The needling never ends for these Isotopes teammates

Albuquerque Isotopes Scott Burcham, left, and Brian Serven have a discussion in the dugout during the game against El Paso Chihuahuas at Rio Grande Credit Union Field on September 11, 2021. (Mike Sandoval/For the Albuquerque Journal)

The high-fives were a little extra crisp after Brian Serven’s second-inning home run Sept. 7 in Oklahoma City.

The 26-year-old catcher from Palm Desert, California, had just blasted a two-run homer to left field off Clayton Kershaw, one of this generation’s best pitchers who was making an injury rehab appearance that night for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers.

“I mean, (Kershaw) is a future Hall of Famer, so it’s just cool – the whole thing was cool and the guys loved it,” Albuquerque Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer recalled of last week’s memorable home run by his catcher, who added another in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the visiting El Paso Chihuahuas.

“It’s fun when something like that happens, especially with a guy like Serven. It gets mentioned (around the clubhouse), no doubt.”

But as Serven got through the high-five line of coaches and teammates upon his return to the dug out, his childhood buddy and Isotopes teammate Scott Burcham was waiting with a little reminder – the kind only close friends give each other.

“Yeah, most guys were pretty excited for me,” Serven remembers. “Then Scotty, right when I got in the dugout said, ‘Was that a cutter?’ I said yeah. He said, ‘Ahh, he’s just not what he used to be.'”

Of course Burcham’s tongue-in-cheek comment was said far more from a place of good-natured ribbing of a friend than in an honest critique of the pitching chops of the three-time Cy Young Award winner.

“Brian’s head gets really big sometimes, especially when he hits a home run,” Burcham said Tuesday afternoon, sitting next to Serven in the Isotopes dugout discussing their longtime tit-for-tat relationship. “So I knew when he hit a home run off Clayton Kershaw, I had to bring him down a little bit. So I told him Kershaw was coming off an injury. He’s a little older now. … You know, making sure he (Serven) doesn’t get too high.”

Burcham, the 28-year-old infielder who earlier this season played for Team Israel in the Tokyo Olympics, has had his hands full since returning to the Isotopes if keeping his childhood friend grounded is part of the duties.

Serven, the fifth-round draft pick in 2016 of the Colorado Rockies out of Arizona State University who has been known to this point of his career for defense, has a career-high 15 home runs this season with four coming in the past six games.

“Serve’s had a great year,” Schaeffer said. “At the plate, he’s had his best offensive season, by far this year. …

“And defensively, I mean, he’s got to be the best defensive catcher in the league.”

Serven’s older brother and Burcham were close friends and teammates growing up and Serven was, admittedly, the “annoying” little brother always following them around from the time he was 3 and they were 5 until they played briefly together in high school – Serven as a sophomore, his brother and Burcham as seniors.

Then Burcham and Serven wound up as teammates since 2019 in the Rockies organization.

The two now have worked out together the past couple offseasons and even coached a youth baseball team together.

And lest one think the trash talk this season while teammates is one-sided, Serven dishes it back, too. Maybe not as well as Burcham, but he tries.

When a reporter asked Tuesday how Burcham enjoyed the Olympics experience earlier this summer, Serven waited for his teammate to answer before interjecting what has clearly been a familiar topic of conversation between the two this season.

“I mean, they came in fifth out of six teams,” Serven said, unable to hide his smile while trying to dish out the jab.

“Half the teams there got a medal.”

After the two got into a bickering match about a recent golf outing, Burcham offered up one relatively kind admission.

“Yeah, he was kind of like the annoying little brother growing up,” Burcham said.

“And he’s still annoying, but now we’re teammates and maybe we’re a little closer than we used to be.”




TUESDAY: One night after hitting a two-run walk-off home run in a one-run victory over El Paso, Isotopes 3B Joshua Fuentes hit a two-run go-ahead single in the bottom of the eighth in a 4-3 win over the visiting Chihuahuas. (Click here for the box score, here for the updated Triple-A West standings.)

The win gives the Isotopes a 4-2 series win and means they take the season series with El Paso, 13-11.

Playing as the Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico, Albuquerque got 5 1/3 solid innings from starter Ryan Castellani, who struck out eight and allowed just one earned run.

C Brian Serven hit his 15th homer of the season.

THIS AND THAT: Tuesday’s announced attendance at Isotopes Park was 5,659, pushing the team over the 300,000 mark for the season.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at Sugar Land

NEXT HOME GAME: Sept. 23 vs. Reno



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