If it was only about the baseball, the Albuquerque Isotopes would have a real hard time staying afloat.
The franchise, which is wrapping up its fifth season as the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, has a record of 60-76 and was eliminated from postseason contention in early August.
In fact, the Isotopes haven’t had a winning record since 2013 and haven’t won their four-team division race since 2012.
And yet, on a Thursday night in August, an announced crowd of 14,427 showed up to Isotopes Park to watch the home team close out the home portion of the schedule with a 7-1 victory over first place Las Vegas.
During a pregame ceremony putting a bow on the season and to announce various player awards, Isotopes Vice President and General Manager John Traub thanked the fans for their continued support.
“And not just this year,” he said, “but all 17 years of the Isotopes organization.”
As for the awards, outfielder Brian Mundell and closer D.J. Johnson accepted the Jennifer Riordan Community award for their often unpublicized volunteer efforts throughout the season in the Albuquerque area.
That award was chosen by the Isotopes staff, as was the fan favorite award, which went to 25-year-old outfielder Sam Hilliard, who wasn’t on hand to accept the award Thursday because he was called up earlier this week to play for the Rockies.
Hilliard was also voted by teammates as the top power hitter as he leads the team with homer runs (35) and RBIs (101).
Players also voted for Defensive Player of the Year (short stop Elliot Soto), Pitcher of the Year (Sam Howard), Hustle (Drew Weeks) and MVP (Roberto Ramos).
ATTENDANCE: With Thursday’s home finale, fireworks night announced attendance of 14,427 in Isotopes Park, the franchise finished the season with a home attendance total of 542,832 in 68 games (two home “openings” were lost this season to double headers, which then share one attendance total when played in the same day).
The season’s average attendance of 7,983. That is today, and will most likely remain through Monday’s Pacific Coast League finale, the fourth best averaged attendance in the PCL.
It is also the highest average home attendance for the Isotopes since the 2015 season (8,007).
In 17 seasons, the Isotopes have welcomed 9,650,429 fans and should clear the 10 million mark in 2020.
PICTURE PERFECT: After the player awards prior to Thursday’s game, Traub announced to fans he had one more presentation.
He then presented longtime Journal photographer Greg Sorber, who had been photographing the award presentations, with an Isotopes jersey with his name on the back and asked the 69-year-old Sorber to throw out the first pitch.
Sorber is retiring in December and has been working at the Journal since 1977. Thursday was the final of hundreds of Isotopes and Albuquerque Dukes games before that which Sorber helped chronicle for the newspaper.
After his pitch, caught by Isotopes closer D.J. Johnson, Sorber wasn’t able to enjoy the moment long as he had to get across town to Wilson Stadium to photograph a high school football game
CHILE RACE: The wildly popular Sadies’s of New Mexico chile pepper race that takes place every home game during the fifth inning finished with a crowd-pleasing Taco victory.
The final standings for the season, which are kept by the Isotopes media relations staff in the press box, had Taco winning the race 26 times, following by green chile (18), red chile (15), salsa (8) and tortilla (1).
HOME RUN RECORDS: The Isotopes are hardly the only team in Triple-A baseball setting home run records this season thanks in large part to new balls introduced this season mixing with what has already been a homer-friendly league.
With four games left in the season, and after three more home runs hit on Thursday night (two by Weeks and one by Soto), the Isotopes are sitting at a record 203 home runs. The previous record was 197 hit in the 2008 season.
As for the flip side of that coin, the Isotopes have allowed a record 243 home runs in this season, a franchise record and the most allowed in all of minor league baseball this season.
On bright side, the Isotopes closed out their home schedule without allowing a home run in either of their final two games in Isotopes Park (Wednesday night’s loss and Thursday’s win).