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Grammer: On this day in Albuquerque, we were great, great sports


The “there’s never anything to do in Albuquerque” crowd had to take the loss on Saturday.

Especially the sports contingent of that group, who we too often allow to dominate the conversation in our state with their often overbearing whine.

Simply put, if you couldn’t find something to do on Saturday in Albuquerque, you either weren’t looking or you just didn’t want to find anything to do.

At the intersection of Avenida Cesar Chavez and University alone, there were probably 30,000 fans, athletes, coaches, officials and many others who converged on a beautiful spring day to take part in daylong high school track & field, baseball and softball championship events, an evening Albuquerque Isotopes game (playing as their wildly popular alter ego Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico) and Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit packed with bull riding fans for the Ty Murray Invitational.

It was an unusually hectic perfect storm of events that could have created chaos.

Instead, it delivered.

Not only in what did happen, but what didn’t.

Thanks in large part to weeks of pre-planning for parking and traffic control from people with the Isotopes, UNM, CNM, the City of Albuquerque and many others, the day was about the sports and not about the chaos that could have ensued. That was especially true in the afternoon and evening hours. While track was wrapping up to the east side of Dreamstyle Stadium, the Class 4A baseball championship was being played at UNM’s Santa Ana Star Field, and the Isotopes/Mariachis game was set to begin at 6:35 p.m. — about the same time as the Ty Murray Invitational.

“We had a lot of people — not only here, but everyone at all of these entities — that put a lot of work into making this all work,” said Isotopes general manager John Traub, whose organization had an announced crowd of 14,222 enjoy its 12-2 win over the El Paso Chihuahuas before a fireworks show.

“I wouldn’t say I’d want this again with all of this going on at the same time, but it worked out pretty well. But it was thanks to many people that this worked.”

One of those “many” was Isotopes head groundskeeper Clint Belau, who had his family stop by in the middle of his busy day that went from 6 a.m. to well after 11 p.m.

As dad was repairing the pitchers mound in Isotopes Park at about 3:45 p.m., after the Class 5A high school baseball championship between Cleveland and Volcano Vista, 2-year-old Jace Belau was sitting in the infield grass with his mom, Camille, looking up at the skies as the United States Air Force Thunderbirds flew overhead as part of the Kirtland AFB Air and Space Fiesta show going on nearby.

That was about an hour after Rio Rancho High School leadoff hitter Brianna Gallegos ended the high school softball season across the street with a dramatic finish. The junior infielder smacked a grand slam that put her team up 14-4, giving the Rams a run-rule victory over Carlsbad. That round tripper that just so happened to be her 19th of the year, tying the state record for most home runs in a season.

Back at Isotopes Park by 4:30 p.m., a half hour after the organization decided to open the gates and start selling food and drinks, there were already more than 2,500 fans in the park. Early arrivals helped alleviate the parking pains that could have come later when the PBR event in the Pit started at 6:45 p.m. Officers from UNM, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho police departments were on hand handling traffic and crowd controls without incident.

At the daylong track & field events at UNM, there were 17 state records broken.

At the Ty Murray, an announced crowd of 8,900 was on hand, including Isaac Torres, ironically wearing a Mariachis baseball cap, and his 9-year-old daughter, Tessa.

“I’ve been coming to this for years since my mom would bring me as a kid,” Torres said. “And now, I’m lucky because I get to bring my daughter to things like this.”

For Ron and Lorraine Mourning, two of Albuquerque’s more active Lobo basketball supporters for years, a matinee showing of “Cats” at Popejoy Hall made way to an evening of bullriding in the Pit. Actually, it was their second session with the Ty Murray Invitational as they also attended Friday’s event.

“This is my baby,” Lorraine said of the bullriding. “I love this every year.”

And they were hardly the only ones.

Aat 6:45 p.m., Albuquerque’s own fighting queen Holly Holm was seen with a friend hurrying into the arena while recent “The Voice” winner Chevel Shepherd was already inside.

The 16-year-old singing sensation from Farmington posted a picture of herself on social media decked out in full rodeo gear from boots to cowboy hat with the caption,”PBR you’re the best!!”

But they weren’t the only ones.

For one day in May in southeast Albuquerque, a lot of people came together to put on a heckuva show.

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