Carney Column: Minor league baseball is irreplaceable
For the first time in roughly five years, dating back to my 22nd birthday, my wife Karlie and I attended a minor league baseball game, taking in the Grand Junction Rockies-Great Falls Voyagers game Sunday evening at Suplizio Field.
Five years ago, Karlie and I attended a Syracuse Chiefs game while I was attending grad school at Syracuse University attempting to crack into the sports journalism field. Now, five years later, we live here in the wonderful state of Colorado, and took a short trip to Grand Junction to take in a baseball game that was affordable, and quite fun.
While it was blisteringly hot in Grand Junction — temperatures hovered at 97 degrees at first pitch at 5 p.m. — the product on the field, and the environment in the stands, was well worth the trip. On the field, every player busted their tails, playing the game the right way in hopes of moving up a level in search of a big league career.
Watching the game, I came away really impressed with Hunter Stovall, Colorado’s 21st round pick this summer, and Will Golsan, a corner outfielder for the Rockies.
Both are smaller players (Stovall is just 5 feet 8), but both players had great at-bats on the day, and hit the ball with force throughout the evening. Guys stole bases, ran the bases well, playing solid defense, and really left it all out on the field, knowing that each game means a lot, not only to their team, but to their future outlook. Oftentimes, you can’t say the same thing about major league players. While I love baseball as much as the next person, major leaguers tend to take their foot off the gas in certain situations, knowing that they have a game the very next day.
That isn’t the case in minor league baseball, which makes it a better quality of baseball to watch at times. Sunday was one of those times.
Aside from the play on the field, the atmosphere in the stadium was terrific. The PA announcer kept the game lively, and hearing the children in attendance screaming out for players such as shortstop Christian Navarro, or infielder/outfielder Coco Montas, was heartwarming. I remember being that kid at baseball games that would scream out for my favorite players. Seeing that happen Sunday was special.
There was a kid in the front row behind home plate that cheered for Navarro every time he came to the plate, yelling out “Vamos, Navarro!” before every pitch. In the third inning, Navarro lined a single over the Voyagers’ shortstop’s head, and as Navarro rounded the bag at first, he waved back at the kid behind the plate.
Maybe the kid was related to Navarro, maybe not. Regardless, there are very few places you can get up close and personal with a pro baseball player and get a positive reaction as a fan. A minor league stadium is one of those places. Stuff like that is what makes the game fun for me, both as a fan and as a writer. It’s great to see kids finding that one player they really like and pulling hard for him game to game.
It’s an innocent environment that is family friendly, and has the feel of a community event, considering the locals who showed up early and had their reserved seats that they’ve sat in all year. Although Grand Junction is a decent sized city, and has a Division II college that draws quite a few fans, it was hard not to love the experience.
Hopefully at some point baseball fans get to experience a minor league baseball game, whether it’s Low A, Double A or Triple A baseball.
It’s well worth it.
Josh Carney is a rabid fan of the beautiful game of baseball. Do you have a personal story about your experience at a minor league baseball game? Drop Josh a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.