Nothing says home run celebration quite like a hazmat mask.
For the Albuquerque Isotopes it works.
Starting with Wednesday’s 13-4 win over visiting Round Rock,the ‘Topes are now incorporating “Breaking Bad” vibes into their home run celebrations. Albuquerque hitters launching long balls at Isotopes Park will sport honorary hazmat masks while receiving dugout congratulations.
Celebratory garb for long balls is hardly a new idea. Major and minor league teams have employed everything from samurai helmets to suit coats to gold chains as home run props in recent seasons.
The hazmat masks — a nod to “Breaking Bad” meth cooks Walter White and Jesse Pinkman — are a new twist, however.
“Everywhere I’ve been we’ve had masks for (home run) celebrations,” Isotopes infielder Hunter Stovall said. “Last year in Hartford we had a goat mask (for the host Yard Goats). Here it just seemed right to have a ‘Breaking Bad’ mask.”
Unfortunately for the Isotopes, the masks got a night off Thursday as the Topes’ first homer (an Aaron Schunk solo shot) came late in an 18-6 loss to visiting Round Rock.
Stovall suggested the hazmat mask idea after noticing the home run-happy ‘Topes lacked a celebratory prop. Home run hitters do sport a dugout sombrero during Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico appearances, but the Isotopes had nothing to call their own.
Stovall, a Birmingham, Alabama native in his first season with the ‘Topes, felt a theme honoring the popular TV series filmed and set in Albuquerque was a no-brainer.
“I watched the whole series two times through,” Stovall said. “I love that show. I suggested (hazmat masks) but I had to run it by the rest of the guys before we started doing it. Nobody objected to it.”
Elehuris Montero and Connor Kaiser were first to don masks after homering in Wednesday’s game. The Isotopes, who came into Thursday’s game with 77 home runs (second most in minor league baseball), figure to get plenty of use out of the masks before the season is over.
“It brings a little energy and we enjoy it,” Stovall said. “It’s always going to make you smile when you put on the mask.”
Stovall, who went 2-for-5 with a two-run double Thursday, hopes to get a turn sporting the hazmat mask sometime soon. He has just one home run thus far this season.
“I know some guys hit a lot of them, but hitting home runs is hard to do,” he said. “It’s definitely something to celebrate.”
JOIN THE CLUB: Rehabbing Texas Rangers catcher Mitch Garver was not in the lineup Thursday but he’s expected to play for the Express on Friday. Garver collected four hits including a homer in the first two games of the series, joining an exclusive club in the process.
Garver, a La Cueva and UNM alumnus, is believed to be the fifth player to compete in high school, collegiate and professional games at Isotopes Park/Albuquerque Sports Stadium. The previous three were Rod Nichols (Highland, UNM, Albuquerque Dukes), Brian Cavazos-Galvez (Manzano, UNM, Isotopes), Austin House (La Cueva, UNM, Isotopes) and Jordan Pacheco (La Cueva, UNM, Tacoma Rainiers).
SHORT OUTING: Pitcher Luis Cessa’s Isotopes debut proved brief after he was hit by a ball off the bat of Round Rock’s Tyler Jankowski in the first inning. Cessa pitched to two more batters before leaving the game.
THURSDAY: Visiting Round Rock pummeled Isotopes pitching for 20 hits (including four homers) in an 18-6 romp at Isotopes Park. Davis Wendzel smacked a solo homer and a grand slam for the Express. Aaron Schunk was 3-for-4 with a solo homer for Albuquerque.