'Old-timer' Birmingham lends words of advice to young Isotopes skipper - Albuquerque Journal

‘Old-timer’ Birmingham lends words of advice to young Isotopes skipper

Former UNM baseball coach Ray Birmingham takes a knee to thank the fans at Isotopes Park after a video tribute to him on Saturday night. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

One week ago, Ray Birmingham ceremoniously – and fittingly – donned a cowboy hat and rode off on horseback into the sunset after a 43-year baseball coaching career around New Mexico, most recently as the head coach of the UNM Lobos.

Saturday night, he was already back teaching the game.

Prior to the 65-year-old Birmingham being honored at Isotopes Park with a throwing of the first pitch and an emotional video tribute to his four-plus decades of coaching around the state, he joined the Journal on a pre-game video call with 36-year-old Albuquerque Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer.

Ray Birmingham shows off his grip that he used to throw out the first pitch Saturday night at Isotopes Park. .(Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“Tommy Lasorda and Bill Virdon told me a long time ago it’s a people business,” Birmingham said when Schaeffer asked what the key to longevity in the sport is. “Don’t forget it.”

He said he’s already a big fan of the young Triple-A manager, whose Albuquerque Isotopes beat visiting Las Vegas 5-3 in front of an announced of 7,145 fans.

“You’re a good manager or you wouldn’t be where you’re at,” Birmingham told Schaeffer.

The two managers shared their love for “hard-nosed” baseball, common bonds and love of the game.

Both acknowledged baseball has become more of a challenge getting young players to buy in to a common, team-first goal. But neither has lost hope for the future of the game.

“Ray said that things change and kids (have) changed these days,” Schaeffer said. “But baseball stays the same, man. And I can learn a ton – I have learned a ton from guys Ray’s age growing up in this organization.

“A lot of the good stuff of the game is being lost, in my opinion. A lot of that hard-nose – just knowing how to win is kind of going by the wayside a little bit. But that’s stuff that you can learn from the old-timers, there’s no doubt about. I hate to call you an old-timer, Ray, but you know what I mean?”

Birmingham fired back, “I am an old-timer, so go ahead, let ‘er rip.”

Schaeffer has already shown as a manager the same sort of intensity and fire from his playing days at Virginia Tech and in six minor league seasons that started when he was drafted in the 32nd round by the Rockies in 2007.

Manzano High graduate and former UNM Lobo and Albuquerque Isotopes player Brian Cavazos-Galvez was a surprise catcher for Ray Birmingham’s ceremonial first pitch on Saturday night at Isotopes Park. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

That same year, the Rockies also drafted a catcher in the ninth round out of UNM named Jordan Pacheco – someone Birmingham thinks very highly of and someone Schaeffer grew to become close with as the two developed in the Rockies organizations.

“His best friend is Jordan Pacheco, and Jordan Pacheco is a hard-nosed fighter,” Birmingham said when asked if he would have liked to coach a guy like Schaeffer. “He’ll get after you. He wants to win and the bottom line is winning.”

Added Schaeffer, “I think he’d want my attitude on his team, but he wouldn’t want my bat in the order, that’s for sure.”

“We would have fixed it,” Birmingham said.

THAT FIRST PITCH: While Birmingham fired strikes for ceremonial first pitches in recent weeks in Colorado Springs and San Jose, California, on his retirement tour around the Mountain West Conference, Saturday’s pitch sailed high, but with some circumstances worth noting.

First was the rain delay of 1 hours, 3 minutes between warming up and the pitch itself. Second was the surprise catcher Birmingham didn’t know was coming until he turned back toward home plate after watching an emotional video on the scoreboard beyond the left-field wall.

It was Manzano grad, ex-Lobo and ex-Isotope Brian Cavazos-Galvez.

“I had no idea he was going to be there,” Birmingham said. “He’s like a son to me.”

HE SAID IT: Of his retirement, Birmingham said he has some making up on lost time to do with his family, but baseball is hardly out of the picture.

“Baseball is a good drug and I’m an addict,” Birmingham said. “… but I’ve got grandkids and sons and a wife who’ve been at home by themselves while I’ve been across the country and I gotta hurry and pay them back for being gone. I gotta fix the dishwasher.”

‘TOPES SUNDAY: Vs. Las Vegas

6:05 p.m., 610 AM/95.9 FM, abqisotopes.com

PROMOTION: Insulated lunch bags giveaway

PROBABLES: Aviators RHP Grant Holmes (0-1, 11.07) vs. Isotopes RHP Brandon Gold (1-2, 6.10)

SATURDAY: 2B Rio Ruiz broke a tie game with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning and the Isotopes bullpen was impressive again in a 5-3 win over visiting Las Vegas in front of an announced fireworks night crowd of 7,145. (Click Here For Box Score.)

TRANSACTIONS: Colorado called up LHPs Ben Bowden and Lucas Gilbreath from Albuquerque.

(Click here for updated Triple-A West standings.)

Home » Sports » College » Baseball » ‘Old-timer’ Birmingham lends words of advice to young Isotopes skipper


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
American Airlines plane evacuated at Albuquerque Sunport
ABQnews Seeker
An American Airlines flight from Texas ... An American Airlines flight from Texas to New Mexico was evacuated Sunday after landing at the Albuquerque airport because of a security threat, authorities ...
2
APD investigates 'suspicious death' on West Side
ABQnews Seeker
Albuquerque police are investigating an apparent ... Albuquerque police are investigating an apparent homicide on the city's West Side. Around 7:40 a.m. Sunday, Albuquerque Fire Rescue notified police about a person ...
3
Renters seek city assistance amid soaring costs
ABQnews Seeker
Rent for 1-bedroom apartments up 42% ... Rent for 1-bedroom apartments up 42% since pandemic began
4
No strings attached to capital funds for APS this ...
ABQnews Seeker
Analysts have also floated the idea ... Analysts have also floated the idea of partially or completely forgiving offsets
5
Santa Fe journalist chosen to speak at Dixon Awards
ABQnews Seeker
Transparency awards luncheon set for Thursday Transparency awards luncheon set for Thursday
6
Take note: Balloon Fiesta is a no-drone zone
ABQnews Seeker
Drone-detection service to monitor the skies ... Drone-detection service to monitor the skies for unauthorized fliers
7
Lawmakers focus on prescribed burns after disastrous fire season
ABQnews Seeker
Expert notes that ecosystems that are ... Expert notes that ecosystems that are 'ecologically out of whack' must
8
Video released of June police shooting
ABQnews Seeker
Officers involved have been returned to ... Officers involved have been returned to duty, APD says
9
Rent relief has helped over 41K ABQ residents
ABQnews Seeker
State funds paired with federal funding ... State funds paired with federal funding provided $185.5M