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Duke City's Star Turn A Homer

By Rick Wright
For the Journal
    If there was a hitch in Albuquerque's swing Wednesday night, it was imperceptible.
    "Wonderful, wonderful," said Isotopes season-ticket holder Jose Arellano, while holding his infant daughter, Jaylene, of his family's big night at Isotopes Park.
    For the record, the International League beat the Pacific Coast League 7-5 in the Triple-A All-Star Game. The IL's Mike Hessman (Toledo, Detroit's top farm club) and Brandon Moss (Pawtucket, Red Sox) hit consecutive home runs, and the visitors were off and runnin' with a four-run first inning.
    Isotopes slugger and Marlins prospect Valentino Pascucci countered with a two-run dinger off IL starter Bryan Bullington (Indianapolis, Pirates) in the bottom of the first. But the PCLers never caught up.
    As in any minor league baseball game, though— season opener, playoff series, all-star contest— it's not the final score that's important. It's the people in the stands; in this case, 12,367 of them.
    Arellano and his wife, Christine, both South Valley natives, bought their 'Topes season tickets last year. Their $65-apiece All-Star Game Fiesta packages, however, were extra.
    "A small price to pay," Jose Arellano said.
    With concessions, Christine Arellano said, the couple dropped more than $150 on the All-Star Game. But they took full advantage, and besides, Jaylene got in for free.
    "We did it all," Jose said— Fan Fest, Power Derby, Wednesday's game.
    What appeared to be a hitch, or at least a potential one, loomed over the stadium early Wednesday evening like a dark cloud.
    In fact, it was a dark cloud.
    Only a few isolated raindrops fell, however, and that cloud, with the help of a southerly breeze, cooled a hot summer day. The temperature, 94 degrees when the game began a little after 5:30 p.m., had fallen to 83 by the middle of the fourth inning and 80 by game's end.
    A few minor-league nitpicks:
    BirdZerk, one of many costumed performers who tour the nation clowning at baseball games, was on hand Wednesday with understudy and protégé Zerk Jr.; Mrs. Zerk was sitting on an egg back home and couldn't attend.
    Rubbery mascots calling themselves The Zooperstars— Beary Bonds, Monkey Mantle, Harry Canary, et al— followed. Orbit, the Isotopes' mascot, was present as well.
    Fine, but, considering the occasion, I'd have expected BirdZerk on top of one dugout and Jerry Lewis/Nutty Professor wannabe Myron Noodleman on the other.
    The Isotopes and Triple-A baseball didn't miss much, but I would have liked a bit more recognition of Albuquerque's baseball past.
    Duke City youngsters of today, no doubt, see Isotopes all-stars Pascucci, Robert Andino and Scott Seabol as heroes. My boyhood summer heroes were Dukes of yore like Fran Oneto, Chico Terry, Ted Shandor and Chuck Coles. Albuquerque has a rich baseball history, of which Wednesday's game now becomes a part.
    The Isotopes do have an excellent piece on the city's pro baseball legacy at albuquerquebaseball.com/news/history.
    Nitpicks aside, there was little not to like.
    Former Dukes and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, the star attraction at a luncheon earlier, threw out the first pitch. Lasorda, who pitched briefly for the Dodgers and the Kansas City Athletics, has lost something off his fastball but nothing off his accuracy. His toss, launched from some 15 feet in front of the mound, was a knee-high strike— on the bounce.
    During the game, Lasorda visited the press box. He recalled that the old Albuquerque Sports Stadium had a drive-in section, popular with hormone-infused teenagers, beyond the outfield fence.
    "Back then, you could score here before the game started," he quipped.
    Wednesday, Albuquerque scored a run for baseball. And vice versa.