From Scottsdale to Albuquerque: Rockies take road trip to connect with Triple-A community
Colorado Rockies right fielder Charlie Blackmon struck out looking on his first at bat in Albuquerque. (Photo by Bella Sisneros/Cronkite News)
Albuquerque Isotopes left fielder Noel Cuevas brings in the first run during the exhibition game against the Colorado Rockies. Cuevas has since been added to the Rockies 40-man roster. (Photo by Bella Sisneros/Cronkite News)
Rockies center fielder David Dahl recorded not hits and struck out twice in the exhibition game against the Isotopes. (Photo by Bella Sisneros/Cronkite News)
Winning pitcher Peter Lambert pitched five innings, allowing four hits and striking out seven batters. (Photo by Bella Sisneros/Cronkite News)
Ryan McMahon, Rockies second baseman, returned to Albuquerque for the first time since his 55 game stint with the Triple-A affiliate in 2018. (Photo by Bella Sisneros/Cronkite News)
ALBUQUERQUE – Opening Day. Fifteen games with the promise of a new season after spending just shy of two months in spring training.
While many teams returned home to their stadiums, some clubs wrapped up spring training in a different fashion with three – the Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals and the Colorado Rockies – traveling to the homes of their respective Triple-A affiliates.
The Rockies made their way to New Mexico to visit the Albuquerque Isotopes.
“We’ve been talking about it for years,” Isotopes General Manager John Traub said. “For probably 17 years, it’s one of my top priorities during the offseason, but they are hard to come by. Major League exhibition games are difficult for a lot of different reasons. Scheduling is very problematic.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, depending on where regular seasons are opening and things of that nature. Every major league team out there knows that we want to have an exhibition game here in Albuquerque following spring training, but it just doesn’t always come to fruition.”
And it was not easy. The Rockies broke camp on Monday morning in Scottsdale, Arizona, traveled to Albuquerque, and then shipped out to Florida for their last exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins.
A Monday afternoon game would suggest a smaller crowd. But that was the opposite of the situation at Isotopes Park.
Tickets were hard to come by as the game neared before berm tickets went on sale three days before players took the field.
“The fact that we are already at nearly 11,000 tickets sold is a great sign that it worked,” Traub said. “Obviously, it’s not an ideal scenario with a Monday afternoon game. Other teams do it all over the country.
“I thought maybe we’ll get to 7,000 tickets and we blew that out of the water almost immediately, so that was a very good sign. Who knows what the future is going to hold, but this year people are very excited about it.”
Excited they were. The official attendance number announced at the game was 12,222. Seats were filled with fans in Rockies jerseys and those excited to see a major league team in their stadium.
“People love it because not everyone can get out to spring training. It’s not easy for everybody to get out to Arizona or Florida so to bring spring training here is pretty cool,” Traub said.
That was the case for Mark Garcia. An Albuquerque native, Garcia had never been to a major league game.
“The Rockies are my team. I used to be a Yankees fan, and then Trevor Story coming from the Isotopes, and that’s where I started following them,” Garcia said.
“This community is excited about the Isotopes,” Traub said. “I think there was a pocket of people here that were already Rockies fans. The Rockies look at Albuquerque and New Mexico as kind of their market and that’s only grown since we have been affiliated with them.”
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