Dick Monfort and Zach Wilson were in recruiting mode almost the second they picked up their bags and walked outside the Albuquerque Sunport.
The Colorado Rockies owner and assistant general manager for player development, respectively, flew to Albuquerque on Monday for an annual visit to the home city of their Triple-A affiliate to watch an Isotopes game and visit with local media.
“The Uber guy that we drove in with today had a Yankees hat on,” said Monfort. “We tried to convert him.”
The 65-year-old team owner hopes he and his organization can have a little more luck in the area in the coming years converting the Land of Enchantment into a purple-clad base of Rockies fans – both through familiarity from the affiliation relationship in Albuquerque and with the general geographical connection between Albuquerque and Denver.
“One of the reasons we love Albuquerque, first of all, is it’s a first rate organization and run extremely well,” Monfort said. “They take care of our players and we appreciate that.
“Second of all, it’s really in a territory that should be part of the Rockies brand. This should be Rockies country.”
That’s not to say he’s naive to the realities of Duke City history.
There is no MLB affiliate in New Mexico. And for a good portion of the lives of many New Mexicans, there wasn’t even one within a comfortable day’s drive. The longtime connection here was to the Los Angeles Dodgers as Albuquerque’s major league partner for many seasons.
But the conversion can happen, Monfort believes.
Our hope is that you see a lot of purple here,” he said. “You’ve got to sort of earn it, right? And the way you earn it is you get to the World Series numerous times and you win championships.”
WE ARE UNITED: While there hasn’t been much in terms of big news to update between the Isotopes and Rockies partnership – their Player Development Contract is in place through 2022 – there is at least one big change in Isotopes Park since the last Monfort visit to Albuquerque.
The stadium now is used at least 17 times a year by New Mexico United, the USL Championship professional soccer team that has been taking the state by storm. Between Isotopes games and United matches, the dirt infield the ‘Topes play on and raised pitcher’s mound must be converted to field-level grass turf, and back again once the baseball games come back.
Asked about his top young prospects, some in whom the Rockies have invested millions, playing on a field now having to convert back and forth between soccer and baseball, Monfort’s answer came as a bit of a surprise.
“Well, that is very much news to me. I’m glad I know that (now),” Monfort admitted, saying he hadn’t been told of the two-sport partnership in the stadium, owned by the City of Albuquerque.
Monfort then navigated the potentially awkward moment well, basically pointing out that if he had heard anything about it, that would probably be a sign of a problem. Since he hasn’t heard about it, that was probably a good sign.
“I know Zach Wilson, who is in charge of our player development is aware of it,” Monfort said. “It’s happening all over the place. You can’t build these stadiums like you used to be able to. The community is not going to tax up and do that – you have to have multiple uses. You’re not going to have 80 games a year at one place and keep it relevant. These guys are great. They do a great job.”
PLAY TWO? Monfort was asked if the Rockies would again play an exhibition game against the Isotopes, as they did this preseason in a game at Isotopes Park that drew nearly 13,000 fans.
“You sound like John Traub,” Monfort said, referring to the Isotopes vice president and general manager. “… In a perfect world, what we’d love to do is play another (MLB) team (at Isotopes Park). But it’s difficult.”
He didn’t say the Rockies wouldn’t play the ‘Topes again in Albuquerque, but he did say he’d like to find a way to play an exhibition game with another MLB team. Still, many have contractual obligations with their spring training facilities in Arizona and others don’t want to risk the logistics of getting to and out of Albuquerque right before the regular season begins.