Soundtrack to summer: The songs of Isotopes Park - Albuquerque Journal

Soundtrack to summer: The songs of Isotopes Park

Isotopes fans stand up to sing ‘Sweet Caroline’ during the 6th inning of Saturday’s game against the Round Rock Express at Isotopes Park. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“Blue-jean baby…”

It’s not exactly what many baseball fans might be expecting to hear come blaring over the speakers at a professional baseball game.

“L.A. lady…”

Especially not when you realize it’s the chosen walk-up song a 20-something-old professional baseball player asked to have played before every one of his at-bats.

“Seamstress for the band…”

But there it is.

Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” has played 38 times at Isotopes Park this season — one for every plate appearance 27-year-old shortstop Taylor Snyder has had in his home park, at least before he was recently sent back to Arizona to rehab an oblique injury at the Colorado Rockies spring training facility.

“I talk to the umpire at third base every time it comes on and they’re like, ‘What are we doing? What is this?'” Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer said.

Snyder’s absence from Albuquerque this week got him off the hook from answering the hard-hitting questions about his song of choice, leaving his teammates to face the music.

“I honestly don’t know why he plays that song,” said Isotopes relief pitcher J.D. Hammer. “But every time it comes on, I know the whole bullpen is sitting out there singing it. We love it.”

Hammer, naturally, enters games out of the bullpen to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This,” — a song he says he’s never once requested be his song. It’s always just been assumed.

Hammer’s timeless 1990 masterpiece and Elton John’s 1971 classic are just two of the dozens of songs one might hear played at Rio Grande Credit Union Field in a given game.

They help make up the soundtrack of summer at Isotopes Park — a playlist of songs Director of Game Operations Kris Shepard and his crew masterfully sprinkle in throughout each game to keep fans engaged — win or lose, rain or shine.

“It’s always been important to us to help create atmosphere here during games that keeps fans entertained and engaged,” said Isotopes General Manager John Traub, who was an intern in charge of music with the California Angels a few years back.
“Music, of course, is a huge part of that.”

So important, in fact, the Isotopes are one of few remaining minor league teams in the country still employing an on-site organist for each game.

Here are some nuggets you might not have known about the playlist you might have heard at Isotopes Park through the years:

Sweet Caroline

Mostly known for its rise to sporting event prominence in the early 2000’s at Boston Red Sox games in Fenway Park, Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is now a fan favorite at Isotopes games, usually played at the first opposing team pitching change.

The song certainly has its detractors, but never fails to get a crowd singing along, whether the Isotopes are playing “So good! So good!” or so bad.

The second pitching change of the night for the visiting team usually brings on John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

Fast Food

Chile pepper race fans know that the unmatched excitement of Taco running alongside a red or green chile pepper is only heightened when the booth plays one of two customary race songs: “El Mitote” by Eddie Dimas or “(Hey Baby) Que Pasó” by the Texas Tornados.

Walk Up or Walk Out

In a superstitious player’s mind, a successful at-bat starts long before you step into the batter’s box.

“I tried so many different things at the plate to try to get me to hit, and different songs was one of them for sure,” said Schaeffer, who was a defensive specialist infielder in six minor league seasons. “I changed them all the time, because that actually matters. But it really doesn’t.”

Isotopes players are allowed to pick their own walk-up (for hitters) or walk-out (for pitchers) music for when they enter the game.

Shepard says requests through the years have ranged from one player using a song made specifically for him from a friend who was a DJ in Miami to players requesting situational changes — play this song if the team is leading, play this song only if there are runners on base, play this song only if it’s late in the game, etc.

Light Show

Fans who frequent the late-night, postgame fireworks shows at Isotopes Park might know there is often a familiar song that ushers them out of the dark stadium after the light show.

Jim Glaser’s “The Lights of Albuquerque” is played as fans leave the stadium after a fireworks show — a special song request years ago of former longtime Isotopes, and UNM athletics, public address announcer Stu Walker, who passed away in 2015.

Their Own Sound

While the popular “Hustlin’ all the way” Albuquerque Dukes jingle of yesteryear remains burned into the memories of fans of a certain age who grew up in New Mexico, the Isotopes since their inception have had their own jingle that hasn’t changed since Day 1 in 2003 with the very appropriate “It’s a whole new ball game” chorus.

In recent years, the organization’s embracing of its alter ego Los Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico led to the local group Mariachi Tierra Del Encanto, and John Mancha specifically, penning for the team their own Spanish-language song that can be heard around the park at times.

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