SALT LAKE CITY — Major League Baseball is coming to town Saturday afternoon with the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners meeting in an exhibition game at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
“It’s really a big deal. It’s a lot of fun. It’s exciting for the community,” said Salt Lake Bees general manager Marc Amicone. “It’s been almost 50 years since two major league teams have played here in the city.”
From 1957 through the ‘60s, Salt Lake City hosted several major league exhibition games. Contests featured such teams as the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, New York (and later San Francisco) Giants and St. Louis Cardinals and included Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski.
On April 4, 1970, the Oakland A's defeated the San Diego Padres in an exhibition game. A crowd of 6,143 was on hand at Derks Field as Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson homered and Rollie Fingers pitched three innings of relief.
Tickets to this year’s Rockies-Mariners game went on sale Dec. 7 and sold out in less than an hour, despite the lowest-priced ticket being $24. Official capacity at Spring Mobile Ballpark is 15,411. The stadium’s 24 luxury suites have also been reserved.
Amicone noted that everything went so fast over the Internet that the Bees didn’t even have to open a ticket sales window that day. This week, however, a couple of hundred seats were made available to the public.
“There are a lot of Rockies fans and Mariners fans in town because people wanted to know what dugout which team was in and those kind of things,” Amicone said. “So it’s really going to be a fun day.”
Game time is 1:05 p.m. Fans with tickets, though, can enter the stadium at 10 a.m. to watch batting practice. The Mariners will take the field at 10:30, while the Rockies will do so an hour later.
Amicone expects many of the stars from both teams to play a couple of innings to help showcase Major League Baseball to the Salt Lake City market. He’s confident the local community will also benefit from the appearance. Several little league teams in the area have purchased tickets, and that’s not all.
“I’m sure we’ll have fans here that have never been to a Bees game because they are a Major League Baseball fan, or a Mariners fan, or a Rockies fans,” Amicone said. “So hopefully it will expose them to this ballpark and they’ll have a great day and come back. Obviously we think it’s good for the Bees and the organization, but we think it’s really good for the baseball community to be able to experience it.”
The game, which will be televised live by Root Sports, wraps up preseason play for both teams. On April 1, Colorado opens the 2013 campaign at Milwaukee. Seattle’s opener is later that day in Oakland.
Standouts for the Rockies include first baseman Todd Helton, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. All three players have been National League All-Stars.
Pitcher Felix Hernandez, who threw a perfect game last season and won the American League Cy Young Award in 2010, headlines the Seattle roster. Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has won a Gold Glove.
On the local front, Colorado has two players who played for Salt Lake in recent years — outfielder Michael Cuddyer (2000 postseason) and pitcher Tyler Chatwood (2010, 2011). University of Utah graduate Charlie Monfort, one of the primary owners of the Rockies along with his brother Dick, is expected to have some friends at the game.
“I’m proud of the fact that we were able to put this together and our organization was able to bring an event like this here,” Amicone said. “It’s really a big, big deal to have this event here.”
Amicone added that it shows the commitment the organization and Miller family has made to bringing such high-profile events to town. Others include the 2011 Triple-A All-Star Game, races out at the Miller Motorsports Park and concerts and special events at EnergySolutions Arena.
“We provide things in the community that make it a fun place to live,” Amicone said.
Considering the support shown for the Rockies-Mariners game, future Major League Baseball exhibition games could very well be in the mix down the road.
“We’re looking at the future. We’re hoping it's something we can do again in the future,” said Amicone, who explained that doing so on an annual basis may be difficult because of the short window of opportunity (between the end of spring training and the opening of the regular season) and the limited number of teams available each year.
Even so, Amicone said he would not be surprised to see it back in the not-so-distant future.
“There’s plenty of support and I’m sure we’ll see a game again soon,” he noted.
Although the Bees are the top affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, chances are slim that their parent club will ever be able to be one of the participants. The Angels historically play a Freeway Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers to close out spring training.
“I don’t see that history ever changing,” Amicone said. “I would love to have the Angels play here, but at that point it’s an economic situation and it just doesn’t make sense (for them).”
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Ticket holders invited to watch batting practice
SALT LAKE CITY — Fans attending Saturday’s exhibition game between the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners at Spring Mobile Ballpark are invited to watch batting practices. The Mariners will take the field at 10:30 a.m., while the Rockies will follow at 11:30 a.m.
Gates open at 10 a.m., and the game is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.