ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Albuquerque Isotopes didn’t stay single long after a Dodgers divorce, quickly drawing the affections of a new suitor to the north. Not that the AAA team ever lost its confidence.
“We knew that we would be the belle of the ball,” said John Traub, Istopes general manager.
Albuquerque and the Colorado Rockies inked a four-year affiliation deal Wednesday. Both teams left long-term relationships to link up.
For Albuquerque, that relationship goes back to the 1960’s. The Albuquerque Dukes, and for a few years Albuquerque Dodgers, were the Los Angeles Dodgers’ affiliate from 1963 to 2000. The two reunited in 2008 and had been affiliated since. But Los Angeles moved its AAA team to Oklahoma City, wooed by the opportunity to have an ownership stake in that team.
“I understand people still wanting the Dodgers to be in this market, however it has to be a two-way street,” Traub said. “Their investment and their opportunity to buy into a AAA club was very important to them. We are not for sale.”
So with Los Angeles leaving, Albuquerque had a few options including the Milwaukee Brewers and the Houston Astros. But Traub says the team got the next best thing in the Colorado Rockies.
“If it wasn’t going to be the Dodgers who has 40 years of history here, we wanted it to be somebody who was very very close and who our fans could identify with,” Traub said. “The Rockies are a perfect geographical fit for us.”
The Rockies left a long-term relationship of their own, bailing on the only AAA club they’d ever had in the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. The Sky Sox had been affiliated with the Rockies since 1993.
But it was clear at Wednesday’s press conference Colorado wanted the Isotopes for a couple of very big reasons. One was facilities.
“[Isotopes Park] more easily or more obviously replicates what you get at a major league park,” said Jeff Bridich, senior director of player development for the Rockies. “Everything’s updated here… it’s a pretty new park.”
The Sky Sox play at Security Service Field which opened in 1988. That park has a significantly smaller capacity than Isotopes Park, which opened in 2003. The Isotopes have consistently drawn more fans than Colorado Springs as well.
Another factor in the decision was the opportunity to grow the Rockies brand in Albuquerque, a place that’s been Dodger territory for decades. A survey conducted by Public Policy Polling earlier this year showed 9 percent of New Mexicans identified themselves as Colorado Rockies fans.
“With the proximity of Albuquerque to Denver and vice versa, there’s no reason that this town can’t and shouldn’t be a Rockies town,” Bridich said. “Our hope and our goal is that at some point in the near future, that Albuquerque in some way shape or form bleeds Rockie purple.”
Drew Creasman with the Purple Row tells News 13 that the announcement is a coup for the Rockies.
“Unless you’re living in Colorado Springs, today is a pretty big win for Rockies fans,” Creasman said. “Jumping right into the heart of the Dodgers old home nest and being able to steal that out from underneath them is almost like icing on the cake for the Rockies fans.”
The Rockies have played exhibition games in Albuquerque before. The Isotopes’ hope is that the new partnership will bring more of those games to Albuquerque.
The change in affiliation could bring a change in attire for the Isotopes as well.
“We could certainly see at some point a strong possibility of maybe a purple line of our uniforms,” Traub said.