Like it or not, 2020 has become a year of exploration for Josh Suchon.
The upside: Suchon is taking advantage of unexpected free time to hike and take in some of New Mexico’s natural beauty this summer. A Northern California native who has lived in Albuquerque since 2013, Suchon’s been duly impressed.
“Exploring nature kind of works with social distancing,” Suchon said. “I’m finally getting to see some of the beautiful places around New Mexico. It’s been nice.”
Unfortunately, the circumstances responsible for Suchon’s summer tour do not rate such glowing reviews. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic shut down Suchon’s primary job as play-by-play broadcaster for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
Minor League Baseball made official this week what had long been expected, canceling the 2020 season. As a result, Suchon and most of the Isotopes’ full-time staff have been furloughed.
“It’s been like watching a tidal wave coming and there’s nothing you can do,” Suchon said. “Now it’s arrived and we’re at the mercy of the virus. Bottom line, it sucks.”
For the 46-year-old Suchon, COVID-19 has interrupted a baseball-related streak that dated back to 1998. During that span he had covered baseball every season in some fashion, whether as a newspaper reporter, book author, TV reporter or radio broadcaster. His baseball beats have ranged from preps to the major leagues.
For the last seven seasons, Suchon has been the voice of the Isotopes, broadcasting home and away games throughout the Triple-A team’s grueling summer schedules. It’s given him a greater appreciation for the minor leagues from both player and fan perspectives.
“Minor League Baseball is about community,” Suchon said. “It’s about players chasing their dreams, but it’s also about Fourth of July fireworks shows, Mariachis promotions and people having fun at the ballpark even if they don’t know the players’ names. It’s where people get their first jobs and sometimes their last jobs. It’s really hard to see it all shut down this year.”
Baseball has long been noted for the hopeful axiom, “There’s always next year,” but Suchon is unsure if the statement will apply to him or many others who make their living in minor league ball in 2021.
Even before the pandemic started, baseball was discussing a contraction plan that could eliminate roughly 40 minor league affiliates. This summer’s shutdown could drive other franchises out of business, as well.
“It might change which clubs are on the chopping block,” Suchon said, “but I really don’t think the minor leagues are going to look the same next summer even if the pandemic is over.”
If not, one result could be an excess number of applicants for a limited number of baseball-related jobs. Suchon does not expect to find himself in that crowded field but he does have weighty decisions to make in the interim.
“The Isotopes told me they’ll hire me back next season if things get back to normal,” Suchon said. “But right now the reality is I have to look for a job.”
Suchon has made the radio call on University of New Mexico women’s basketball games for the past five seasons, but he considers that annual five-month gig a “supplemental job.” He plans to cover the Lobos again in 2020-21 – provided there is a season – but says he plans to be flexible in pursuing full-time employment.
“I used to say I had 1½ jobs,” Suchon said, “but now maybe I have a half-job. I’ve done a lot of things besides broadcasting, so I’m keeping an open mind about what’s next.”
Suchon also tries to keep things in perspective as he watches daily news reports about the pandemic’s health and economic consequences. Still, it’s hard for him not to look at things from a baseball broadcaster’s viewpoint.
“So many people are suffering right now,” he said, “it just feels like a lost year. I hope I haven’t called my final Isotopes game or my last Lobo women’s basketball game, but who really knows? I’ll definitely be rooting for Major League Baseball and other pro and college sports when they get started. If they can play their seasons, it’ll be a positive sign for next year. That’s what I’m hoping to see.”