'Topes to honor women in sports during Saturday's Isotopes doubleheader - Albuquerque Journal

‘Topes to honor women in sports during Saturday’s Isotopes doubleheader

Sally Marquez’s baseball memories date back to long before the Isotopes patrolled Rio Grande Credit Union Field.

Years ago, the current New Mexico Activities Association executive director would attend games at the then Albuquerque Sports Stadium with her father and brother for a very special brand of drive-in theater.

“At that time you could park in the outfield and watch the game,” said Marquez, who was a three-sport athlete at Manzano before playing basketball at the University of New Mexico.

“Those are great memories when I was growing up with the Dukes when they were within the Dodger organization. Just being in the outfield with my dad sitting on the car watching a game.”

It’s entirely possible that during that period Marquez might have shared some of those very views with fellow New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame member Sue MacEachen, one of the most decorated female track athletes in the history of the state.

“I keep thinking about the view from outfield – the old Dukes Stadium looking from the outfield into the ballpark, when you could park there and have a picnic,” MacEachen said.

The current scenery, MacEachen adds, isn’t bad either.

“The views from the seats are just phenomenal,” she said. “You’ve got the Sandias, you’ve got beautiful skies. I can’t tell you how many times I got up and walked to the back railing just to watch the sun set so many nights when it’s just been gorgeous. It makes you feel like it’s a great hometown feel.”

Marquez and MacEachen will share a different perspective Saturday, when they will be honored as part of the second annual Women in Sports Night at the Isotopes’ doubleheader against the Tacoma Rainiers. The extra game is necessitated by Friday night’s rainout. The “Women In Sports” celebration will take place immediately following Game 1, which is scheduled for a 4:05 p.m. first pitch.

Joining them in the ceremony will be former University of New Mexico basketball standout Nikki Heckroth Lobato and ex-Lobo soccer star Gwen Maly. All four ambassadors will throw out a ceremonial first pitch as the Isotopes pay tribute to some of most impactful women in the Albuquerque sports scene.

The official National Girls and Women in Sports day is in February, but the organization wanted to do something to celebrate those deserving accolades during its season. Honorees are selected from a variety of backgrounds, eras and sports.

There’s no question that all four 2023 ambassadors have made their mark in the Land of Enchantment.

Even after her own athletic career ended, Marquez’s work with the NMAA continues to affect the prep sports landscape on a yearly basis.

MacEachen, meanwhile, made her name with the Duke City Dashers running club before earning All-America honors in track and cross country at UNM. Heckroth Lobato was a star point guard who guided the Lobos to the WNIT finals, and Maly helped guide the Lobos to the second round of the 2021 NCAA tournament before finishing as the school’s fourth all-time leading goal scorer.

“I think growing up here in New Mexico and just realizing how far women in sports have come and just being a Lobo and realizing how much the community supported women’s basketball at UNM, I have felt it all along,” said Heckroth Lobato, a multi-sports standout at Sandia High prior to UNM.

Not everyone’s baseball memories harken back to the Dukes. Maly, who hails from Irvine, California, recalls attending Isotopes games as a Lobo soccer team-bonding experience during preseason camp.

“I always loved going to those games with the team. They always have fun activities going on between the innings,” Maly said. “One of the things I remember growing up, we used to go to Angels games, but those stadiums were so huge that you were kind of just lost in the crowd. I thought it was so fun when I got to New Mexico going to the Isotopes games because you’d always be, like, on the big screen.”

When it comes to throwing out the first pitch, Heckroth Lobato might have a leg – or arm – up on her counterparts, since she used her final year of collegiate eligibility to play softball. She was also a coach for her son’s traveling team with the Albuquerque Baseball Academy.

All four women are expected to have friends or loved ones serve as their battery mates.

“It should be fun,” Heckroth Lobato said. “I throw a lot of long toss with my team at ABA. Let’s be honest: I’m old now, but I can keep up. So hopefully it’s a good pitch.”

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