Fans who came out to Security Service Field witnessed 20 fireworks shows, including the biggest of the season during Sky Fest on September 2nd, as well as exciting additions to traditional promotions including Appreciation Nights for the US Air Force and Fort Carson, XBOX Giveaway and PS4 Giveaway. This season also featured some high-quality theme nights, including the 7th Annual Star Wars Night, Pixar Night, Pirates and Princesses Night and Harry Potter Night before the Justice League-themed Sky Fest celebration. Fans who made it out to the ballpark this season were also eligible to receive a multitude of giveaways that included a team poster, Kids Replica Jersey, a trio of 30th anniversary bobbleheads (Charlie Brown, Sox the Fox and Todd Helton), and the 2018 magnet schedules.
During the 2017 calendar year, the Sky Sox Community Relations Department made over 100 appearances in the Southern Colorado and greater Colorado Springs community. Some of these events include the Sky Sox Reading Program, player appearances, fundraising, and mascot events. In addition, through donations, letters and correspondence, the Sky Sox are part of over 300 more events.
Highlights from the 2017 season included another dramatic increase in the Sky Sox Reading Program. The program had it's highest ever recorded enrollment with 15,000 students and 594 classes participating. The program, entering its ninth season, gives prizes from local businesses and the Sky Sox organization, as well as two $250 college funds courtesy of U.S. Bank.
The Sky Sox also continue to play an integral part of the city's response to the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires of years past, by hosting the third annual Heroes Classic Batting Practice, donating all proceeds raised through a jersey auction to local fire and police charities, as well as the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Domino's Charity Spotlight entered its fifth year with the Sky Sox to showcase non-profit charities in the Colorado Springs community. Twenty-six selected charities were showcased at the ballpark throughout the season, receiving free exposure during the ballgame as well as a customized interview on live radio.
In addition, Sox the Fox appeared at over 100 events throughout the Colorado Springs community this year. Sox is one of the biggest celebrities in the Colorado Springs area. He has appeared at events such as 5k charity runs, school assemblies, golf tournaments and charity walks.
For the first time since 1997, the Sky Sox won their division as they finished with a record of 80-57 and a 10.0 game lead of second place Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League American North division. Led by veteran manager Rick Sweet, the Sky Sox had the second-best winning percentage in the league. Thanks to another active offseason by the Milwaukee Brewers front office, the Sky Sox jumped out to a 13-win April and never looked back en route to the divisional crown.
Security Service Field served as a tremendous home field advantage for the Sox for a second consecutive season. After finishing 2016 with a 41-27 record at home, the Sky Sox topped that mark in 2017 by going 43-25 in Colorado Springs (the most home wins since the 2005 season), and ranked second in the PCL in home wins overall for a second straight season. As a team, the Sky Sox hit .330 (762-for-2306) while outscoring opponents 494-404 at home in 2017.
2017 marked the second-straight year that the Sky Sox welcomed the Brewers' No. 1 prospect to Colorado Springs, this year in the form of outfielder Lewis Brinson. Brinson earned the top overall rankings spot in the Milwaukee farm system from MLB.com and Baseball America. After making a splash at the end of the 2016 season, Brinson played in 76 games for Colorado Springs, posting a .331 average (99-for-299) with a .400 on-base percentage and a .562 slugging percentage. He drove in 48 runs from the top third of the Sky Sox lineup, launching 13 home runs along with 22 doubles and four triples. His demonstration of power and production led Brinson to a pair of call-ups from Milwaukee on June 10 and July 26. During his time in the Major Leagues, Brinson drove in three runs and hit his first two career home runs in consecutive games July 26 and 27 at Washington. At the time of his second promotion to Milwaukee, Brinson ranked among the Pacific Coast League leaders in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
The Brewers entered 2017 with a top-5 farm system after a series of trade deadline acquisitions in 2016. The Sky Sox roster featured five of the top 18 Brewers prospects on Opening Day, according to Baseball America (Lewis Brinson - 1, Josh Hader - 2, Brandon Woodruff - 7, Brett Phillips - 12, Ryan Cordell - 18). No. 11 prospect Mauricio Dubon would join the club midway through the season.
