If they’re going to do it, they better do it right.
For Albuquerque native Austin House, a La Cueva High School graduate and former University of New Mexico Lobos pitcher who now plays for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, there’s no question his current team got it right with their latest hot idea.
“They nailed it, I think,” said House, donning a custom-made Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers uniform that the Isotopes will wear June 16, officially changing their name for the day to honor the culinary staple of the state.
With a special chile roaster patch on the left sleeve, a New Mexico state flag with a toothpick for a pole on the right sleeve and a black hat with a burger on his head, House even offered up a sentence he probably never thought he’d utter in his attempt to blaze a trail to the major leagues.
“I’m proud and honored to wear an Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers jersey,” House said.
In a mix of traditional Minor League Baseball promotional wackiness and a heavy dose of New Mexico True, the Isotopes announced on Thursday they will change their names on June 16 to the Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers. They will play the Fresno Grizzlies, who themselves will be wearing special food-based uniforms that they’ve incorporated into their promotions.
“One night only this year, the Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers will play host to the Fresno Tacos,” said Isotopes general manager John Traub. “I have said most of this with a straight face, but that is going to be a food fight unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”
As the brainchild of Kara Hayes, the Isotopes’ director of retail operations, the team will not only wear special uniforms on June 16, but the organization is going all in. The works, if you will.
The pro shop — both in person at Isotopes Park and online — is now selling a line of Green Chile Cheeseburgers merchandise, including the jerseys and hats. Traub said they’re hopeful that, with the help of the Mayor’s office, they can get the city to officially proclaim June 16 as “Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburger Day.”
Green chile will be roasted during the game on the park’s concourse and green chile cheeseburgers will be added for the night to all concession stands and cooked by local restaurant Rex’s Hamburgers.
They even hope the park’s unofficial nickname of the “The Lab” can, for the night, become “The Grill.”
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously here,” Traub said. “But we certainly take our responsibility seriously. And that responsibility to our community is to provide fun, family, festive time atmospheres and give something very quality to the fabric of this community.”
The website BringingTheHeatABQ.com has more information about the promotion and details on what will take place around the ballpark that night.
The organization’s coming up with promotions each season with a strong local flare is common. The Isotopes have Dukes throwback night each season and just last year had both a Holly Holm bobblehead night and a “Better Call Saul” night with special uniforms.
“With that in mind,” Traub said, “this year we wanted to embark on a journey that would be all about what New Mexico is all about.”
The result is something Traub said he hopes can become an annual part of the promotional calendar.
House, one of only two native New Mexicans ever to play for the Isotopes, says he’s “eaten my fair share of them in my life.” He understands that sometimes silly promotions are a part of the minor league landscape.
But being a local product himself, he was all in for this one, he insisted.
“I probably eat two a week,” House said of green chile cheeseburgers. “I’m a Blake’s guy. Rex’s is really good, too, but I think I’d have to say I’ve done more Blake’s — double cheese, double green chile, seasoned fries, pink lemonade. That’s my order.
“And not the Itsa burger, either. The Lota. You gotta go Lota.”