Sizzling Bernard setting high standard for Isotopes - Albuquerque Journal

Sizzling Bernard setting high standard for Isotopes

Isotopes’ center fielder Wynton Bernard looks to his bat as he steps up to the plate during a 2021 game. Bernard has hit five homers in his last seven games. 2021.(Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal File)

Warren Schaeffer says Wynton Bernard is a role model for him.

It’s the type of talk you don’t often hear a manager say of one of his players, but it’s hard for the second-year Albuquerque Isotopes manager to describe his feelings for the way the 31-year-old Bernard — a second-year outfielder for the team and, thus far, career minor leaguer — approaches the game and shows up to the ballpark every day.

Bernard was 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs and two runs scored in Saturday’s 14-11 home loss to the Sacramento River Cats — legging out a pair of infield singles, scoring from first base on a D.J. Peterson double and making a great defensive play in center field.

For a guy who wasn’t playing every day one month ago to start the season to now becoming one of the hottest hitters in the minors speaks volumes, Schaeffer said.

“He’s the best. It’s a testament to who he is as a person. He shows up the same guy every single day,” Schaeffer said, noting that Bernard never once complained about playing more when he wasn’t in the lineup every day.

“That’s what I tried to do as a manager. And Wynton sets a great example for me. Every time I see Wynton, I know that smile on his face — ready to go every single day, no matter if he hasn’t played in three days or if he’s playing two days in a row. It’s the same guy and he’s just ready to help the ballclub.”

Last year, in 100 games and 319 at-bats with the Isotopes, Bernard hit .254 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs.

Through 16 games and 51 at-bats this season with the Isotopes, Bernard is hitting .412 with six home runs and has 25 RBIs.

In the past seven games, the speedster from San Diego has hit five home runs with 13 RBIs and nine extra base hits. That span included one two-homer game (April 22 win at Round Rock) and back-to-back first-inning leadoff home runs earlier this series (Wednesday and Thursday’s wins) against Sacramento when he homered on the first pitch of the first inning in back-to-back games.

But as good as he’s been feeling at the plate of late, the praise from his manager, and the bond he’s forming with hitting coach Jordan Pacheco, seem to be what has Bernard most happy right now.

“That’s powerful,” Bernard said when he heard Schaeffer’s praise. “That kind of gave me the chills because that means a lot. I have a lot of respect for him and just the way he goes about things. We kind of see things eye to eye.”

As for what’s working at the plate?

“I’m so excited inside,” Bernard admitted. “I’m thankful for hitting coach Jordan Pacheco because he’s helped me out a lot, too. We’ve had some conversations and a lot of stuff he says just clicked for me.”

BUSY BALLPARK: Saturday night’s announced fireworks game attendance of 12,596 was the largest for any event in 2022 for Rio Grande Credit Union Field.

The top five so far this season at Isotopes Park:

1. 12,596 — Saturday, Isotopes vs. Sacramento

2. 11,420 — April 23, New Mexico United vs. San Antonio FC

3. 11,247 — March 13, United vs. Las Vegas Lights FC

4. 10,676 — March 26, United vs. Orange County SC

5. 8,330 — April 16, Isotopes vs. Tacoma

NOT SO FAST: On Friday morning, the Journal highlighted how new pace of play rules around Minor League baseball had been reducing game times by significant margins. For the Isotopes, since new pace of play rules were put in place, average game times had been reduced to 2 hours, 33 minutes.

Since the article, Friday’s game lasted 3:07. Saturday’s game lasted 3:21.

Five women were highlighted as part of Saturday’s Women in Sports night promotion at Isotopes Park. Throwing out the first pitch(es) were, from left, Albuquerque Academy golfer Anya Parasher, UNM women’s soccer coach Heather Dyche, Volcano Vista High School cross country coach Elena Schrader, UNM softball player Andrea Howard and longtime UNM Athletics administrator and former Lobo athlete Janice Ruggiero. (Photo by Timothy March/Courtesy Albuquerque Isotopes)
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