Pacheco has had a blast in his season as Isotopes hitting coach - Albuquerque Journal

Pacheco has had a blast in his season as Isotopes hitting coach

La Cueva High School and UNM graduate Jordan Pacheco looks on from the dugout of the Albuquerque Isotopes, where he is wrapping up his first season as hitting coach. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
Jordan Pacheco’s brand new world has looked oh so familiar.

Baseball has been a constant in his life as long as the 36-year-old Albuquerque native can remember, so spending this past season as the hitting coach for the Albuquerque Isotopes around the game he loves – and specifically around a ballpark he’s played at with La Cueva High School, the University of New Mexico and even at times as a pro – wasn’t exactly uncharted territory.

But he was, in fact, still collecting a paycheck for playing the game, not coaching it, just a year ago with the independent league Lexington Legends with whom he wrapped up a 14-year professional career, including six seasons in the major leagues.

He was hired by the Colorado Rockies, the same team that drafted him in the ninth round in 2007 after his standout collegiate career as a Lobo.

“They took a chance on me, for sure. And I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Pacheco said.

He raves about the coaching staff that includes manager Warren Schaeffer, a longtime friend and former minor league teammate, and veterans like bench coach Pedro Lopez and pitching coach Frank Gonzales.

“They’ve been coaches for a long time. I’ve been a coach, for, what?” Pacheco said, looking down at his wristwatch for effect.

“Sometimes I’m still in the player mentality when I need to be more in the coaching mentality.”

Pacheco likened this first season as a hitting coach to his early years as a parent of two young children along with wife, Jessica. Just as he sometimes has “a-ha” moments as a dad telling his kids something he remembers his parents telling him, such has been his new life as a coach.

“It’s all full circle now,” Pacheco said. “There’s things that guys told me that I never understood, and they click in my head now. ‘Oh. That’s what he meant.’ ”

Jordan Pacheco bows his head during the national anthem before a game earlier this season. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

As his first season in his new role comes to an end – Albuquerque plays its final game of the season Wednesday at Isotopes Park – Pacheco has earned praise from players and fellow coaches. And the team has enjoyed a record-setting season at the plate.

Entering Tuesday’s penultimate game, the Isotopes long ago had crushed their previous franchise record for home runs in a season with 239 – 20 more than any other team in all levels of Minor League Baseball and three shy of MLB’s New York Yankees, who had 242 through 153 games. The Isotopes had played 146 games and have pro baseball’s highest home run rate, regardless of classification, with 1.637 per game.

A franchise-best five players hit the 20-home run mark this season and the Isotopes’ 14 grand slams are the most ever by a minor league team. The total ties MLB’s 2000 Oakland Athletics and 2006 Cleveland Indians for the most ever by a pro team.

“You can’t just rule out the fact that Jordan Pacheco is leading them,” said Schaeffer. “… It’s impressive to me how calm and positive he is. Just the right guy for the job, there’s no two ways about it. That rubs off on the players in their approach.”

Pacheco is quick to point out he isn’t here be a swing doctor. He’s trying to help players maximize the tools that got them this far.

“I think foundation is set,” Pacheco said. “I think what (Rockies hitting coordinator Darin) Everson has done with these young guys in bringing them up with a specific approach and with an idea of what they need to do to become an accomplished hitter, I think that’s in place.”

Alan Trejo, now back with the Rockies, says Pacheco’s help in the mental side of the game has been every bit as much a help as with the physical.

“He’s probably the most up-spirited guy I’ve ever been around,” Trejo said. “You walk in the clubhouse, you get that good feeling that it’s a new day, regardless of however you’ve been doing (as a player). … It’s not even always about being a coach. It’s more as a mentor. Guys go to him for things outside of baseball, too.”

Pacheco says he was blessed with about as good a situation as he could have ever asked for in his first season as coach.

“I couldn’t have asked to start in a better place with the knowledge that these guys have on this staff,” Pacheco said. “And the players, man. We have unbelievable players. They’re selfless. They show up every day. They want to work and they want to get better.

“And they listen to me 30% of the time, which is all I asked for.”

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