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Isotopes’ Hill no longer Spiderman

Glenallen Hill effectively squashed a colorful piece of baseball lore Monday afternoon.

The Albuquerque Isotopes manager decided to exterminate his longstanding nickname, “Spiderman,” with the help of two particularly furry tarantulas. Hill got his annual media guide photo taken with said tarantulas strolling up and down his forearm.

“Yeah, baby!” the typically stoic Hill exclaimed after surviving the experience. “That spider was pretty cool.”

Hill was on the short end of the cuddly spectrum at Isotopes media day as players were photographed with puppies from Animal Humane New Mexico. It made for a fun photo day as the team began on-field preparations for Thursday’s season-opener against visiting Salt Lake.

“I love dogs, I’m an animal guy,” catcher Anthony Bemboom said while visiting with several of the photogenic pups. “This is a great idea.”

Still, Hill provided the day’s best storyline with his tales of Spiderman. The legend began in 1989, Hill said, during his rookie season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Hill had a nightmare involving a spider during which he knocked over a table and suffered various cuts.

“People started calling me ‘Spiderman’,” Hill said, “and started a rumor that I have this terrible fear of spiders.”

The rumor not only persisted over the years, it gained traction. Several of Hill’s online biographies refer to him as an arachnophobe, someone who suffers from an acute fear of spiders and other arachnids.

Hill seemed to take considerable pleasure from debunking the legend.

“I can now tell you I did survive and it was a pleasant experience,” he said after Monday’s photo shoot. “It wasn’t a fake spider and I didn’t scream. I was thinking love the whole time.”

Hill admitted he would have been far less likely to have a photo taken with snakes, but said he hopes anyone with a true fear of spiders will take courage from his photo. That list includes one of Hill’s daughters.

“She’s not going to believe I did this,” Hill said, “but I have witnesses.”

Monday’s activities at Isotopes Park were not entirely about spiders and puppies. Most of the parties involved were at least as excited about the fast-approaching season.

Remarkably, Albuquerque’s season-opening 24-player roster includes 14 who played for the Isotopes at some point last season. Such stability is all but unheard of for a Triple-A club.

It’s not a team loaded with veterans, but one that feature several rising prospects in the Colorado Rockies organization. Many of the returning players helped the ‘Topes put together a second-half charge in 2016, when Albuquerque rallied from a 37-53 start to finish 71-72, two games behind first-place El Paso in the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Southern Division.

“I think this could be a really solid team,” said opening-day starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman. “A lot of these guys started to click in the second half last year. We’ve got talent here, a good clubhouse and a great fan base. It should be a fun year.”

Hoffman, among others, is unlikely to spend the entire season in Albuquerque. He’s one of six Isotopes who spent time with the Rockies in 2016. Seven Isotopes are listed on Colorado’s 40-man roster, including four pitchers (Hoffman, Shane Carle, Sam Moll and Zach Jemiola).

“It’s exciting to be able to work with this staff,” said Bemboom, who came over from the Los Angeles Angels organization during the offseason. “I worked with pretty much all of them during the spring and we’ve got guys with good stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing how this season plays out.”