I’ve spent the last six years of my life living far away from Rockies baseball in a city that doesn’t have a Major League Baseball team. Thanks to the advent of MLB.tv, this isn’t the death knell to fandom it once was, but the need for live baseball is quite the insatiable thirst. Luckily for me, there is Minor League Baseball.
Once a broad coalition of semi-pro teams and leagues, Minor League Baseball as we now know it consists of over 247 teams in 44 states (as well as British Columbia, Canada). Part of what makes the Rockies unique is they have teams spread all over the country, which makes possible for you to drive to a Rockies affiliate game from just about anywhere in the lower 48. And it doesn’t hurt that tickets tend to be a fraction of the cost of an MLB game and that the promotions, between innings entertainment, and facilities often offer fun for the whole family.
Of course, if you can’t get there but still want to do some prospect watching, the Albuquerque Isotopes, Hartford Yard Goats, and Grand Junction Rockies all participate in MiLB.tv for $49.99 per year.
If you live outside of Colorado or are planning a trip across the United States, here’s everything you need to know about the various Rockies affiliates, from ticket cost, to prospects to see, to the best promotions.
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes
Where: Isotopes Park, 1601 Avenida Cesar Chavez SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106
What: The Isotopes play in the Pacific Coast League in the Pacific Conference, Southern Division.
When: The regular season opens on Thursday, April 5 on the road against the Salt Lake Bees. The home opener will be Tuesday, April 10 against the Las Vegas 51s. Their last home game of the year is Monday, August 27 and the season finale will take place on Labor Day, September 3, in Reno. If they make it far enough, they’ll play in the Triple-A National Championship Game in Columbus, Ohio on September 18.
How much: It all depends on when you go: July 4 is the most expensive ticket, while Saturdays will set you back a couple dollars more. Club level tickets range from $24-30, while seats around the infield at $14-20, while the rest of the seats are $12-18; the outfield berm is $8 ($10 on July 4). You can pay $5 more per ticket and, if you don’t use it, exchange it for any other game the rest of the season!
Who to watch: The roster at Triple-A tends to stay in a constant state of flux. As such, you’ll want to see outfielders Raimel Tapia and David Dahl as soon as you can. But there will also be top prospects like RHP Yency Almonte (no. 8 PuRP), LHP Sam Howard (no. 10 PuRP), C Tom Murphy (no. 11 PuRP), 1B/OF Jordan Patterson (no. 14 PuRP), and RHP Jairo Diaz (no. 27 PuRP).
Promotions: Every Saturday home game features fireworks, and you can get a fleece pullover on April 13. The best promotions this year are the games the Isotopes will be adopting a new identity. As a part of the Copa de la Diversión, the team will become the Mariachis de Nuevo México on May 5, June 26, July 20, and August 19 (where you can also get a bobble-arm doll). They will also transform into the Albuquerque Green Chile Cheesburgers on July 6 and give away a bobblehead that night as well.
On the road: The Isotopes will face all the Pacific Conference teams (El Paso, Fresno, Las Vegas, Reno, Sacramento, Salt Lake, Tacoma) and just the American Conference Northern Division teams (Omaha, Iowa, Oklahoma City, Colorado Springs) on the road. That’s plenty of opportunity to see the Isotopes!
Website and tickets: www.abqisotopes.com
Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats
Where: Dunkin Donuts Park, 1214 Main Street, Hartford CT, 06103
What: The Yard Goats play in the Eastern League East Division.
When: Hartford will begin the regular season at home against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Thursday, April 5 and conclude the season in New Hampshire on Monday, September 3. The home finale will take place on Thursday, August 30 against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies.
How much: Field seats are $15 each, whereas the Right Field Terrance goes for $12. You can also get swivel seats behind the sections for $20 and $14 respectively. If you buy in advance, you can save $2 per ticket.
Who to watch: This is the most stacked team in the system, which is no surprise since it features players who helped lead the Lancaster JetHawks to the California League Championship Series. Not only do they have consensus top 20 national prospect Brendan Rodgers, the team also features RHP Peter Lambert (no. 4 PuRP), RHP Ryan Castellani (no. 6 PuRP), SS Garrett Hampson (no. 9 PuRP), 1B/DH Brian Mundell (no. 13 PuRP), OF Sam Hilliard (no. 17 PuRP), OF Yonathan Daza (no. 19 PuRP), and C Dom Nunez (no. 21 PuRP). Plenty of talent to go around.
