Twenty-five fans lined up along the first-base tunnel at Isotopes Park on Wednesday night, patiently waiting for pregame autographs.
From members of the visiting team.
Nearly a full season of Albuquerque’s affiliation with the Colorado Rockies organization is now in the books, but some folks still see the city as a “Dodger town.”
Oklahoma City, which replaced the Duke City as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A club this season, concluded its only 2015 visit to Isotopes Park with a thud Wednesday, squandering a 5-0 lead on its way to an 11-6 loss. The ‘Topes split the four-game series, but the OKC Dodgers left town with a 79-52 record and appear well on their way to a berth in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
Some Albuquerque fans, including a group who dressed in LA Dodgers gear Wednesday, wish the Isotopes still wore Dodger blue, as well.
“There’s a lot more tradition here with the Dodgers than with Colorado,” said Keith Liberman, who was among the fans lined up along the visitors’ tunnel. “I was disappointed when the Dodgers left the first time and the Florida Marlins came in here. It’s even worse now.”
Liberman has lived in Albuquerque since 1970 and said his family has Dodgers roots tracing back to New York. His father was a Dodgers fan when the team resided in Brooklyn.
But not only longtime fans seem to prefer the Dodgers.
“This is my first year liking baseball,” said Adrian Chavez, who arrived at the park wearing a Dodgers jersey and cap, with his baseball glove. “I like coming to games but I’m sorry I missed the Dodgers when they were here. I’ve been to three of the four Oklahoma City games.”
Many Isotopes fans attend games more for the outing than to support a particular franchise, But it’s fair to say the Colorado Rockies have yet to build a passionate fan base in Albuquerque.
The Dodgers’ longtime ties to the city may continue to resonate for a while – and not just with fans.
“The transition to OKC has been pretty smooth, but we’re always going to miss (Albuquerque),” said OKC Dodgers manager Damon Berryhill, who managed the Isotopes last season before the affiliation changes. “It’s such a great Dodger town, and (Isotopes general manager) John Traub and his staff do a great job.
“Dodger fans travel well and Oklahoma City’s been good to us, but we do miss it here.”
To their credit, the current Isotopes did their best to win some fans over Wednesday night. Trailing 5-0 going to the bottom of the sixth, the home team racked up 11 runs in their next three at-bats. Wilin Rosario’s game-tying, three-run homer and a two-run shot by Tim Wheeler were the big blows.
Albuquerque’s defense also got an announced crowd of 4,876 fired-up by turning a slick 5-4-3 triple play in seventh inning. It was the franchise’s first triple play since 2009.
Despite a rough first season, some fans believe Rockies purple could eventually become a primary color in the Albuquerque stands. Even Liberman conceded the Isotopes may prove an ideal fit for the Colorado organization because of the similar altitudes and playing conditions in Albuquerque and Denver.
But don’t expect Dodger blue to fade away any time soon.
“This is a Dodger town,” said Albuquerque’s Guillaume Brady, “and it always will be.”