 6 ER in 5.1 IP against the Reno Aces on June 13.  What's worse, Drew is making tonight's start while battling flu-like symptoms.   Nobody knows for sure, but perhaps fighting back the vomit is just the edge Drew needed to lift himself and the team against the visiting Salt Lake Bees.

Pomeranz was alarmingly effective tonight, going 6 full innings, walking 3, striking out 8, and allowing no hits and no runs.  In the 7th inning, Drew is replaced by RHP Mike Ekstrom, who retires the side in order on 3 groundouts.  In the 8th inning, RHP Zach Putnam gets the ball, and retires the side in order as well.  By the time Putnam returns to start the 9th inning, it's more than apparent that the Sky Sox have got a combined no-hitter in the works.

There have been 8 no-hitters in Minor League baseball this season, all of them have been combined no-hitters in 9 innings.  The most recent occurred only 3 days earlier, on 6/16/12, when Daniel Corcino and Wilkin De La Rosa did it for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos against the visiting Mobile Bay Bears, striking out 9 and walking 4 to beat the Bay Bears 6-0.  The last time a Minor League pitcher threw a no-hitter by himself in 7 innings was Alex Wimmers for the Fort Myers Miracle on 9/3/11.  The last time a Minor League pitcher threw a no-hitter by himself in 9 innings was Joe Wieland for the Frisco RoughRiders on 7/29/11.

Putnam faces the top of the order in the 9th, lead-off batter CF Kole Calhoun reaches on an error by Sky Sox CF Tim Wheeler and SS Ed Lucas strikes out swinging.  Putnam walks Adam Heether (pinch-hitting for LF Ryan Langerhans, who went 0-for-3 with 2 K on rehab assignment with the Bees).  A double-play ball will end the inning and finish the no-hitter, but instead of this 3B Luis Jimenez connects with a line drive base hit RBI to shallow right-center field, scoring Calhoun and breaking up the no-hitter and the shutout at the same time.  Hank Conger follows with another line drive base hit RBI to right-center field, scoring Heether.  Putnam is lifted for RHP Dustin Molleken, and after two pitches does, indeed, end the game with a double-play grounder by 1B Efren Navarro.

Offensively, the Sky Sox peeled off a whopping 17 hits (5 of them extra base hits) against the Bees, but none of them leave the park.  Sky Sox 1B Matt McBride is the only player in the lineup who doesn't get a hit.  While it's true that they were spraying hits and scoring runs at a deliberate pace tonight, with 24 total bases and hitting 7-for-19 (.368) with RISP, the Sky Sox lineup leaves 22 on base (Team LOB = 11); 6 hitters leave RISP with 2 outs. 

RHP Drew Pomeranz on the mound

Pomeranz faces Bees RF Doug Deeds (yes, that Doug Deeds)

Side-arm RHP Jeremy Berg pitching for the Bees, I did my best to capture his gorgeous delivery, but he works a lot faster than my shutter does

UPDATE: 3 days later, on 6/22/12, Aaron Northcraft of the Lynchburg Hillcats became the first Minor League pitcher of the 2012 season to throw a no-hitter by himself in 7 innings, striking out 12 to defeat the visiting Salem Red Sox 3-0.  On July 1, Drew Pomeranz returns to the Colorado Rockies, and in 2 starts for the MLB club he's got a 1-1 record, pitched 12.1 innings, has only allowed  3 hits and 1 unearned run, and is sporting an .075 opponent AVG.  On 7/11/12, Jordan Shipers of the Clinton Lumberkings became the first Minor League pitcher of the 2012 season to throw a no-hitter by himself in 9 innings, striking out only 2 batters to defeat the visiting West Michigan Whitecaps 10-0.

If you want more information on Minor League no-hitters throughout history, you really should check out this exhaustive Google Doc spreadsheet posted by cmcgill on the Baseball Fever forum.  Chuck's combined his research along with information from the 3rd edition of the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball and SABR sources.  He keeps it up, and it's a great resource with additional stats that you will adore if you are inclined to do so.

Security Service Field (formerly known as "Sky Sox Stadium") is a nice facility, the concourse doesn't wrap all the way around the field, so there are no outfield bleachers or seating of any kind.  There is a left field berm area, and a picnic terrace in right field.  All of the field box level seating is stadium-chair style, while the next level up (200 level) is actually on the same plane as the field (100 level), but are bleacher benches instead.  There is no upper deck.  The stadium advertises capacity seating of 8,500 and at 6,531 feet above sea level is the highest professional ballpark in the USA (Coors Field, by comparison, is about 1,000 feet lower).

The Colorado Springs Sky Sox are celebrating their 25th season this year.  The franchise was originally founded in 1903 as the Sacramento (CA) Solons (1903-1960), then relocated to Honolulu, HI as the Islanders (1961-1987) before arriving in Colorado Springs.  The name "Sky Sox" is homage to the former Colorado Springs Western League Sky Sox, a class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox from 1950-1958.  The Colorado Springs Sky Sox were initially an affiliate of the Cleveland Indians (1988-1992) until 1993 when Denver's Major League franchise opened and the club became the Rockies' AAA affiliate.  As the parent club did in 2002, the Sky Sox this season have installed a humidor, the very first Minor League franchise to do so.

Seeing Pomeranz, a near combined no-hitter, and an exciting game of baseball in beautiful Colorado Springs with my family made tonight memorable enough, but this experience went beyond all of that as there were other special family members also in attendance.

From right to left, I'm with my brother Shannon and his partner Emilie.  Only a couple of hours before first pitch, I met Shannon for the very first time.

This is my father and I, yesterday I was reunited with him and my stepmom after 33 years.

Indeed, it's a story for another time, but it's hard to find the words to really express how wonderful this experience and this trip has been for me.  It's never too late to reach out to someone you love but have not been in contact with, no matter what the circumstance and no matter how long it has been since you've done so.  Life is too short and time gets away from us too quickly; the past is profoundly important but the present is where it's at.  Fortunately for all of us, this story isn't really over, it's just beginning.

Official Program/Gameday magazine "The Inside Pitch" - there were no other scorecards available at the game, other than the middle leaf of this small publication

"The First Pitch" - gameday stats and information

Pocket Schedule!

Game ticket, parking pass, and "Rally Towel Club" raffle ticket

...and of course, the "Rally Towel"

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