This is part three of a seven-part series previewing the seven American Conference teams in the Pacific Coast League the Colorado Springs Sky Sox will play this season.
Part One – Iowa Cubs
Part Two – Memphis Redbirds
With the recent realignment of the PCL, the Sky Sox switched back to the American Conference after nine years in the Pacific Conference.
The third featured team will be the Nashville Sounds — the Triple-A affiliate for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Baseball in the Music City
Like many cities with minor league teams, Nashville has seen numerous teams come and go since the mid- to late-1800s.
When the Southern Association formed in 1901, Nashville was host to the Volunteers, who would play in the city until the league disbanded in 1961.
The city would get another team named the Vols in 1963, but would only last a season.
When baseball returned to Nashville in 1978, Herschel Greer Stadium opened as the home for the Sounds. After 36 seasons, 2014 will be the last the Sounds will play in Greer Stadium. In 2015, Nashville will feature a new ballpark which broke ground on Jan. 27.
Here are some players to keep an eye out for when the Sky Sox play the Sounds:
The Brewers’ top prospect from a year ago, according to MLB.com, is RHP Jimmy Nelson. Nelson is the Brewers’ lone prospect on MLB.com’s 2014 Top 100 Prospects list and checks in at No. 83.
The 2010 second-round pick from the University of Alabama, spent most of last season between the Sounds and Double-A Huntsville, but did see action in four games for the Brewers, including one start.
With Huntsville and Nashville, Nelson compiled a record of 10-10 in 17 starts with an ERA of 3.25. He also struck out 163 batters in 152.1 innings. The 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher was a September call-up and made three relief appearances before making a start in the second-to-last game of the season. In 10 innings, Nelson allowed only one run and struck out eight batters.
RHP Taylor Jungmann also could see time with the Sounds in 2014. The former standout at the University of Texas pitched 2013 for Double-A Huntsville where he made 26 starts. In 139.1 innings, Jungmann recorded an ERA of 4.33 and struck out 82 batters, but walked 73.
1B Hunter Morris, who was ranked as the Brewers’ No. 7 prospect, could see action in Nashville again for the 2014 season. The 2010 fourth-round pick out of Auburn spent all of 2013 with Nashville where he hit .247 with 24 home runs and 73 RBI in 134 games.
RHP Michael Blazek will enter his first full season in the Milwaukee Brewers organization after spending his first seven seasons in the St. Louis Cardinals system.
Blazek was traded last September from St. Louis to Milwaukee for P John Axford and spent parts of last season between Double-A, Triple-A and the majors. In 36 minor league games, Blazek performed well out of the bullpen and completed the season with a superb 1.97 ERA in 45.2 innings. He also struck out 52 batters.
At the major league level in 2013, Blazek appeared in 18 games and finished with a 5.71 ERA in 17.1 innings. After being traded to Milwaukee, however, Blazek pitched better and had an ERA of 3.86 in seven innings.
For the 2014 season, Rick Sweet will skipper the club and become the 25th manager in franchise history.
Sweet will enter his 24th season as a minor league manager and has been named Manager of the Year four separate times. We was awarded the Baseball America’s 2010 Class AAA Manager of the Year as well as the International League Manager of the year in 2008 and 2009.
While he was with Tucson in 1994, Sweet was named the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.
Notable Alumni: LF Ryan Braun was the 2011 NL MVP when he hit .332, with 33 home runs and 111 RBI. The five-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger made his only stop in Nashville in 2007 — the year he went on to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. That year, Braun hit .342 with 10 homers and 22 RBI in just 34 games.
1B Prince Fielder has been one of the top sluggers since breaking into the big leagues, but he also has been one of the game’s most durable players. Fielder has missed only 13 games since his rookie year in 2006 and none in the past three seasons. Prior to breaking into the majors, Fielder played one season in Nashville (2005). In 103 games, Fielder hit .291 with 28 home runs and 86 RBI.
