Clippers Turn Back the Storm Chasers
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Minor league baseball has always been about the experience more than the game itself.
It’s why 9,569 fans turned out to watch the Triple-A National Championship Game at Isotopes Park on a Tuesday night in September. While those in attendance might not have been all that familiar with the rosters of Omaha or Columbus, it was pretty certain that a good time was going to be had.
“I love watching games live – it’s more fun,” said Shawn Green, an Isotopes season-ticket holder. “It’s a chance to see teams that we never get to see throughout the regular season, maybe some other prospects that we’ll never get to see here in Albuquerque. It’s just a fun environment tonight.”
In a game nationally televised on Versus, the Clippers beat the Storm Chasers 8-3 to capture their second consecutive minor league title.
It was the first time in six years the game had been held outside of Oklahoma City, and Isotopes general manager John Traub was pleased with the results.
“It was a tremendous success. I think the city has shined in the eyes of the baseball world,” he said. “What this event has shown us is what a great baseball town Albuquerque is. (Even) without the Isotopes in this game … you get almost 10,000 people coming out.”
Fans arrived early for a chance to get a glimpse of ex-Los Angeles Dodger greats Bill Russell, Steve Garvey and Ron Cey, who were in town for a pregame autograph session.
Russell was impressed with how far the ballpark had come since he played and managed as an Albuquerque Duke.
“I was back here in ’92 and ’93, and of course this looks like a modern-day stadium compared to what we played in,” he said. “The players loved coming in here – not because the clubhouses were great like they are now – (but) they loved coming in here to hit.”
Fans loved coming out see the great Dodgers of a bygone era. Green was among a procession of fans who showed up to obtain the signatures of the longtime infield teammates.
“It was nice to have them out here, to see some guys that originated as Albuquerque Dukes and actually made it to the big leagues,” he said.
And while many came for the pregame autographs and the postgame fireworks, some also had a vested rooting interest. Ed Fox, who sat with his son Brian in the bleachers by the left-field corner, lived in Cleveland until he was 15 years old. Now 45, both he and his son donned Indians caps and were happy to see their favorite team’s Triple-A affiliate in person.
“It’s an opportunity for Albuquerque to get a game like this in the city. You don’t see that very often. This was a good chance for us to come out,” Fox said. It probably felt even better as members of the Clippers donned commemorative T-shirts to celebrate their title.
A couple hours before the game Garvey reflected on what makes baseball so successful in the Duke City – and everywhere else.
“It’s about memories; it’s the memory business,” he said.
He could have very easily been talking about a father, a son and a night at the ballpark.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal