According to the lengthy, 14-year transaction log for 31-year-old pitcher Nelson Gonzalez, his first day as an Albuquerque Isotope was on May 24, 2015.
The 25-year-old reliever from the Dominican Republic was officially called up from the New Britain (Connecticut) Rock Cats the same day the Isotopes played a doubleheader on the road against the Round Rock Express, a fellow Pacific Coast League member.
He did not make it into the game that day in Texas.
In the opposing team’s bullpen that day was another reliever who didn’t pitch named Ross Wolf. He was then a 32-year-old righty playing in the last of his 14 professional seasons that included 47 games over three seasons in the Majors and 132 appearances with the Albuquerque Isotopes from 2006-2008.
The two, Gonzalez and Wolf, never met.
Until Tuesday, Wolf, now 38, neither knew those 132 appearances were an Isotopes record, nor knew the name Nelson Gonzalez — who now sits two games shy of tying Wolf’s record and three shy of breaking it.
“Wow! I knew there was one year I pitched a lot of games in Albuquerque, but I had no idea I pitched 132 games there,” said Wolf in a phone interview with the Journal from his hometown of Newton, Illinois, where he lives with his wife and three kids while working for UPS.
“To pitch in the PCL (which this year is now called Triple-A West), and I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories from pitchers, but to pitch that many games, let alone to stay healthy, to me is an accomplishment. I bet he takes pride in taking care of his arm. He takes pride in the number of games he pitches. That’s what I did.
“But until you told me, I never knew the total. That’s pretty cool.”
Wolf, who has been asked every year since his 2015 retirement to be a pitching coach in the minors or by area junior colleges near his home in southern Illinois to help coach, says he’s happy being away from baseball for now — though he did coach his 11-year-old son’s travel team this past season. And with success, he proudly noted.
As the years pass, the appreciation for past accomplishments and stops on the road like Albuquerque have grown.
“What sticks out about my time with Albuquerque is the stadium and the people — both the fans there and the people in the front office,” Wolf said. “We have some of the highest attendances ever in PCL. A Friday night fireworks show, unless a storm rolled through, was huge.
“And if we ever needed anything, (general manager) John Traub was on top of it or someone else there would be. They took care of us, and that was my first year in Triple-A (2006) and it was such an eye-opener because of how the people were.”
As for his time on the field in Albuquerque, the 2002 18th-round draft pick of the Florida Marlins knows that nothing came easy in the pre-humidor days of Isotopes Park, which makes enduring his time as a pitcher in Albuquerque all the more satisfying.
“Records are made to be broken, and I’m so happy for him,” Wolf said of Gonzalez’s impending achievement. “He can remember this the rest of his life, but just tell him it happens quick. When you’re done, you’re done. You can’t go back and do it again. So every time you put that uniform on, don’t take it for granted.
“Tell him good luck for me. It’s a proud record.”