Sunday pretty much summed up the home portion of the season for the Albuquerque Isotopes.
A ninth-inning bullpen meltdown led to the struggling Isotopes losing another heartbreaker, 5-4, to the visiting Colorado Springs Sky Sox. But, thanks in large part to a postgame fireworks show, the fans once again showed up to the park.
While the team must now win four out of its final eight games of the season to avoid the worst record in franchise history, an announced crowd of 12,631 in Sunday night’s home finale pulled the average home attendance for the season at Isotopes Park to 8,007.
That marks the 12th time in 13 seasons of existence the franchise has eclipsed the 8,000 plateau.
“It’s awesome,” said Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill of his first season working in Albuquerque. “It is a tremendous atmosphere, a tremendous park. The front office people are, by far, the best in the business.”
And as for Albuquerque fans, the California native and former major leaguer seemed to hit the nail on the head.
“I like the fact that the fans are very supportive and very demanding,” Hill said. “I think it kind of goes with the attitude of Albuquerque.”
Barring a change in tradition, the Isotopes appear headed for a 2016 season in which they will welcome their 8 millionth fan late in the season. (They’ve had 7,486,599 through 13 seasons.)
Before Sunday’s game, the Isotopes announced the winners of seven end-of-season awards – five voted on in the clubhouse by players, one by the front office and one by the fans.
Roger Bernadina, who has played for the Isotopes this season as the Triple A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies and also did so last year when the franchise was the affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was honored as the team’s Power Hitter of the Year. He followed that by going 3-for-3 at the plate with four RBIs, including a two-run home run, his 15th of the season, in the fourth inning to give the ‘Topes a 4-1 lead.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead heading into the ninth, reliever Rex Brothers ( 5-2) walked the first two Sky Sox hitters and later allowed a two-RBI, one out single to Robinzon Diaz for the game-winning runs.
While infielder Cristhian Adames was voted by his peers as the team’s Most Valuable Player before the game, it was third baseman Tim Smalling who took home a pair of awards: Mr. Hustle and the Fan Favorite player of the year.
“That means a lot to me,” said Smalling. “I’m glad that I’m able to go out and interact with the fans and earn their votes. It was great getting to go out and meet some of the people here in Albuquerque.”
Other player awards included:
• Pitcher Aaron Laffey: Most Community-Minded Player (voted on by the front office)
• SS Trevor Story: Defensive Player of the Year
• Nelson Gonzalez: Pitcher of the Year