Celebrity chef helps Isotopes honor health care workers - Albuquerque Journal

Celebrity chef helps Isotopes honor health care workers

Chef Robert Irvine, left, visits Isotopes Park with team general manager John Traub on Tuesday night, with team mascot Orbit tagging along. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

They’re always cooking up something new in Minor League Baseball.

And the Albuquerque Isotopes, for years, have been among the best in the business at figuring out new and inventive ways to keep the product – a night at the ballpark – fresh and fun for their customers.

Tuesday night, despite the visiting Tacoma Rainiers not cooperating on the field, holding off a late Isotopes rally for a 5-4 win, Albuquerque’s Triple-A franchise got an assist from a Food Network star in delivering another entertaining night.

Robert Irvine, the English celebrity chef who has hosted a variety of shows on the popular cable food network, was on hand – with a film crew following his every move – to help the Isotopes with their season-long salute to healthcare workers around the state.

Isotopes general manager John Traub said the team agreed not to disclose details about what Irvine and Co. were specifically working on or filming over the last couple days around Rio Grande Credit Union Field, but there was only so much that could be kept secret once Irvine was shown on the video board in a team jersey, talking to players pregame and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch (or pitches) and later shown singing (or attempting to) “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.

“He’s here for a special event involving the healthcare workers from Lovelace,” Traub said, not disclosing much more other than a clearly positive feel about the entire night’s events.

Irvine did help serve a special dinner to the 250 healthcare workers from Lovelace who were guests of the Isotopes – the third time so far this season the team has honored healthcare workers specifically at a game. While the menu, or the food, was not shared with those in the press box, it could be seen being delivered from the concessions area down the right-field side of Isotopes Park around to the Smith’s Pavilion picnic area, which sits over the Isotopes’ bullpen located just beyond the left-field wall, where the guests of honor watched the game.

Irvine, is maybe best known for two shows on Food Network – Restaurant: Impossible, in which he basically tries to help save a failing restaurant over a two-day span, and Dinner: Impossible, in which he takes on various culinary challenges to deliver meals in a time-sensitive format.

He was seen stopping throughout the night to talk with fans, pose for pictures and was said to be very gracious and thankful to all who helped in his mission for the night throughout the 3 hour, 57 minute game.

On his shows, he can be stern and demanding of perfection.

Fortunately for him, those around Isotopes Park weren’t as tough on him for his attempts to take part in some baseball traditions.

His ceremonial opening pitch to Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer turned into two ceremonial first pitches as the chef’s first attempt bounced twice before getting to the waiting glove of Schaeffer. After the pitch, he then ran to a fan in the front row and tried giving her the ball, only to run into difficulty trying to figure out how to do so through the protective netting.

He later returned to the field during the seventh-inning stretch, and, with lyrics in hand to read, attempted to sing the familiar “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, which only became palatable to those listening once the announced Tuesday evening crowd of 6,115 joined in to help sing.

His rendition did, however, seem to spark the Isotopes, who scored three in the bottom half of the seventh to tie the game 3-3.

Tacoma tacked on two more in the eights and ended up winning 5-4.

HEY BLUE! Home plate umpire Aaron Higgins took a pair of foul tips off his mask early in the game, but continued in the game.

He and the crew this week were under the watchful eye of New Mexico native and former Major League Baseball umpire Mike Everitt, who is now an MLB umpire supervisor and was in Albuquerque for several games.

TUESDAY: The Isotopes left 16 runners on base and their ninth-inning rally fell inches short as a crisply hit Wynton Bernard liner was snagged by a sprinting LF Dillon Thomas for the final out with the tying run stranded at third base, leading to Tacoma winning 5-4 and taking the six-game series by 4-2. Box score: Tacoma 5, Albuquerque 4
The two teams combined for 26 hits and 26 runners left on base in the final game of the series.
DH Nick Longhi was 4-4 for the Isotopes and drew a walk in his fifth plate appearance. Jarred Kelenix continued his tear against the Isotopes, leading the game off with a home run and going 3-for-5.).
NEXT HOME GAME: Thursday vs. El Paso, 6:35 p.m.

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