Ryan Howard has pretty much done it all in major league baseball, but he’s not opposed to trying something new.
Playing in Albuquerque qualifies.
Howard, who has some of the game’s most-coveted hardware on his mantel — National League Rookie of the Year and MVP trophies to go with a World Series ring, all won with the Philadelphia Phillies — plans to enjoy an unexpected late-season run with the Isotopes.
So far, so good.
Howard played his second game with the ‘Topes on Monday night, driving in two runs with a first-inning double. He was 1-for-4 in the series finale against Fresno — a game the Isotopes went into win 7-3 after a two hour-plus rain delay.
Howard, 37, just arrived in Albuquerque on Saturday but it’s no surprise that he already has his eyes on another destination. The Colorado Rockies signed the slugger, who has 382 career home runs to his credit, to a minor league contract on Saturday. If all goes according to plan, Howard will be spending most of September in Denver.
In the meantime, getting a taste of the Pacific Coast League has a certain appeal.
“It’s cool,” Howard said prior to Monday’s game. “It’s my first time in this league. I’ve heard about the elevation and how the ball flies over here. Now I get to try it for myself.”
Prior to Sunday night’s game, Howard had not hit in an official game anywhere since early May. He played 11 games with Triple-A Gwinett before the parent Atlanta Braves released him.
It might have seemed understandable if Howard had called it a career at that point. He hit just .196 for the Phillies last season and the club declined to pick up his $23 million option for 2017.
Nor is baseball a necessity for the gregarious Howard. He recently became a partner with SeventySix Capital, a venture capital firm in Radnar, Pa. He’s also appeared in television series, including “Entourage” and “The Office,” along with numerous commercials.
But Howard is not ready to hang up his spikes.
“I’ve been hitting and taking ground balls every day, staying ready,” he said. “It’s not the same as game situations, but I feel good. I feel like I’ve still got more than enough left in the tank. I just need to continue to get work.”
Howard sees the current Rockies roster as being similar to the one Philadelphia featured early in his career. Howard also believes he can contribute.
Asked what he can bring to the Rockies’ table, he said, “My track record speaks for itself. I’ve always been a great clubhouse guy and I’m capable of putting up numbers.”
Howard certainly has some impressive numbers on his résumé. He was the fastest to both 100 and 200 home runs in major league history. He also tied Lou Gehrig’s postseason record by driving in at least one run in eight consecutive games.
On the other hand, Howard also surpassed Reggie Jackson’s record for “golden sombreros,” (four-strikeout games). Howard has pulled the feat 27 times.
But after more than three months off, Howard struck out just twice in his first nine at-bats in Albuquerque, hitting several balls hard including a pair of doubles.
“I’m further along than I thought,” Howard said. “I just need to get more at-bats, try to get in a rhythm and help this team. What happens next? The Rockies will make that decision.”
‘Topes Today, Aug. 15
at El Paso
Probable pitchers: Isotopes RHP Matt Flemer (7-6, 5.96) vs. Chihuahuas RHP Chris Huffman (0-1, 8.10).
Radio: 610 AM.
Monday: After a two hour and five minute rain delay with two outs in the top of the eighth inning, the Isotopes (60-61) scored five times in the bottom of the frame to come away with a 7-3 win over the Fresno Grizzlies (69-53). With the win, the Isotopes remain a half game behind the first-place Salt Lake Bees.