The Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs made a huge stir in the offseason in remaking their farm systems, but lost in the shuffle was the work by Colorado Rockies to centralize a system in the Mountain Time Zone.
The Rockies ended relationships with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the Tulsa Drillers (Class AA; Texas League) and the Tri-City Dust Devils (short season A; Northwest League). The new affiliates: Albuquerque Isotopes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), New Britain Rock Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) and Boise Hawks (short season A; Northwest League). Setting aside the loss of Tulsa (which was inevitable) and the gain of New Britain (where the Rockies farmhands will be playing in a new ballpark in 2016), Albuquerque and Boise are definite upgrades (better facilities, better airports, larger markets). And they are both in the same time zone as the Rockies, which makes for a decent marketing opportunity. Minor League Baseball teams have turned into valuable marketing partners for MLB teams in these circumstances — just ask the Minnesota Twins, whose relationship with the Cedar Rapids Kernels (Low Class A; Midwest League) led to an expansion of the Twins’ reach into Iowa.
So the Rockies are making a play for the entire time zone, dispatching a winter caravan to Utah and Salt Lake City, where there is a cluster of MiLB teams — none of them Rockies affiliates. From the Deseret News:
Utah was the final stop for the Rockies’ caravan, which also took them to destinations in Colorado as well as Albuquerque and Boise on a four-state, five-day road trip designed to develop and strengthen their fan base.
“We’re trying to get out in some of the communities and want to try and get people excited about our club and give back to our fan base,” said Weiss. “In the Salt Lake area, we feel like we’ve got a pretty strong fan base here and we try to personalize the relationships with the folks here, the people in the community, and working with the kids is a good way to give back.
“We’re trying to branch out. We’re the only major-league club in our time zone, so we’re trying to branch out outside the state of Colorado and develop a fan base regionally.”