Isotopes optimistic on eve of home opener
It’s time once again to raise the curtain on professional baseball in New Mexico.
After opening its season with five games on the road against Pacific Coast League rival Salt Lake, the Albuquerque Isotopes will be at home for the first time when they host Las Vegas on Tuesday night at Isotopes Park. It’s the first of 71 games between now and late August.
Manager Glenallen Hill’s club took three games at Salt Lake, losing Monday’s getaway game in extra innings. With 16 years as a scout, coach and manager in the Colorado Rockies system, he said he had a good feeling about his club coming out of spring training.
“It’s been one of the best spring trainings overall, in terms of attitude, attention to detail, excitement and energy level,” he said.
Part of it is the players, but the rest is the overall mentality of the franchise itself. The parent club is coming off a wild card berth in the National League playoffs and big things are expected up and down the organization’s extended family tree this summer. That includes the Isotopes, who have yet to have a winning record since becoming Colorado’s top farm club three years ago.
Hill said the message is simple: Keep moving forward.
“As long as you’re not worried about the things that are behind you and you keep the focus on what’s ahead, you’ll be fine,” he said. “If you don’t, you’re going to crash. I don’t want to see a player do that. They are here at a point where they are the best they can be and it’s my job to help them find that one thing they need to be even better to get up to [Denver].”
Monday’s recap: The Isotopes (3-2) lost 5-4 in 11 innings to Salt Lake on Monday. It was their first experience with the new extra innings rule that was implemented for minor league baseball in which a runner starts at second base for each frame.
Both teams scored in the 10th inning, then Albuquerque loaded the bases in the top of the 11th with no outs but was unable to get anything across.
Ben Revere started the bottom half at second and eventually scored the clinching run on Nolan Fontana’s sacrifice fly to right.
The Isotopes had 11 hits but left 15 runners on base.
Rent’s due: The team issued its latest payment to the City of Albuquerque on Monday. The $1,550,880 check represents the basic rent and surcharge amounts for the team’s use of the city-owned facility.
This is the 16th year of Isotopes Park’s existence and the team has now paid the city $26,592,355 since its first payment in 2003. The highest since payment was $2.04 million in 2007.
Last year’s check for $1.3 million was the smallest, with the average at nearly $1.8 million.
Start times: The traditional 7 p.m. start time for most home games over the summer are a thing of the past. The team will start no home game later than 6:35 p.m. the entire season.
Of the 71 home games, 11 will be during the day with all others starting at either 6:05 or 6:35.
Free stuff: Temperatures could easily dip into the 50s by time Tuesday night’s game wraps up, making the winter beanie given away to the first 3,000 fans a handy gift. It’s one of three promotional giveaways during the homestead, which runs through Monday.
While most series in the Pacific Coast League are four games, the opening set against visiting Las Vegas is just three, followed by a four-game series against Salt Lake over the tax day weekend.
This is the first of two homesteads this month, sandwiched between road trips to Salt Lake and Tacoma.