The 2013 Sky Sox baseball season was one of the most exciting and memorable in the organization's 26-year history. Sky Sox fans showed up in record numbers as the team drew 326,274 fans over 63 openings to mark the fifth season in a row that the franchise has eclipsed the 300,000 mark. In addition, the club set a new record in average attendance at 5,181 per game. The total attendance was the fourth most in team history despite losing four openings in the month of August and nine overall. The highest attended game this season came on July 4th when the team drew 8,799 fans which was the ninth largest regular season crowd and the third largest since the stadium renovation in 2004.
One of the main reasons behind the team's record-setting attendance was the exciting and extensive promotional schedule. Fans who came out to Security Service Field witnessed 14 fireworks shows, including the biggest of the season during Sky Fest, and traditional promotions including Bark in the Park and Used Car Giveaway night. This season also featured some of the best theme nights yet, introducing fans to the worlds of Star Wars, X-Men and Star Trek. Perhaps the most exciting additions to this year's promotional schedule were the two appearances by the one and only Famous San Diego Chicken. The Chicken made his only baseball appearance of the 2013 summer at Security Service Field on July 4th & July 5th and entertained crowds from start to finish and even signed autographs for every fan in attendance. Fans who made it out to the ballpark this season were also able to enter to win some of our fantastic giveaway prizes that included iPads, a trip to Disney World, a year's supply of Ramen Noodles, Pepsi, and Dominos Pizza and nine signed Vinny Castilla bobbleheads.
Along with making things memorable for fans at the ballpark, this season the team also spent time making memories with fans out in the community. Since September of 2012 everyone's favorite mascot, Sox the Fox, has made 95 community appearances including trips to the Special Olympics' Polar Bear Plunge and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Mascot Fun Run. Joining Sox the Fox on some of his trips into the community were several Sky Sox players including Logan Kensing, Mike McClendon, Nick Schmidt, Josh Sullivan and Coty Woods. Together Sox and the players visited local families at Springs Rescue Mission and children at Children's Memorial Hospital. Besides participating in events in the community the Sky Sox were also active in raising money and awareness for several important causes. On August 13, 2013 the Sky Sox were awarded for championing a worthy cause when they received a Donate Life Champion award from Donate Life America, a national coalition dedicated to promoting eye, organ and tissue donation. The Sky Sox were recognized by Donate Life America for their partnership with Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Bank in a pre-game ceremony that honored those in the community that have given the gift of life. The team also wore specially designed jerseys that were auctioned off at the end of the game. The 2013 season also marked the return of the Waldo Canyon Classic, which was renamed to the Heroes Classic, with proceeds going to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation to assist the victims of the Black Forest Fire.
With all the team's success off the field they also had tremendous success on the field as well. The 2013 season saw a lot of new faces on the field including first-year manager Glenallen Hill. The former outfielder and Rockies' first base coach became the 14th manager in franchise history replacing manager Stu Cole who was at the helm from 2009-12. Joining Hill on his staff was hitting coach Dave Hajek and pitching coach Dave Schuler. Hajek came to the Sky Sox after spending 2012 as the Rockies' roving infield coordinator and Schuler joined the team after serving as the Tulsa Drillers' pitching coach.
The brand new staff spent their first season with the team helping guide the Sky Sox to a record setting season. The team began the year with arguably the most talented team in Sky Sox history. Players on the Opening Day roster included top prospects Nolan Arenado, Tyler Chatwood, Corey Dickerson and Drew Pomeranz. Fueled by their talented Opening Day roster, the Sky Sox had an outstanding start to the 2013 season finishing the first half of the season with a 43-34 record and leading the league in average (.295), triples (52), slugging (.482), total bases (1315) and OPS (.836). Leading the team in the first half was third baseman Ryan Wheeler who was named to the PCL Mid-Season All-Star team after hitting .298 (93-for-298) with 19 doubles, six home runs, 53 runs and 58 RBIs. Despite being the team's only All-Star, Wheeler was not the only member of the team who had an impressive start to the 2013 season. Before being called up to the Rockies on 6/21, outfielder Corey Dickerson played in 66 games and led the PCL in average at .386 (107-for-277) , triples (13), extra-base hits (41) and total bases (179). Both Dickerson and Wheeler were rewarded for their stellar seasons by earning spots on the year-end 2013 All-PCL Team.
Dickerson and Wheeler were just two of the 18 Sky Sox players who were called up by the Rockies throughout the course of the season. The first Sox player to head up to the Rockies was reliever Josh Outman, who received the call on April 19th. Over the next several weeks the team saw the departure of several key contributors including Rob Scahill, Chatwood, Wheeler and Arenado. Arenado only played in 18 games with the team, but made a lasting impact, hitting two home runs in his first two career Triple-A games and smacking 11 doubles in his short tenure. As the season progressed, Colorado Springs continued to serve as a pipeline to Denver by sending productive players such as DJ LeMahieu, Manny Corpas, Charlie Blackmon, Drew Pomeranz, and Charlie Culberson up to the big leagues. The departure of the team's young talent to Coors Field did give Sky Sox fans a chance to see many of their favorite Colorado Rockies including Jeff Francis, Josh Rutledge, Jordan Pacheco, and Juan Nicasio. Other Rockies that came down to Colorado Springs were Rafael Betancourt, Edgmer Escalona, Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki who all made major league rehab assignments with the team.