An impact player not in the Top-30 prospect list was first baseman Garrett Cooper. Before a midseason trade to the New York Yankees, Cooper led a potent Sky Sox offense with 82 RBI before the All-Star break, becoming the first Sox player in four seasons to reach the 80-RBI mark. Cooper was the lone Sox representative at the 2017 PCL All-Star Game in Tacoma, Wash., after hitting .366 with a .428 OBP and a .652 slugging percentage in 75 games for Colorado Springs.
Brinson and Cooper were two of 25 Sky Sox players to spend time with the Sox and the Brewers in 2017. That list included: RHP Chase Anderson, C Jett Bandy, OF Quintin Berry, RHP Michael Blazek, OF Keon Broxton, RHP Tyler Cravy, RHP Paolo Espino, RHP Matt Garza, RHP David Goforth, RHP Junior Guerra, LHP Josh Hader, OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis, RHP Wily Peralta, OF Brett Phillips, INF Yadiel Rivera, RHP Rob Scahill, INF Eric Sogard, C Andrew Susac, LHP Brent Suter, C Stephen Vogt, LHP Wei-Chung Wang, LHP Tyler Webb and RHP Brandon Woodruff.
Several other Sky Sox players enjoyed standout seasons on the diamond. That list included:
INF Nate Orf: Playing in 125 games in 2017 for the Sky Sox, Orf established himself as a reliable utility player, spending time at second base (72g), right field (28g), third base (13g) and left field (1g).Orf finished his season with a .320 average (139-for-434) with 32 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs and 65 RBI during the regular season. Hitting the most home runs in a season during his professional career, Orf finished second in the PCL in runs scored with 103-good for the fourth-most runs scored by a Sox player in team history. Orf also made some history of his own on August 19 against Oklahoma City, hitting for the team's first cycle since Dexter Fowler's in 2010. Following the season, Orf was named the team's Most Valuable Player.
OF Kyle Wren: Playing in a team-high 128 games during the 2017 season, Wren played all but three games in the outfield and had his name in the leadoff spot of Rick Sweet's lineup 90 times. Wren recorded multiple hitting streaks throughout the season, highlighted by a 10-game streak from May 18-28. On August 27 in New Orleans, Wren drove in a career-high five runs en route to helping the Sky Sox clinch a postseason berth. Wren also hit five home runs during the regular season after hitting five in his first four professional seasons combined. Of those five long balls, three were of the leadoff variety-including the only run scored in a 1-0 Sox win June 24 against the Baby Cakes. Wren also showed tremendous base running acumen as he tied for the PCL lead with 26 steals.
INF Ivan De Jesus: Signed as a free-agent in the off-season, the MLB veteran led the way statistically on a team full of top Brewers prospects. A consistent presence in the heart of the Sox lineup and on the hot corner, De Jesus finished second in the PCL with a .345 batting average and ranked third in the league with a .407 OBP. These high ranks resulted in part from a 43-game on-base streak from June 4 to July 28, the longest in both the Pacific Coast League this season as well as the longest in on-base streak in Sky Sox franchise history.
OF Brett Phillips: Making the move from Double-A Biloxi to Triple-A Colorado Springs entering the 2017 season, Phillips became an offensive threat in the heart of the Sox lineup. During his 105 games in a Sky Sox uniform, Phillips batted .305 with a team-high 19 home runs and finished second on the team with 78 RBI. His .567 slugging percentage was the highest on the team and ranked seventh in the PCL. Phillips had the only six-RBI game of the season for Colorado Springs, hitting a pair of home runs during a 13-4 win over Memphis on April 19.
