By Heather Nelson
(Published June 13, 2016)
I’m breaking from my usual format to write about something that’s been on my mind this past week. I woke up to a text Wednesday morning, a day after my weekly Storm Chasers write-up was posted.
“So, you don’t think minor league teams matter?” the text read.
Immediately, I wondered what I’d said that had given someone this impression. I looked back to my post.
…Or is it because the Royals (and Storm Chasers) experienced so much success the past couple of years that it’s time for suffering? It’s only June — and Triple-A doesn’t really matter all that much. This I can say with some certainty: The Royals/Storm Chasers aren’t doomed.
This comment is misleading. I feel the need to clarify a few things — mostly because as a baseball fan I can’t let this comment hang.
Do I think minor league teams are important? Of course I do. Do I think most people care about the wins and losses of their MLB team’s affiliate(s)? No. Does that make the minor leagues any less legitimate? No.
Minor League Baseball allows for player development and provides opportunities for players not yet called up to compete in Major League Baseball. The minor leagues are divided into five classes: Triple-A, Double-A, Class A (Single A), Class A Short Season, and Rookie. Each of the five tiers provides players with a different level of competition and development.
In the Rookie league, players compete in a shorter season and spend time honing their skills. It’s about development at that stage. Class A Short Season allows college players to play with their college team, then be drafted (first week of June) and signed to be placed in a league. Class A-Advanced plays a full season and is often a second or third promotion for minor league players.
I’ve been to a few Rookie League games (in Grand Junction, CO). The Grand Junction Rockies stadium is always far from sold out and most of the spectators are old men or families looking to spend a weekend afternoon (or evening) outside. It’s a cheap ticket, and at Stocker Stadium, there were fun beer promotions. It’s a shame I wasn’t 21 at the time. I didn’t know that the Rookie League existed until 2013. Shamefully, I had to ask my dad all about it. A few notable former Grand Junction Rockies: Todd Helton, Mike Napoli, David Dahl, and Jon Gray. (The last two are young Rockies players that I had the privilege of actually watching.) My point by mentioning all of that: Most casual baseball fans don’t follow their teams as in-depth as I do. I get that from my dad.
At a Grand Junction Rockies game with Corky the Coyote.
I’ve known for a while the importance of Double-A and Triple-A baseball. Players in Double-A are typically a team’s top prospects. Players can jump from Double-A to the majors because of the competition at this level; they’re playing against other prospects instead of major and minor league veterans in Triple-A. Young players and veterans play at the Triple-A level. There are career minor leaguers, who may have been former prospects that were never quite good enough to earn a spot on the major league roster. On September 1, when the roster expands, Triple-A players on the 40-man roster can be invited to join the team.
So, basically, the Minor League Baseball system is very important. It helps with development. It allows for rehabilitation. It serves as means for scouting. But, you won’t be able to convince me that all baseball fans care about the five tiers of the minor leagues, and that they scout their own teams to see who the team’s future star will be. (This sounds like I’m describing my dad.)
No, it doesn’t make the Omaha Storm Chasers, Pawtucket Sox, Tennessee Smokies, Grand Junction Rockies, or Greenville Drive any less important. And my comment in last week’s post wasn’t supposed to suggest that the minor league system is unsuccessful.
So, I edit my statement. Triple-A baseball does matter; all minor league baseball does. But at what degree you, as a fan, choose to follow each league — that’s up to you. I’m choosing to not stress out if the Omaha Storm Chasers lose a few games. It’s going to happen. (P.S. the Chasers dropped their last six games — don’t panic, please.) And, as most people know, I have to save my energy for the Red Sox, who I’m just hoping don’t implode in these next few months.
I don’t think it’s necessary for every baseball fan to understand all of the logistics of sport. Sure, it makes it more fun, but that’s my personal opinion.