Promotions: Dunkin Donuts Park will feature fireworks every Friday and Saturday home game as well as a plethora of special community nights, from Home Run for Autism Day (April 8), to Irish Night (July 6), to Whalers Alumni Weekend (July 27-29). Every Tuesday is Baseball BINGO. But the Yard Goats will also be changing their identity, first to the Hartford Whirley Birds on What If? Night (June 28), as well as the Los Chivos de Hartford as part of the Copa de la Diversión. They will do this on June 2, July 17, and August 24.
On the road: If you live anywhere in the northeastern United States, you should be able to find a Yard Goats game near you, even if you can’t make it to Connecticut. They will play in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, all across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia.
Website and tickets: www.yardgoatsbaseball.com
High-A: Lancaster JetHawks
Where: The Hangar, 45116 Valley Central Way, Lancaster, CA 93536
What: The Lancaster JetHawks play in the California League South Division; most of their division mates are clustered outside of the greater Los Angeles area.
When: Opening weekend begins Thursday, April 5 in Lancaster with the JetHawks’ final home game coming Thursday, August 30. Their final games will be against Lake Elsinore Storm, August 31-September 3. The JetHawks will also be hosting the California League All-Star Game and festivities June 18-20.
How much: Tickets in the Diamond Club sections right behind home plate are $15; everywhere else is $10 per ticket.
Who to watch: There won’t be a lot of stellar pitching on display in Lancaster; the Rockies chose not to send any top hurlers into the fire that is The Hangar. But there will be offense aplenty: 3B Colton Welker (no. 5 PuRP), INF Tyler Nevin (no. 12 PuRP), 2B/OF Forrest Wall (no. 16 PuRP), OF Willie Abreu (no. 26 PuRP), and OF Vince Fernandez (no. 28 PuRP). Keep an eye on those last two, who’s doubles power could very easily turn into a 25+ home run season in the friendly confines of the California League.
Promotions: Every Friday is Fireworks Friday and each weekday is devoted to another ongoing promotion, such as Kids Eat Free Tuesday. In addition to the aforementioned All-Star Game (for which there are plenty of giveaways throughout the season) there will also be World Cup Weekend June 22-24. They are giving away JetHawks themed soccer jerseys on that Friday game, for those whole like sports in their sports.
On the road: As the name implies, the teams in the California League are confined to the state. the South Division teams (Inland Empire, Lake Elsinore, Rancho Cucamonga) aren’t too far away from Los Angeles. The North teams (Modesto, San Jose, Stockton) are south and east of the San Francisco Bay Area, and Visalia is trapped in between. All of these teams are in the middle of the state, pretty far inland from the beach.
Website and tickets: www.jethawks.com
Low-A: Asheville Tourists
Where: McCormick Field, 30 Buchanan Place, Asheville, NC 28801
What: The Tourists play in the South Atlantic (or “Sally”) League in the Southern Division. Teams in the league are based in cities from Rome, Georgia to Lakewood, New Jersey, Charleston, South Carolina to Lexington, Kentucky, and everywhere in between.
When: The Tourists open the season against the Delmarva Shorebirds in Salisbury, Marlyand on April 5. They return home on April 12 to face the Columbia Fireflies. Their last game of the season will be played at McCormick Field on September 3 against the Rome Braves.
How much: You can sit right behind home plate at McCormick Field for $13, or one section back (but still very close) for $9.50. Once you get past the bases, the section closest to the field is $11.50 and the section behind that is general admission for $8.50. There’s also plenty of specialty areas, like the Bojangles Dugout Suite for $32, which includes all you can eat Bojangles Chicken (for those unfamiliar with the southeastern fried chicken chain, it’s definitely worth it).
