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Rockies have summer plans for Isotopes Park

The Colorado Rockies came to Albuquerque for a preseason exhibition game against the Isotopes in 2019. The Rockies’ taxi squad will use Isotopes Park as a training facility later this summer. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Getting a call-up from Albuquerque will still be a goal for some Colorado Rockies players this summer.

With the 2020 minor league baseball season wiped out by COVID-19 restrictions, Isotopes Park will serve as the satellite training site for the Rockies’ taxi squad when Major League Baseball’s abbreviated campaign begins. Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich made things official Monday during a Zoom webinar with field manager Bud Black and media members.

Relatively few details were available Monday about what Albuquerque’s training site will entail. MLB plans to open three-week training camps in big-league cities later this week as it prepares for a 60-game season set to begin July 23-24. Teams can open the season with 30-player active rosters and keep up to 30 more players on taxi squads.

Isotopes general manager John Traub said he anticipates players will start arriving in Albuquerque roughly a week before the MLB season starts.

“It’ll be strange not having them here as the Isotopes,” Traub said, “but our commitments are to baseball and the Colorado Rockies. We’ll be happy to host the Rockies’ taxi squad in this very unusual season.”

Bridich said the Rockies’ good working relationship with the Isotopes — their Triple-A affiliate — and Albuquerque’s relative proximity to Denver were key reasons for housing the taxi squad at Isotopes Park.

“Our players for the most part know what Albuquerque’s all about,” Bridich said. “With John Traub, it’s a great front office that will partner up with us to make the most of it. And, it’s a 6-hour drive so guys can get here in less than a day if need be, so we’re excited about that.”

Hosting the Rockies’ taxi squad provides some consolation during what has otherwise been a dismal summer for the Isotopes. With no games scheduled the club was forced to furlough most of its full-time staff this month. Members of the grounds crew and a minimal staff will be needed when the taxi squad arrives, Traub said.

Baseball training will not necessarily preclude Isotopes Park’s other tenant, New Mexico United, from hosting soccer games at the facility, Traub said. The USL Championship League plans to begin its 2020 season in July but home matches for United remain up in the air with New Mexico under coronavirus restrictions that prevent large gatherings. United officials have acknowledged discussions with the University of New Mexico about the possibility of using UNM facilities this summer.

As for what baseball training in Albuquerque may look like, Traub expects a tightly controlled environment.

“Safety is the priority and baseball’s vision is to keep the players’ circle of contact as small as possible,” Traub said. “Health protocols will be followed, there will be frequent testing and very limited access. I expect it will be a lot like the back fields at spring training but without games or fans around to watch.”

Still, after months of silence at Isotopes Park, taxi squad baseball training sounds considerably better than nothing.

“I wish the players were coming here under better circumstances,” Traub said, “but we’ll be glad to have them. We’ll make the best of it.”

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