On 5/26 the team was a season-high 12 games over .500 and in first place by a game and a half over the Tacoma Rainiers, but the loss of many of the team's star players hurt the Sky Sox down the stretch. Over the final two months of the season the team posted a 22-38 record and could not overtake their division rivals the Salt Lake Bees, who finished the season with the fourth best record in the league. Colorado Springs ended the year with a 67-76 record which is the 15th best record in the team's 26-year history. Even with the third place finish the Sky Sox boasted one of the league's best offenses and finished the season with 71 triples which was the second highest total in professional baseball. The total was also the second highest in team history, three behind the team-record of 74 that was set in 1992.
Several Sky Sox had outstanding seasons and ranked among league leaders in many categories. Here's a list of some of those players and their highlights from the season:
RH Logan Kensing: The closer began the season on fire, recording 12 straight scoreless innings before finally giving up a run on May 25th against the Fresno Grizzlies. A little over a week later the righty embarked on his most dominating stretch of the year when he only allowed one run in 15 straight appearances and went eight-for-eight in save opportunities during that span. Kensing finished the 2013 campaign with a team-high 15 saves and also led all relievers on the team in ERA at 3.05.
C Matt McBride: Matt McBride only played in 48 games for the Sky Sox, but had a lasting impact. The catcher began the year on the active roster, but was put on the disabled list after only playing three games. McBride returned from the D.L. on April 20th and began to show signs of returning to form. In May, the slugger was almost unstoppable, leading the minors in RBIs at 31, slugging at .811 and tied for the most homers hit at 11. The total of 11 home runs was two shy of the team's record for the most dingers hit in May and three away from the most ever hit in a month. McBride's monster May earned him the PCL Topps Player of the Month award. The cleanup hitter's season ended on 6/24 due to a neck injury, but he finished his season batting .328 (59-for-180) and ended up tied for second on the team in home runs at 15.
OF Kent Matthes: Like McBride, Kent Matthes is another player who had a brief stint with the team, but made an enormous impact while he was there. The outfielder began his season with the Tulsa Drillers where he batted .270 (69-for-256) with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. Matthes made his Triple-A debut on 6/22 and immediately proved he belonged when he smacked a dinger against the Sacramento River Cats. The next day he followed up his spectacular debut by hitting another home run and recorded his first two-homer game in Triple-A on 6/25. The PCL rookie finished up that series with four home runs, ten RBIs, but did not see the field again until 7/20 due to an injury. After returning from the D.L., Matthes took a while to regain his stroke but the righty hit his stride again when the team faced Sacramento in August. In that five-game series Matthes hit another four home runs including another multi-homer game and finished the year with 11 dingers in just 47 games.
1B Ben Paulsen: At the beginning of the year Ben Paulsen was overshadowed by some of the more recognizable names, but by the end of the 2013 season the first baseman proved to be one of the most dangerous and consistent threats in the Sky Sox lineup. Paulsen ended up leading the PCL with 60 extra-base hits (18 homers, 32 doubles, 10 triples), finishing tied for fourth in total bases (240) and fifth in slugging (.523). He also led the Sox in homers, doubles, games played (122) and at-bats (456).
A LOOK AHEAD TO 2014
The 2013 season was definitely a year to celebrate at Security Service Field, but the upcoming 2014 season will be one of the more interesting seasons in a while as the Colorado Springs Sky Sox will be playing in the American Conference for the first time since the 2004 season. Next season the Sky Sox will be playing in the American Northern division along with Iowa, Oklahoma City and Omaha. The division realignment unites the Sox with former division rivals, Iowa and Omaha. From 1998-2004 the three teams played in the American Central division. Colorado Springs is currently 68-75 all-time against Iowa, 48-64 all-time against Oklahoma City and 55-88 all-time against Omaha.
In a season that will be defined by new places and new faces here is a look at some of the rising stars in the Rockies' organization that Sky Sox fans might see at Security Service Field in 2014.
RH Eddie Butler: Coming into the 2013 season the right-handed pitcher was listed by MLB.com as the team's tenth best prospect. Half-way through the year however the Radford graduate made his way up to third on the list after climbing his way from Single-A Asheville to Double-A Tulsa in less than a year. The righty was recognized for his stellar season when he was named to the Futures Game and pitched a scoreless inning on the big stage. Butler finished his second professional season with a combined record of 9-5 with a minuscule ERA of 1.80 in 28 starts.
OF Kyle Parker: The former Clemson quarterback has been a star in the Rockies' organization since being drafted in the first round by the team in 2010. Parker spent the 2013 season with Tulsa and smashed 23 home runs, which was the second most on the team and fifth most in the Texas League. The outfielder was also fourth in the league in slugging percentage at .492 and fifth in batting average at .288. Parker also continued to improve as the season progressed, hitting .302 (78-for-258) after the All-Star break with 12 dingers and 29 RBIs.
LH Tyler Matzek: In 2009, Matzek was drafted by the Rockies with the 11th overall pick. Last year the lefty had a 4.62 ERA with the Modesto Nuts and led the California League in walks (95) and strikeouts (153). Matzek rebounded in 2013 with a solid campaign as a member of the Tulsa Drillers. The southpaw was spectacular at times during the season, including a stretch where he went 4-0 and only allowed two runs in 31.2 innings (0.59 ERA). Matzek finished the season eighth in the league in ERA at 3.79, but also finished first in the league in walks at 76.