Jerry Wilds was No. 17 in line when season tickets went on sale for the Grand Junction Rockies’ inaugural season in 2012.
He and his wife, Carol, known better as “Cookie,” will miss going to the ballpark this summer, and are hoping there’s a next summer for the Rockies.
Minor League Baseball announced the cancellation of the season Tuesday, the first time since the MiLB was formed in 1901 there hasn’t been a season.
With the Pioneer League facing elimination if Major League Baseball ends its affiliation with 42 teams under the new Professional Baseball Agreement, fans might not get a chance to say goodbye.
“I’m going to miss it, I really am,” Jerry Wilds said. “We enjoyed it. We became friends with people around us. A lot of them were families (of players) that we got to know. To me, it was a perfect short season.”
The agreement between MLB and MiLB expires in September and negotiations have been acrimonious. The leagues are far apart on issues such as stadium improvements, travel and finances. The negotiating teams haven’t met for several weeks because of COVID-19 and because Major League Baseball was concentrating on getting its 30 teams back on the field. Once that happens later this month, the sides will resume negotiations.
Wilds’ daughter, Shannon Sneddon, and her family hosted players, so the Wilds got to know several of them well, and they’ve followed them through their careers.
“Alan Trejo still calls me Grandpa,” he said. “We went to see him in Lancaster (California) two years ago. We showed up there and are chatting and a lady comes out of the dugout. He says, ‘Come over here, I want you to meet my grandparents.’ ... I don’t remember exactly what she said, but she was wondering how we were his grandparents. We told her he was hosted by our daughter his first year and we were his adopted grandparents. ‘Oh, OK.’
“At that point she opened up the stadium to us. They gave us seats every game, we didn’t buy a seat. If they weren’t in the shade and my wife couldn’t handle it, she got us moved. We were like the king and queen. We weren’t anybody.”
The accessibility of the players is what Wilds likes about the GJ Rockies, plus the atmosphere in the ballpark.
“They’re all good kids,” he said. “I’ve never seen one of them tell a kid no, they couldn’t have an autograph or they wouldn’t stop and talk.”
They sit behind the first-base dugout in the Tower section, as do Lincoln Pierce and his wife, Nancy, who have been season-ticket holders the past four years. The shade of the Hamilton Family Tower is a plus, they said, as is being close to the action.
“We like seeing young people coming up and having an opportunity to move up to the big leagues,” Lincoln Pierce said. “I guess the other best thing about it, if you go to any major league game, Coors Field, you get a ticket and for the most part you’re way out somewhere. You go to the minor league (games), you’re right there. You get to know who the players are, you’re right behind them in the dugout. It’s a much more comfortable atmosphere and you feel part of it. In the big leagues, you never feel real close.”
The Pierces have enjoyed their evenings at the ballpark.
“We like baseball, and it committed us to going and getting out,” he said.
They enjoyed watching players progress, not only throughout their summer in Grand Junction, but throughout their pro careers.
“We liked Brendan Rodgers. His mom sat with some people behind us and we were glad to see him play well and move up,” he said. “We liked a couple of pitchers, and we liked the story behind (Riley) Pint, the kid who could throw 104 (mph).”
If the Rockies are contracted, Pierce would like to see a collegiate league team come to Suplizio, something to keep summer baseball alive. Wilds, too, has enjoyed having more baseball to watch after the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series.
“It’s going to hurt the city, financially and for something to do,” Wilds said. “It’s a great summer activity. The sad part is the way this is ending. If it ends now, it sucks. That’s not a nice way to put it, but it just isn’t a good situation. We’ve enjoyed the heck out of it. I’d do it again.
“We got in early on seats and we weren’t sure how it was going to be. Now they’d have to shoot us to give away our seats.”