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Professional baseball in Colorado is going to look a little bit different in 2021.
On Monday, Major League Baseball made the first of several big announcements on the reshaping of the minor leagues.
While many expected disappointing news that the Pioneer League – home to the Rocky Mountain Vibes and Grand Junction Rockies – would no longer be associated with affiliated baseball, it came as somewhat surprising that the comprising eight clubs would stick around as a Partner League to MLB.
As one of four such independent leagues that will collaborate with MLB, initial funding for operating expenses and installation of scouting technology in stadiums for the Pioneer League will help these western-based teams stay afloat as they transition from being beneath the umbrella of Minor League Baseball to just beside it.
U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton of Colorado focused on the positive with the announcement saying, “I couldn’t be more excited for Grand Junction to remain a home for Professional Baseball. I wish the Rockies the best of luck this upcoming season and am excited for a bright future for baseball-loving fans in Western
Somewhat buried in the news of the Pioneer League’s resurgence was the relocation of the Orem Owlz to Northern Colorado, adding a third Partner League club to the Centennial State.
Jeff Katofsky, owner of what has been dubbed the Northern Colorado Owlz said: “We look forward to serving (this) community and providing high level competition and affordable family fun, alongside youth sports and entertainment.”
The Owlz move is a natural fit as Katofsky is also CEO of the Future Legends Complex in Windsor, CO. The 118-acre sports, entertainment and retail facility is hoping to host some events in 2021 before being completed entirely in spring of 2022.
The goal is to make the facility a premier location for hosting various youth sports tournaments for teams and players across the nation, and at the center of the complex will be a ballpark for the Owlz that can accommodate 3,000 fans.
“We hope that when kids come here and experience all that Future Legends has to offer, including the chance to interact with professional baseball players from the NoCo Owlz, they will be inspired to continue with their sports dreams,” Katofsky said in a press release.
Current AT&T Sportsnet broadcaster Ryan Spilborghs has also been tied to the project as an original investor and co-founder along with other former purple players such as Carlos González, Brian Fuentes, Cory Sullivan and Garrett Atkins.
On Twitter, the 2007 National League Champion shared, “The amount of people it has taken to even get the project and team to this site is a book long. Couldn’t be happier to see the potential impact it will have for Colorado communities, and sharing it with everyone. Our backyard welcomes you.”
The news undoubtedly has a negative tinge as the next Nolan Arenado, Kyle Freeland and Brendan Rodgers won’t be coming through Colorado Springs or Grand Junction anymore.
However, in their place could be an even better story of an underdog overlooked throughout college, a cast out from the minors after taking too long to develop or an unlucky player derailed by injuries rising from the unorthodox ranks of indy ball before reaching the majestic confines of the majors.
Isn’t that what we dream about on baseball diamonds stretching in all directions from the promise land of Coors Field?