Isotopes continue tradition of major fireworks on holiday (with video) - Albuquerque Journal

Isotopes continue tradition of major fireworks on holiday (with video)

As New Mexico and the nation eagerly await Monday’s official celebration of Independence Day, the Albuquerque Isotopes will start lighting up the sky with a pair of weekend fireworks shows – one Saturday night and the other Sunday night.

Sunday’s game will be the team’s official Independence Day Celebration night with an extended 15-minute show following the team’s game against Sugar Land.

And while postgame fireworks nights are big business for Minor League Baseball teams any night – the Isotopes had 15 planned across its 75 home games – the Independence Day games traditionally prove to be one of, if not the biggest of the year for fans and teams, alike.

“Whenever you get your schedule, it’s always what you look at first,” Isotopes general manager John Traub said.

For those looking to avoid Monday night Fourth of July fireworks show crowds, and the ensuing early Tuesday morning, the Isotopes’ Sunday show provides a nice alternative, and proves most years to be one of the biggest productions in the state, anyway.

Eight of the top 10 crowds in Isotopes Park history have come on the Isotopes’ Independence Day game – played on either July 3 or 4 . Minor League Baseball tries to ensure each year teams get a home one of the two nights for the big gate.

On July 4, 2014, the 16,348 turnout was the second-largest ever at Isotopes Park – second only to the packed house of 16,975 for the inaugural Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico game on May 5, 2018. In all, in 20 July 3 or 4 games, the Isotopes have averaged 14,791 fans.

And it’s not just a special night for the fans and people working in the stadium. Players get in on the excitement, too.

“I think they get a little more into it than usual for those ones, yeah,” said Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer, who watched plenty of fireworks shows in minor league parks as a six-year minor league player and now in his sixth season in coaching.

“More often than not, their families come (to games) for the Fourth of July. And hey, come on. America’s the greatest country on Earth. It’s a great day to celebrate.”

THE OK: All fireworks shows at Isotopes Park happen only with the OK from an on-site Fire Marshall representative based on weather and other conditions. And the team has asked this year if they should proceed with shows considering the fires in the state, to which the Fire Marshall told the team they appreciate the safe manner, with fire crews on hand, the team goes about its shows.

BRIGHT IDEA: Kris Shepard, the Isotopes Director of Game Production, still remembers having to tell the story of maybe the worst fireworks show in Isotopes history to a room full of minor league peers.

At an annual convention, during a session about game promotions, he sat next to Traub as the discussion went around the room asking about the best and worst game promotions each team could remember.

Traub took the “good” news and handed off telling the “bad” promotion to Shepard who got to tell of the June 11, 2011, game in which the team moved first pitch from 7 p.m. up to 4:35 p.m. as smoke from fires in eastern Arizona had been blowing in nightly to Albuquerque, making breathing difficult for the players.

With that day’s game getting done in 2 hours, 30 minutes and ending shortly after 7 p.m. with blue skies all around.

The Isotopes on-field emcee asked the crowd what they wanted – fireworks after the game or wait until it got dark.

“Everyone (at the convention) was like, ‘No. You never shoot them off when it’s not dark,'” Shepard recalls.

Recalled Traub of that game: “You could see a couple little puffs of smoke, but you couldn’t see anything from the fireworks. It was terrible.”

A close second might have been the 14-inning plus weather-delayed game on June 24, 2017, that ended at 12:44 a.m. with fireworks starting about 12:50 a.m.

The team now has a more specific self-imposed 11 p.m. curfew.

“The last thing we want to do is make anyone upset,” said Traub. “These fans spend good money to come to our games and they’re staying around some nights just for that fireworks show. We owe it to them to deliver.”

‘TOPES SATURDAY: Vs. Sugar Land

6:35 p.m., Isotopes Park, 610 AM/95.9 FM

PROMOTION: Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico, lowriders, postgame fireworks

PROBABLES: Space Cowboys RHP Chad Donato (3-4, 4.76) vs. Isotopes RHP Ashton Goudeau (0-2, 11.09)

FRIDAY: The Space Cowboys broke things open with a six-run fourth inning and cruised to an 11-5 win in a game that included three ejections, and benches and bullpens clearing (but no fights) in the fifth inning.

After a pitch near the head of the Isotopes’ Jonathan Morales, he began arguing with Sugar Land players. After the ensuing scrum on the field, Morales, teammate Dom Nuñez Sugar Land’s Alex De Goti.

ANTHEM: Albuquerque’s Catherine Powdrell will sing the national anthem at Saturday’s Colorado Rockies game. She is the granddaughter of Pete and Catherine Powdrell, the founders of Powdrell’s BBQ.

Box score: Sugar Land 11, Albuquerque 6

Pacific Coast League standings

 

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