On Tuesday, Major League Baseball announced the 2021 alternate training sites for all 30 teams. In lieu of a one-month delay to the Triple-A schedule, several prospects will report to these alternate sites in April to stay fresh, much like the 2020 sites that lasted the entire season.
In 2020, the Rockies used the Regency Athletic Complex (Metro State University) as their alternate site, just two miles from Coors Field. The Metro State Roadrunners have returned to baseball action this year after their 2020 season was cut short, and the Rockies have subsequently looked around for a new alternate home.
Most MLB teams are using minor league or spring training venues for alternate sites this year. The Dodgers and Padres will have theirs at their spring training venues a few hours from their home ballparks. The Giants will have theirs in Triple-A Sacramento, about 100 miles from Oracle Park. The Diamondbacks will house theirs at Salt River Fields. Without many professional venues in close proximity of Denver, the Rockies faced obstacles unlike others in the NL West.
Double Angel Ballpark opened on June 3, 2006 to honor Dillon and Logan Dixey, two young boys that tragically passed in 2000 from exposure to carbon monoxide. The Dixey family was able to generate an estimated $3.5 million in donations to construct the complex, and two shining fields quickly became the marquee venue for youth and high school baseball in South Denver. A statue of the two boys stands between the two diamonds — one named Logan Field and the other Dillon Field. The complex is located on the west side of Parker near Interstate 25, and just a 25-mile drive from Coors Field.
Gameday Baseball currently operates both fields. They opened a 30,000 square-foot “bubble” in 2015 for indoor workouts, allowing for year-round instruction no matter what the varying Colorado weather may look like. The amenities may not have been originally designed for the professional level, but the two turf fields, a large indoor facility and abundant batting cages will allow the Rockies’ Triple-A contingency to receive plenty of reps in a spacious setting.
A trip to Albuquerque is 6 1⁄2 hours from Coors Field by car, and if the home of the Triple-A Isotopes was reasoned too far for an alternate site, there are limited available venues that could compare to the facilities Gameday has. There are only two Division I college baseball programs in the state of Colorado — the Air Force Academy and Northern Colorado — and both are in the middle of their own seasons. Other Division II programs like Metro State are fielding their own teams this spring, so their fields aren’t particularly available during the month of April. Several of those college programs play on natural grass surfaces that aren’t easily cleared of snow, so an artificial turf field (or two!) could be the best option in a Colorado spring.
The alternate site will again be in a similar climate and altitude as Coors Field. This follows a similar path of 2020 summer camp in Denver, which allowed Rockies pitchers a chance to familiarize with thin air unlike previous preseasons. The setup at Gameday could prove vital, especially if the Rockies need some immediate depth on their pitching staff to start the year.
Gameday Baseball has hosted many events at Double Angel Ballpark since 2013 when they took on the duties of maintaining the fields. The Gameday “Big League Experience” tournaments feature portable fences for players as young as 10 to hit their first true home run, and unlike virtually all youth tournaments, they feature in-game announcers. Several spring high school games are played at Double Angel, especially ‘bigger’ games under the lights or when snow forces high school teams off their grass campus fields. (None of the high schools in Parker have on-campus baseball lights.) Gameday uses their fields for in-house high school teams and for the Gameday Saints, a summer collegiate team that competes in the Rocky Mountain Baseball League. They have hosted the RMBL postseason tournament in July, as well as other showcase-style events.
In pairing up with Gameday, the Rockies have reinvigorated the little league and high school scene in greater Denver while gaining access to some of the finest baseball facilities in Colorado. Gameday is still set to host youth tournaments at Double Angel Ballpark through the month of April; while the organization seeks to emulate the big league experience in their little league operations, their show just got a lot more ‘big league’ in sharing their venue with professionals.