RHP Taylor Jungmann: Playing in his third season for the Sky Sox, Jungmann produced his best pitching performance in a Sox uniform in 2017. The former first round pick out of the University of Texas received a promotion to Triple-A on May 27 and finished the season with the team lead in wins. His 9-2 record in 17 games (15 starts) came with a 2.59 ERA, the sixth-best earned run average in team history (Min. 50 IP). Jungmann allowed three earned runs or less in 12 starts in 2017, and threw quality starts in his final five outings of the regular season.
RHP Bubba Derby : Like Jungmann, Derby received a promotion from Double-A Biloxi and quickly solidified his place in the starting rotation. In his first Triple-A start, Derby made an impression by shutting out the Iowa Cubs over six innings in game two of the June 10 doubleheader. After returning to the Sox from Biloxi on July 26, Derby continued his solid string of starts, allowing three earned runs or less in 9 of his final 11 starts to finish his season with a 5-0 record and a 3.55 ERA. On August 19 against Oklahoma City, Derby allowed a single earned run while striking out a season-high seven Dodgers in a season-high seven innings, helping the righty earn PCL Pitcher of the Week honors for the week of August 14-20.
LHP Wei-Chung Wang: Before his September call-up to Milwaukee, Wang helped lead a Sox bullpen that earned 38 of the team's 80 wins in 2017. Wang went 6-2 out of the pen with an impressive 2.05 ERA. The lefty from Taiwan allowed 13 earned runs in 57 innings, holding opponents scoreless in 37 of his 47 appearances. His miniscule ERA gives Wang the second-best ERA in franchise history (Min. 50 IP).
ADDITIONAL 2017 TALKING POINTS:
- The 2017 Sky Sox posted an impressive 48-19 record when scoring first and had a 59-6 record when leading after seven innings.
- The 2017 Sky Sox pitching staff recorded 10 shutouts, which tied for fourth in the Pacific Coast League…the Sox also had the sixth-best ERA in the PCL.
- With their 43-25 home record in 2017, Colorado Springs owns an 84-52 record (.618) at Security Service Field over the past two seasons
- The Sky Sox reached the postseason for the first time since 1997, breaking one of the longest postseason droughts in minor league baseball.
A LOOK AHEAD TO 2018
2018 marks the fourth season for the Sky Sox as a Milwaukee Brewers affiliate and the Sky Sox will look to repeat some of the magic that made 2017 such a historic campaign. Milwaukee called many of their top prospects to the MLB during their hunt for a postseason berth, but one of the top systems in baseball still has many valuable prospects that look to make it to Security Service Field in 2018.
OF Corey Ray: No. 4 Brewers prospect according to MLB.com, Ray earned a trip to Miami during the All-Star Break as part of Team USA at the 2017 Futures Game, representing the Brewers along with 2017 Sky Sox Lewis Brinson and Mauricio Dubon. Playing for the Class-A Advanced Carolina Mudcats, Ray recorded 107 hits in 112 games in 2017. His 29 doubles and 24 stolen bases placed third on the team, while his 107 hits ranked fourth for the Mudcats.
INF Lucas Erceg: Baseball America placed Erceg at the No. 9 spot in the Brewers system entering 2017 and the 6'3 third baseman proved to be worth the hype in Class-A Advanced Carolina before joining the Sky Sox during their postseason run. Erceg played in 126 games for the Mudcats in the Carolina League, where he batted .258 (127-for-492) with 33 doubles, 15 home runs and 81 RBI. His hits, home runs and RBI all were tops on the team, while his doubles were the second most for Carolina.
RHP Corbin Burnes: The No. 20 Brewers prospect on MLB.com's list, Burnes was the standout starter on Double-A Biloxi's pitching staff. The righty out of Saint Mary's (CA) College started his second professional season with Class-A Advanced Carolina and went 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA in 10 starts, including a 10-strikeout performance over seven scoreless innings on May 21 against Winston-Salem. Burnes was quickly promoted to Biloxi, where he went 3-3 with a 2.10 ERA in the Southern League. His consistent success helped Burnes earn Southern League Pitcher of the Week for the week of July 3-9.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.