Who to watch: If you want to see power on display, Asheville is the team to see. SS Ryan Vilade (no. 7 PuRP) and 1B Sean Bouchard (ninth round pick, 2017) were drafted for their power potential. One player who delivered on that potential was 1B Chad Spanberger (no. 29 PuRP): he hit 19 home runs in just 60 games for the Grand Junction Rockies last season. They will have a lot of great pitching on display as well: LHP Breiling Eusebio (no. 18 PuRP), LHP Ben Bowden (no. 20 PuRP), RHP Will Gaddis (no. 23 PuRP), RHP Robert Tyler (no. 24 PuRP), and RHP Tommy Doyle (no. 30 PuRP) will all don Tourist blue this summer.
Promotions: McCormick Field features recurring promotions like Thirsty Thursdays, Dollar Dog Fridays, and 11 Fireworks games (mostly weekends and holidays). The Beer City Tourists will return on May 24 and the Asheville Hippies (which started as a joke) will be back on July 19. On June 16, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the hit movie Bull Durham, the Tourists will wear the same uniforms they did when the famous Player To Be Named Later (spoiler!) broke the minor league home run record. Oh, and you can get a Crash Davis bobblehead.
On the road: The South Atlantic League has a big footprint, offering Rockies fans a lot of opportunities to see Rockies prospects. The Tourists play in
Website and tickets: www.theasheviletourists.com
Short-Season: Boise Hawks
Where: Memorial Stadium, 5600 N Glenwood St., Boise, ID 83714
What: The Hawks are in the Northwest League, Southern Division. The eight teams in the league are clustered in Washington and Oregon, with one team in Idaho and another in British Columbia.
When: Boise opens up the season on the road at Spokane on Friday, June 15. They’ll have their first home game on Wednesday, June 20. They will conclude their season at home against the Eugene Emeralds on September 3.
How much: Diamond Club—right behind home plate—tickets are $35, tickets in the home plate and third base box are $17 and $13 on the first base side. Behind that is a little cheaper ($13 on home plate and third base side), and general admission (first base side) are $8.
Who: This team will mostly be populated with 2018 draftees and minor league free agents, so we won’t know until June. It’s reasonable to expect that RHP Mike Nikorak (no. 25 PuRP) could end up here, but otherwise look for those college-signees from the draft.
Promotions: The Hawks have not released their 2018 promotional schedule yet. Check the website in June.
On the road: If you are near I-5 between Vancouver, B.C. and Eugene, Oregon there are four different teams you can catch, including the Hillsboro Hops near Portland and the Everett Aquasox just north of Seattle. If you’re on the other side of the Yakima Mountains in eastern Washington, there is Tri-Cities and Spokane.
Website and tickets: www.boisehawks.com
Rookie: Grand Junction Rockies
Where: Suplizio Field, 1315 North Ave, Grand Junction, CO 81501
What: The Grand Junction Rockies play in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, featuring teams in Montana, Utah, Idaho, and the Rockies. In 2019 the league will move their Helena franchise from Montana to Colorado Springs.
When: The season opens for the Rockies on Friday, June 15 at home against the Orem Owls. Their final home games are September 3 and 4, and they play two more games on September 5 and 6. The Rockies will also host the Pioneer League-Northwest League All-Star Game on Tuesday, August 7.
How much: Single game tickets go on sale in May and are $9 for the reserved seating and $11 for club seating in the nice seats on the first base side.
Who: This team will mostly be populated with 2018 draftees and graduates from the Rockies Dominican academy, so we won’t know until June. OF Daniel Montano (no. 15 PuRP) and RHP Jeffri Ocando (HM PuRP) are liable to repeat the level. Some notable Academy graduates we can expect to see are LHP Alfredo Jose Garcia (2.12 ERA in 2017), OF Yolki Pena (.302/.411/.387 in 2018), and SS Eddy Diaz (.311/.403/.424 in his professional debut).
Promotions: The Grand Junction Rockies have not yet released their full promotional schedule; check back in June. However, they do have fireworks on Fridays.
On the road: Do you live in Montana? Missoula, Great Falls, Helena, and Billings all have teams. There are also teams in the I-15 corridor around greater Salt Lake City, and in eastern Idaho. If you live in Grand Junction and want to travel with the team to the furthest location, enjoy the 13-hour drive to Great Falls, Montana.
Website and tickets: www.gjrockies.com
A big shout-out to Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue for the idea.