1B Don Mattingly played for the Sounds back in 1981 when Nashville was the Double-A affiliate for the New York Yankees. The now-Los Angeles Dodgers manager played one season for Nashville where he collected 173 hits in 141 games. He hit for an average of .316 and drove in 98 RBI despite having only seven home runs.
Three other current managers also played for the Sounds prior to their managing careers.
Current Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin played for the Sounds in 1985 when the Sounds were affiliated with the Detroit Tigers. In just 53 games that season, Melvin hit .271. The former No. 2 pick in the 1981 draft served mainly as a backup catcher at the major league level but has found to be successful managing in the big leagues. In his 10 years managing the Seattle Mariners (2003-04), the Arizona Diamondbacks (2005-09) and the Athletics (2011-present), he has led teams to 90 or more wins on four separate occasions, including the past two seasons with the Athletics. He also has won Manager of the Year in 2007 with the Diamondbacks and in 2012 with the Athletics.
Current Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter played for the Sounds for four years (1980-83) when the Sounds were affiliated with the Yankees. His best season came in 1980 when he hit .324 and drove in 82 RBI in 142 games. After his playing career ended, Showalter went on to manage the New York Yankees from 1992-95, including the Yankees’ first playoff appearance since 1981, but lost to the Mariners in the 1995 ALDS. Showalter went on to manage the Diamondbacks (1998-00), the Texas Rangers (2003-06) and most recently the Orioles (2010-present). He led the Diamondbacks to 100 wins in 1999 and has been named Manager of the Year in 1994 and 2004. He finished second in the Manager of the year voting on two other occasions (1993 and 2012).
Current Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura also played for Nashville briefly in 1997 on a rehab assignment. Ventura only played five games, but did go 6-for-15 with two home runs and five RBI. The former collegiate three-time All-American from Oklahoma State University will enter his third season at the helm of the White Sox. In his first season in 2012, Ventura led the White Sox to an 85-77 record and a second-place finish in the AL Central. He also finished third in the Manager of the Year voting that season. However, in 2013, the White Sox finished just 63-99.
2014 meetings: Home vs Nashville from May 6-May 9; at Nashville from May 27-30; at Nashville from July 21-24; Home from July 19-Aug. 1
Sky Sox head-to-head Record vs. Nashville: 55-59, 31-27 at home, 24-32 on road
Recent match-ups: The Sky Sox are 6-6 against the Sounds since 2011.
Total elevation in Nashville: About 1100 feet
Mascot: A cougar named “Ozzie”
Food item: Item on the menu that looks worth considering are the Barbeque Nachos.
Distance from Security Service Field to Herschel Greer Stadium: 1,135 miles
Memorable games – On August 2nd, 2003, the Sky Sox threw their first no-hitter in franchise history. Sky Sox pitchers Chris Gissell and Jesus Sanchez combined to blank the Sounds in nine innings. Gissell tossed seven innings while striking out six. Sanchez came on to throw two innings to earn the save. He struck out three batters. The only base runners were a walk and two hit by pitches by Gissell.
On May 14th, 2000, Sky Sox pitcher Doug Linton almost completed his own no-hitter against Nashville but fell just shy. In nine innings of work, Linton allowed only two hits in the 2-0 victory in Nashville.
Below you can find the realigned divisions for the 2014 season. The teams who changed divisions are italicized.
Pacific Northern: Fresno, Reno, Sacramento, Tacoma
Pacific Southern: Albuquerque, El Paso, Las Vegas, Salt Lake
American Northern: Colorado Springs, Iowa, Oklahoma City, Omaha
American Southern: Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Round Rock
Nashville will go to American Southern, and Colorado Springs will take Nashville’s spot in the American Northern.
Albuquerque will go to Pacific Southern and Fresno will take Colorado Springs’ spot in the Pacific Northern.
- Oklahoma City and Memphis switched divisions. Previously in the American Southern, OKC will move to the American Northern and Memphis will move to the American Southern.