By Aaron Cheris
Team chemistry can often be the difference between a winning team and a losing team.
The Colorado Springs Sky Sox feel the same way. Just ask any one of the players, and he will tell you how much fun this team is.
“We’re having a blast inside and out. It’s awesome,” pitcher Brent Suter said.
“It’s a lot of fun. Everyone enjoys each other. We’re all buddies,” said outfielder Michael Reed.
“It’s a great team atmosphere. We have a lot of experience, and they truly try to keep it fun at this level,” outfielder Kyle Wren said.
“We just have a blast. We have a blast in the bullpen, a blast in the locker room, and a blast on the field,” closer Damien Magnifico said. “We just try and have fun, and that’s what made this team special so far. We’re just out there having fun.”
“Other than the ’13 team in Boston, this is probably my favorite team I’ve played on as far as camaraderie and guys getting along and playing for each other,” said third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who was recently called up to the Brewers.
With all the praise, it should come as no surprise that the Sky Sox are having their best season in a long time. Heading into play on Wednesday night, the Sky Sox sit second in the PCL American Northern division at 41-41. The Sky Sox are also coming off their first winning month in three seasons after going 18-13 in June.
Such a jovial atmosphere could be a rare sight at the Triple-A level, with most players having already played in the Major Leagues or right on the cusp of making their big league debuts.
“This is pretty rare in Triple-A,” Middlebrooks said of the clubhouse atmosphere. “Guys come in with a positive attitude and have fun, that’s a reason why we’re playing well.”
One way the Sky Sox have bonded is by tipping their caps. When a Sky Sox player makes a good defensive play, the pitchers in the bullpen respond by tipping their caps, and the position player who made the play tips his cap back, usually as a sign of respect and pride.
“That’s just us pitchers giving credit where credit is due,” Magnifico said. “Any position player makes a good play, gets us out of a jam or anything, we’ll tip our cap to them for helping us out.”
“I think it’s awesome,” Wren said. “I think it’s the pitching staff really promoting the defense playing hard. Just letting you know when you make a good play it doesn’t go unnoticed.”
While few players remember exactly how the tipping of the caps started, one pitcher may have the best idea.
“I think they did it a little bit here last year,” Suter said. “I think [Tim] Dillard is a big part of that, he started that at the end of the last year and this year, everyone’s been following it.”
When asked about team bonding, pitcher Tim Dillard’s name is often brought up in conversation.
“Tim Dillard is awesome,” Reed said. “He’s been here a long time. He knows how to bring guys together and have a good time.”
Part of Dillard’s ability to bring everyone together is his videos on the Dubsmash application. He usually uses teammates to recreate famous movie or television scenes, with often-hilarious end results.
“I have no idea how this team would be without Dillard, because he makes everything fun,” Magnifico said.
“He’s awesome for team camaraderie and having fun in the clubhouse and making fun videos,” Suter said of Dillard. “He’s a central piece in the clubhouse and an awesome dude.”
Dillard knows the value of having the team bond as a group, and he is always excited for new ideas.
“Half my life I’ve been doing the baseball thing and it kind of surpasses the creativity,” Dillard said. “But I think the Dubsmashes and the team camaraderie brings it out.”
The Sky Sox have used the fun they are having off the field to bring winning fun to the field, and it is no secret that there is a relationship between the two.
“I think there is a correlation between having a good clubhouse and making wins out of it,” Suter said.
The Sky Sox will look to continue having fun and keep the winning ways going as they host division rival Iowa for a four game series this weekend.