BY CAROLYN LaWELL
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado | Inside a makeshift stall in a storage room under the banquet hall near rightfield at Security Service Field, Kelley Millsap sits on a stool and strips to his boxer briefs. The Colorado Sky Sox are about to take the field and he still needs to get dressed.
His layers include white baseball pants with pads, a long-sleeve Under Armour shirt, a pair of lace-up ankle wraps, another pair of white baseball pants – this one with a tail – a pair of white socks, a green vest with attached furry sleeves, a baseball jersey, a pair of wristbands, a pair of navy knee-high socks, black Brooks athletic shoes and a black belt, just to keep everything together.
He steps out of the stall to stretch, lunge, then returns to finish his costume with a pair of Under Armour skull caps, four-fingered black gloves and an eight-pound fox head.
Millsap goes though that routine about 175 times a year as Sox the Fox, the Sky Sox mascot. Of course, some of the suit has changed during the seven seasons he has entertained fans. Millsap’s mother, Kim, stitched pads into the thighs and calves of Sox’s white pants to make him look more muscular and athletic, and she inserted a metal rod in his tail to keep it from dropping between his legs. Oh, and he has a new head.
“I love the stadiums that you go to and you see the mascots that are athletic and smaller,” Millsap says. “The big, huggable ones can’t move that way. Fortunately, Fox is an athletic character. There’s not much to the suit besides a baseball uniform, the tail and then the head. The head is huge. It makes things hard, but it’s still possible.”
What it keeps “possible” are dynamic moves that Millsap performs during games, like backflips – which he learned himself by practicing with a golf cart and an old mattress – riding a unicycle and running across the backs of bleacher seats as if they’re a tightrope. All are athletic feats, even without a tail and eight-pound head.
Millsap brings the smoothness and speed that you would expect from a fox. He jumps off the dugout, soars over an usher’s head, runs in circles and jumps backward onto the dugout. He bolts from one side of the stadium to the other, jumping and sprinting as he goes.
He is built for this job. Millsap’s own measurements are listed on the back of Sox’s baseball card: 5 feet, 9 inches; 185 pounds before the game and 178 after. Not listed is Millsap’s body fat – a surprisingly high 14 percent. When he’s not playing Sox, Millsap is a personal trainer at the upscale VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa in Colorado Springs. “It’s kind of funny when people are paying $70 an hour for my services,” he says, “and then they find out that I run around in a costume.”
The pure physical nature of Sox isn’t child’s play for the 25-year-old Millsap, who constantly updates his routine and maintains his fitness for the role. His credentials also include a bachelor’s degree in health and wellness, and a master’s degree in health promotion, both from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “Some people laugh at that, too,” he says. “I have a master’s degree and I’m still running around in a costume.”
For now, he’s happy in Colorado Springs. He’s near his family and has two jobs that mesh well with each other. He would consider moving up in the mascot world only if with the right fit. He started only by luck. He worked as a stadium vendor for the Sky Sox when he realized he hadn’t seen Sox in a week. When he found out the last person to play the mascot left, Millsap said he wanted the role. He was told to show up early the next morning for an audition. He suited up for his first game that night.
“I don’t really know what I want to do when I grow up,” he says, “but it will be something active and healthy.”
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Time for minor league trivia. The Sky Sox name dates back to their affiliation with this team from 1950 to 1958. Back then, it was a Low-A team in the Western League that later folded. (Keep reading for the answer.)
Sky Sox reliever Zach Putnam inherited a tied game in the ninth and gave up four singles and a pair of runs that allowed the Oklahoma City RedHawks to rally for a 5-3 win. The Sky Sox kept the crowd on edge during the bottom of the inning when they loaded the bases, then failed to score. Putnam picked up his second loss. The Sky Sox tied the game in the seventh with a solo home run by catcher Wil Nieves.
Ever hear of funnel cake fries? Security Service Field sells them and they opened our eyes to a food that should be offered at every stadium – or at least at every carnival. Who doesn’t love fried food doused in powdered sugar? Look for them next to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory store on the concourse between home plate and third base.
Sky Sox historian Chris Moyer discovered the team surpassed a 60-year-old Pacific Coast League record by knocking at least one hit in 20 consecutive innings earlier this season. The Sky Sox had 35 hits during the streak and edged the old Hollywood Stars, who had a hit in 19 straight innings back in 1952.
Want the answer? The Chicago White Sox, of course. The Sky Sox folded with the Western League in 1958 and professional baseball didn’t return to Colorado Springs for 30 years, when the Sky Sox played their first season as the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. When Denver received a Major League franchise in 1993, the Sky Sox switched affiliations to the Rockies and have been with them every season since. Now when the Sky Sox get called up, they only have a 71-mile drive north to Coors Field.
And in random statistical news. The game started five minutes later than scheduled, the first pitch was a strike, the first batter hit a single to center and a local youth choir sand the “Star-Spangled Banner” in 1 minute and 39.8 seconds. For lunch, we walked from the stadium to a local chain, Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill – think Chipotle with hummus. We stuffed ourselves with falafel and chick peas and left little room for ballpark food. We did pick up some jalapeno nachos and those aforementioned funnel cake fries during the seventh inning, though. Good move.
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