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Anxious times ahead for Isotopes as September call-up season nears

Albuquerque Isotopes catcher Tom Murphy still owes his dad a hunting trip.

A few weeks shy of three years ago, the then 25-year-old prospect in the Colorado Rockies organization had just wrapped up a tremendous season with 72 games played with Double-A New Britain and then 33 with the Triple-A Isotopes.

When Murphy left Albuquerque in 2015, he was happy with what he accomplished and eager for what was looking like a bright future in the organization. He and his dad planned a week-long hunting trip on the small Canadian island of Anacosti.

“I went home from here not expecting to be called up or anything like that,” said Murphy, who went 0-for-3 in Monday’s Isotopes home finale of the season, a 9-8 win over the visiting Reno Aces.

But in the world of minor league baseball, as Murphy found out, the season isn’t really over, even when there are no more games to play.

Each September, Major League Baseball allows teams to expand their rosters, leading to the much anticipated call-ups of minor leaguers all over the country.

For Murphy, on the eve of that 2015 hunting trip for white-tailed deer on a cold island without cell service, he decided to check in one more time with the Rockies’ farm system director, just in case.

“I said, ‘Zach (Wilson), I’ve got this trip planned. Should I be going on this trip?'” Murphy recalls. “He said if I was smart, I wouldn’t be going on the trip, but he didn’t say for sure if I’d be getting called up or not.”

Murphy didn’t go on the trip.

Then one night at his upstate New York home, while his dad was off hunting, his mom and step-daughter were sleeping and his then-girlfriend was working late, Murphy went online.

“I checked my email that night and I saw an itinerary for Seattle,” Murphy said. “They hadn’t called me yet, but the itinerary was already emailed. About 10 minutes later, I got the call.”

Between email and call, Murphy had to wake up his mom to share the news.

On Sept. 12, 2015, he made his MLB debut for the Rockies in Seattle.

His story is not unlike what many of his teammates will be facing in the coming weeks, even after the Isotopes season ends on Sept. 3. Many, even those not on the Rockies’ 40-man roster, simply don’t know for sure if they should be waiting by a phone or not.

“I kind of know what situation I’m in right now and who’s in front of me (on the big league roster),” said Isotopes all-league third baseman Josh Fuentes. “So, I don’t want to expect things and then get let down. Right now, I’m just going to plan on going home, rest and hopefully play in the fall league or winter league.”

That doesn’t mean that’s what he wants, though.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Fuentes said. “I’ve never been brought up (to the big leagues), and that’s obviously a dream of mine. To even be in that conversation is awesome. So, yeah, I’ll probably be waiting by that phone a little, just in case.”

D.J. Johnson, the ‘Topes’ 28-year-old all-star closer, has similar sentiments.

“If something good happens, I’m grateful,” Johnson said. “… but that’s somebody else’s decision. Obviously it’s every kid’s dream to get that call and play in the big leagues”

ATTENDANCE: With Monday’s announced attendance of 7,851, the Isotopes welcomed 556,330 fans in the 2018 season. The team’s season average will close at 7,948. That ranks third in the Pacific Coast League and likely won’t change over the next week as the season wraps up.

SOME HONORS: Isotopes outfielder Mike Tauchman and third baseman Josh Fuentes were named to the All-PCL team on Monday, the league announced.

It was Tauchman’s first All-PCL honor and Fuentes’ first.

The two also joined Johnson in a pregame ceremony in which the franchise’s vice president and general manager, John Traub, awarded them commemorative rings for their being named earlier this season to the PCL All-Star game.