Season with Isotopes was a joy for former Yankee Greg Bird - Albuquerque Journal

Season with Isotopes was a joy for former Yankee Greg Bird

Former New York Yankee Greg Bird, here watching the flight of one of 27 home runs he’s hit for the Albuquerque Isotopes this season, says he’s found great satisfaction in playing on a daily basis after an injury-plagued past few years. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal) Roberto E. Rosales/Journal

It isn’t as though this is the most meaningful fall baseball Greg Bird has ever played.

After all, the 28-year-old former New York Yankee has played in more than a dozen major league playoff games and launched three postseason home runs, including in Game 1 of the 2017 American League Championship Series against the Houston Astros.

He’s been on the biggest stage the sport has to offer – and delivered.

But as the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Albuquerque Isotopes first baseman stood near the pitcher’s mound at Rio Grande credit Union Field for a pregame ceremony on Saturday night, holding a small plaque commemorating his being voted by his Triple-A teammates the squad’s Power Hitter of the Year, his smile told the story of a man thoroughly enjoying being exactly where he’s at.

“It’s been a real rewarding season,” Bird told the Journal late last week as the Isotopes prepped for their final home stand, which concludes Monday night against the Reno Aces.

“First and foremost, just having an opportunity to play, and to play every day; the Rockies gave me gave me a good shot.

“So, just getting out there and playing has been the most rewarding, really.”

At his age it may seem odd to describe Bird as a veteran.

The one-time Yankees first baseman-of-the-future was wearing the big-league pinstripes by the age of 22.

He then was hit with a series of major injuries, limiting him to an average of just 48 games and 183 plate appearances between the majors and minors over four seasons from 2016 through 2019.

He didn’t play a game in 2020 while at the Texas Rangers’ alternative training site.

For 2021, it was time for a new start, a chance to see if he could just play a full season again.

Not only did he play, he produced numbers that leave little doubt he can get a return shot in the big leagues.

“Yeah, my biggest goal was to play,” Bird said. “Coming in, obviously you want to be in the big leagues, but it wasn’t the end all, be all for me. It honestly wasn’t. I hadn’t played a full season since 2015.”

Sunday, in the Isotopes’ 7-6 loss to Reno, Bird was 3-for-4 at the plate (he’s hitting .271) with four RBIs (he has 87 this season) and launched his team-best 27th home run of the season. The number he’s most satisfied with is 108: number of games he played.

“If anything, it was the best minor league season I’ve had,” said Bird.

The numbers don’t tell half the story.

His ability to share his experiences with teammates has made him a clubhouse leader who Warren Schaeffer credits with making his first season as a Triple-A manager such a success.

“Those guys (in the clubhouse) feed off of Bird Man’s knowledge and just his promotion of everybody else,” Schaeffer said.”He’s fantastic. One of the favorite guys I’ve ever had in a clubhouse.”

Bird said there was never a conversation or directive given to be a clubhouse leader. He doesn’t even know if that’s even what he is.

Sharing your learned experiences with younger players is something he thinks baseball just gets right compared to other sports.

“Guys that I came up with in the minor leagues and guys that I got to the big leagues with that were older than me that had more experience than me were there for me when I needed them,” said Bird. “So it’s just my job.”

It’s not something that I’m supposed to keep to myself, you know? That’s not how it’s supposed to be.”

Bird says he doesn’t know what’s next, but whatever it is, he knows his year in Albuquerque with the Isotopes did nothing but reinforce his belief that more baseball at the highest level is still to come.

“My whole mindset is I’m in this for the long run,” Bird said. “I still think I’ve got a lot to give.”

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