Casper giving up the Ghosts? Rockies’ rookie club may be coming to GJ

A minor league baseball team playing in Grand Junction appears closer to being a reality than the rumor that’s been floating for several months.

City of Grand Junction and baseball officials in Grand Junction refused to confirm that the Casper Ghosts, the Rookie affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, will move to Grand Junction and play at Suplizio Field in 2012.

“I can’t say anything about it,” Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich said Wednesday evening, saying she was “bound by state law, and at this point, I just can’t.”

However, city officials in Casper, Wyo., are bracing to lose the club that’s been in that town since 2001.

Tim Ray, the executive director of the Ghosts, told the Casper Star Tribune on Wednesday he had several calls that day from season ticket holders, wanting to know if their club was, in fact, leaving.

“Right now, I don’t know,” he told the Tribune in a story published late Wednesday afternoon on the paper’s website. “I’m hearing the same rumors.”

In January, Dick and Charlie Monfort, general partners of the Rockies, became majority owners of the Ghosts. Rumors of the Monforts moving the club to Colorado surfaced then and increased throughout the season.

“We heard (the talk at) the start of midsummer, halfway through the season,” Casper Mayor Paul Bertoglio told the Tribune. “We thought with the change in ownership, we would have the chance to work with them. We have not had any direct contact with any of the principals on that.”

Bertoglio told the paper the prospects of keeping the club are not promising.

“That’s how I would state it at this point,” he said.

Should the team move to Grand Junction, it would play in a newly renovated stadium, with an $8.3 million project scheduled to be completed in May 2012.

Jamie Hamilton, the chairman of the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, declined to comment on anything having to do with a professional baseball team moving to town, including how it would affect the JUCO World Series, referring all questions to the city.

Several attempts to bring professional baseball to Grand Junction in the past have failed.

Kadrich outlined the process that would have to be followed “if a team was interested in coming here and if they wanted to play at Suplizio Field.”

The city, which owns the stadium, would negotiate a lease agreement or a contract, including terms and use of the facility, rental rates, concessions, advertising, revenue sharing, etc. The Grand Junction City Council would then discuss the contract in executive session, with a vote in an open council meeting to approve or reject the contract.

The council’s next executive session is Oct. 5.

Pioneer League President Jim McCurdy did not return a call Wednesday from The Daily Sentinel seeking comment on the Ghosts’ possible move, nor did Casper City Manager John Patterson.

Rookie ball is the first stop for most pro baseball players.

The Pioneer League plays a 76-game schedule, starting two weeks after Major League Baseball’s amateur draft in early June and ending in early September. Each team plays 38 home games.

The Ghosts are the easternmost team in the eight-team league, which spans Montana, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

The Rockies’ Rookie franchise moved to Casper from Butte, Mont., in 2001. From 2001–2007, they were known as the Casper Rockies, changing their nickname to Ghosts in 2008.

Central High School graduate Keil Roling’s first pro club was Casper. Roling played this season for the Class A Advanced Modesto (Calif.) Nuts.

Center fielder Dexter Fowler, pitcher Jhoulys Chacin, outfielder Seth Smith and utility player Eric Young Jr. are among the current Rockies who started their careers in Casper.

The Ghosts finished 27-49 in 2011, going 19-19 at home, and have not had a winning season since moving to Wyoming. The club drew 47,982 fans in 37 home dates this season, an average of 1,296, the second-lowest attendance in the league.

The Monforts have developed ties in Grand Junction in recent years. Charlie Monfort is a trustee at Colorado Mesa University, and the Monfort family’s foundation helped finance the Monfort Family Human Performance Lab at the university.

Charlie Monfort was scheduled to be the speaker at the JUCO World Series banquet in 2008, but weather problems forced him to cancel his trip. He did attend part of the tournament that year, briefly speaking to the crowd before throwing out the first pitch before a game.


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