Last week Brett previewed the first Major League park on our summer ballpark tour, Petco Park. This week we’re headed back down to the minors as I take a look at the Hangar, home of the Colorado Rockies’ Class-A affiliate the Lancaster Jethawks!
For many years the franchise that would eventually become the Jethawks was based out of Reno. They formed as the Reno Silver Sox in 1947, when they were affiliated with the Giants–the New York Giants. That affiliation ended quickly, and the team went into hiatus until returning in 1955 to join the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.
From 1955 to 1992, the team remained in Reno and continued to go by the name Silver Sox, except for a brief stint as the Reno Padres while they were affiliated with San Diego. The Silver Sox had a number of affiliations including the Dodgers (both Brooklyn and after the move to Los Angeles), Pirates, Indians, Twins, and Padres.
While at Reno, the team played their home games at Moana Stadium.
For two brief years from 1993-95, the team played as the Riverside Pilots, before moving into their new and current home in Lancaster. Since they arrived in 1996, they’ve played under the name Jethawks to honor the city’s strong aviation history; Chuck Yeager was the first man to break the sound barrier in 1947 at nearby Muroc Air Force Base, and aviation titans like Boeing, Northrup-Grumman, and Lockheed Martin continue to have a strong presence in the area.
Since moving to Lancaster the team hasn’t maintained affiliations with major league teams for very long. From ’96 until 2000, the team was the Class-A affiliate for Seattle. After that, they joined with the new Arizona Diamondbacks organization, remaining with them until 2006.
After a two-year deal with the Boston Red Sox from 2007-2008, the Jethawks joined the Houston Astros organization. The Astros famously built a World Series contender from within their own system; the core of that team including (clockwise from top left) Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Jose Altuve all paid their dues in the minors while wearing a Lancaster Jethawks uniform.
In 2017 Lancaster changed affiliations once again, joining the Colorado Rockies organization on a two-year contract.
The Rockies farm system doesn’t have a ton of pitching prospects (thanks, Coors), but they do have a number of interesting young infield players. One of the standouts at Class-A Lancaster is third baseman Colton Welker (above). A converted shortstop from Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, Welker comes it at fourth on the Rockies top-30 from MLB Pipeline. Welker offers a solid bat, and his power is starting to round into form–he’s hit 4 homers in 27 games this season for Lancaster.
Joining him in the Lancaster infield is Tyler Nevin, a first-round pick from 2015. Nevin’s progress stalled due to injuries, including a Tommy John surgery while he was in high school. Given that Nolan Arenado has third base locked up for the foreseeable future, the Rockies have given Nevin more time at first. In 24 games this season with the Jethawks, Nevin is slashing .302/.350/.448.
In a notoriously hitter-friendly league, it should be interesting to see Welker, Nevin, and the rest of the Jethawks swing the lumber this summer!
Opened in 1996 as Lancaster Municipal Stadium (which is a very boring name), the Jethawks’ home was always commonly called “The Hangar” (a much cooler name). Why do they call it that? Well, this is the view when you enter the stadium:
That’s a NASA F/A-18 Hornet fighter, with flight speeds over 1,000 miles per hour. To prevent drunk Brett from joyriding in it, I have to imagine that this particular model has been disabled.
There’s something for all ages at the Hangar. For the kids, a large inflatable slide and bounce-house sits near right field. For the adults, the booze and party sections are on the other side of the diamond!
Lancaster’s local brew-pub Kinetic Brewing Company operates a beer garden down the third base line. The photo above is of Kinetic’s flagship location.
There’s also the Pilots’ Pavilion and the Hunter Dodge Party Deck, which were constructed to be perfect for barbecues and suite-level parties.
Maybe I’m a nerd about this, but one of my favorite features about the Hangar is the old-fashioned, manual scoreboard. You can see it in the gap in center-right in this photo from home plate–which, coincidentally, are pretty much where our seats are!
If you needed more to look forward to about the Hangar, here’s this: the stadium will host the 2018 California League All-Star Game in June.
Finally, the all-important mascot question: Meet KaBoom–KB for short–mascot of the Lancaster Jethawks:
But that’s not all. You know how the Washington Nationals hold a President’s Race between innings? The Lancaster Jethawks hold an ASTRONAUTS RACE. We will provide video evidence after our visit.
We’ll be in Lancaster to see the Jethawks in June, and remember to check back next week as we look at our next ballpark, Angel Stadium!