Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sky High Sky Sox...

...come crashing down to Earth.

Or do they?

The Colorado Springs Sky Sox are the AAA affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. As such, Sky Sox players are both very near and very far from fulfilling their major league dreams.


Colorado Springs:

As a paper boy, it's in my nature to be fascinated by the thin line between triumph and setback. One morning you're rolling down the road like it's paved with rubies; you've got the papers nestled between the doors or in the old milk chute before sunup, before Old Man Jenkins can even think about sicking his man-eating standard poodle on you. The next morning, it's a sixty page insert and a black sky that reads 'paper boy struck by lightning.'

So you'll forgive me if stories like this strike a chord:

Before the game, National League championship rings were presented to 10 Sky Sox players for their contributions to the 2007 pennant won by the Colorado Rockies. Six others connected with the Sky Sox or Rockies also received rings.

The ceremony - and the game's first pitch - was delayed 32 minutes due to the late arrival of Rockies owners Charlie and Dick Monfort. Making the trip with the Monforts were assistant general manager Bill Geivett, director of player development Marc Gustafson and Walter Sylvester, an assistant in player development.

I mean, there you are, a fairly successful minor league ballplayer knocking on the door of the Major Leagues. Even so, you're one step ahead of most of your teammates; you're one of the lucky few, you've tasted The Show. Sure, it was ten days in May, but you've seen guys you know, guys you shagged spring fungoes with back at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, get to the World Series. Now you've got a taste for it. You want more.

So it's a new season and you're back in the minors, working your butt off, biding your time, but wanting more than anything to get back to Coors Fields, wanting it more than sex. One night at the old ballpark, you're reminded of just how far away it all is. The owners and the suits in the front office drive down the interstate and you get your NL championship ring, a standing ovation, and the envy of anyone you've ever met. And then you look up and you're playing the Tacoma Rainiers in front of 1,826 fans at a charming little grotto called "Security Service Field".

How do you get up for that? Isn't that the letdown of all letdowns?

"It was a great honor to get (the ring)," said Sky Sox center fielder Cory Sullivan, who had two hits and two RBIs. "It was exciting. All of us feel like we earned it."

All five Sky Sox starters who received a ring - Sullivan, Ian Stewart, Seth Smith, Sean Barker and Joe Koshansky - either scored a run or had an RBI.

Smith, who drew three walks to contribute to the team's league-leading total, said, "We would much rather have been at Coors Field (in Denver) with the rest of the guys to get the ring but it was nice. It was like a late Christmas. The big-league team got their's about two weeks ago.

I'm impressed that all five starters who got bling had a run or an RBI. I guess you don't get that far by worrying a lot about how close you came or what might have been. You don't focus on the fact that you're down in the bus leagues now, you remember that you made it to The Show and you focus everything on getting back.

I guess that's why they're playing in the Pacific Coast League, with one eye on the National League West, and I'm stuck here in my Mom's basement stuffing newspaper inserts.

Man, I don't like the look of that sky.

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