Tuesday, April 2, 2013

FAQ about life in Albuquerque so far

--by @Josh_Suchon

Are you settled? Getting closer. Movers finally arrived yesterday morning. I did some furious unpacking last night, but there are still boxes everywhere. Nothing is on the walls. The cable/internet will get hooked up today. Last night was the first time in 10 days that I slept in my own bed.

This is the view from my office/broadcasting booth.
What do you think of Albuquerque so far? I haven’t seen much, except the ballpark, my formerly empty apartment, my cousin’s house, my aunt’s house, a couple sports bar, and a nearby café that provides free wireless. It’s not in LA, but what is? It seems like a good place and the people have made me feel right at home. Whenever I wear an Isotopes polo shirt, which is almost every day, I get a lot of "Go Topes" reactions. Oh yeah, the food options seem to be pretty spectacular.

When does the season start? This Thursday.

Can I listen online? Yes. The audio of every game is free online at http://www.milb.com/index.jspYou can also pay to watch streaming video of every game. It’s $9.99/month or $39.99/year at MiLB.tv, although you will always hear the home radio feed. You can still hear the audio of me (for free) on road games, but you can only watch-and-hear me for home games.

How do the Isotopes look? We should have a good team. It’s a good mix of players with major-league experience and young kids in Triple-A for the first time. A humidor was added to the ballpark, which should cut down on some of the offense. More importantly, the Dodgers are now sending their best pitching prospects here, instead of avoiding this level and having them jump from Double-A to the majors. The big talk of spring training, outfielder Yasiel Puig from Cuba, is starting the season at Double-A, but we’re optimistic that we’ll get him here in Albuquerque soon. I have a bet with the Sports Editor of the Albuquerque Journal that we'll see Puig for at least seven days.

Inside the Humidor at Isotopes Park.
Uhh, what does a humidor have to do with baseball? It’s over 6,000 feet here and that elevation makes baseballs travel further. It’s also really dry here. When baseballs sit around in boxes for weeks and months in this dry climate, they get harder. Then when they are used in games, those baseballs fly even further. It’s like the baseballs become golf balls. Especially in the summer, baseball games turn into pinball games there’s so much scoring. This makes it very difficult for the Dodgers to evaluate players. Are the hitters really that good or are the pitchers that terrible? The major league Rockies were the first team to use a humidor, circa 2003. There’s a large enough sample size to definitively say that keeping the baseballs in a controlled environment gives the pitchers a better chance to succeed. The Rockies’ affiliate at Colorado Springs added a humidor last year. The Isotopes are using one this year for the first time.

What’s the story with the Isotopes nickname again? For the longest time, the team’s nickname was the Dukes because this city is known as the Duke City. That franchise left Albuquerque and was moved to Portland after the 2000 season. My former Dodger Talk co-host Ken Levine wrote a Simpson’s episode called “Dancin’ Homer” that first aired on Nov. 8, 1990. A nickname was needed for the fictional Springfield team. Ken chose Isotopes because: a) it was fitting for a town with a nuclear power plant; and b) it was a ridiculous name. (You can download the script here.)

Statue of Homer inside Topes Field.
In 2001, “Hungry, Hungry, Homer” was a Simpson’s episode in which Homer staged a hunger strike when he learned the Springfield Isotopes owner was scheming to move the team to Albuquerque. (This is also the episode that popularized the expression “meh.”) After the 2002 season, the Triple-A team in Calgary moved to Albuquerque. The fans voted on what should be the team’s nickname. Overwhelmingly, the fans chose Isotopes. As a result of this nickname, and a spectacular logo, the Isotopes are routinely in the Top 10 in merchandise sales in the minors. Inside the ballpark are statues of Homer, Bart and other Simpson’s characters. We’ll gladly accept your money if you want to visit the online team store and buysome cool Isotopes schwag.

If you’re a fan of Breaking Bad, the main character sometimes wears an Isotopes hat. He’s a big baseball fan and the show is filmed in Albuquerque. This summer, we’re hoping that Ken comes to town and throws out the first pitch. He better throw a strike, or else we’re booing the hell out of him.

What’s the relationship between the Dodgers and the Isotopes? The Dodgers provide the players, coaching staff and medical staff. The Dodgers pay a (high) percentage of the travel cost, plus the cost of balls and other baseball-related expenses. The Isotopes run the business side – the stadium, merchandise, clubhouses, tickets, advertising and promotions. I’m an employee of the Isotopes, not the Dodgers. When baseball returned to Albuquerque in 2001, they were a Florida Marlins affiliate. They’ve been a Dodgers affiliate since 2009 and are signed through the 2014 season.

The closest major-league team to Albuquerque is the Colorado Rockies, a 450-mile drive. There’s some Rockies fans here, there’s always Yankees and Red Sox fans in every city, and the couple sitting next to me as I type this from a nearby café are clearly Giants fans. But overwhelmingly, this is Dodgers country.

You fly everywhere? Almost everywhere. We fly commercial. That means a lot of 4 am wakeup calls to catch 6 am flights. I think there’s only one direct flight all year, so it’s a lot of layovers in Denver, Dallas and Houston. We’ll bus between Nashville and Memphis, Des Moines and Omaha, and a few other places. Yes, I get to keep the frequent flier miles.

When is your book on the 1988 Dodgers coming out? Wish I could give you an exact date. I thought it would be in stores by now. It could be any day. I received my author copies almost two weeks ago. I keep saying a couple more weeks. You can pre-order a copy now from the publisher’s website. If you want an autographed copy, send me a direct message and I can sell you one of mine. It’s $24.95 plus whatever the cost of shipping would be. You can mail me a check or PayPal me.

When are you coming back to LA? I’ll be doing book signings and other promotional appearances during the All-Star break, July 15-16-17. Also back in September for a friend’s wedding.

What’s the closest city to Los Angeles that you’ll play? Las Vegas on May 11-14, or Fresno from Aug. 3-6.

What’s the closest city to San Francisco that you’ll play? Sacramento on July 30-Aug. 2.

When’s the next time you’re coming back to the Bay Area? Maybe in October for another A’s-Dodgers World Series? Honestly, no clue. No plans anytime in 2013.

What are you doing when the season ends? I’m staying in Albuquerque. I’m a year-around employee. I’ll be doing sales for the team in the offseason.

Are you going to write another book? Of course. Need to get settled and focus on my new job first. Then I’ll pitch my idea to the publisher.

Did you really run Steve Alford out of town in less than three days? Absolutely. This town wasn’t big enough for both of us. He had no chance. Aztecs4life, baby.


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