Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 5: Albuquerque Isotopes. Professional Park, Less Professional Play, and Today We Celebrate Our Independence Day.

We began the morning in Roswell, New Mexico after not being abducted during the night. Pat harnessed the power of the 21st century to Foursquare us a breakfast spot a couple miles away called the Cowboy Cafe, which was both cowboy-themed and a cafe. But seriously, this was the best breakfast of the trip so far by a substantial margin. We were big fans of the fresh taste of the Spanish omelet (red chile sauce, cheese, and some other southwestern-ish veggies...9/10, would omelet again) as well as the sheer array of things wrapped into the aptly-named Washtub burrito. It was too early for any of us to take their 3-pound burger challenge...maybe next time. It didn't sound too difficult, but their wall of fame for it was sparse. We're not sure if it's 'cause the restaurant is fairly new or the challenge is deceptively tricky. Still, can't be worse than Richmond.

We then proceeded to the International UFO Museum and Research Center for...well, yeah, it's pretty self-explanatory. It's basically a large hangar with one side dedicated to the Roswell incident and the other to general evidence for the existence of UFOs. Our main complaint was the exhibits were poorly organized and seemed to just be random quotes and pictures and affidavits strung together with no real narrative - a problem with museum structure, layout, and curation. We didn't check out the research library, but we're sure it was...a library.  Regarding subject matter, none of us came away convinced in flying saucers and little gray/green/brown men, but for what it's worth Zach was and remains on their side that we're probably not alone out there due to statistics and the size of the known universe. Pat did buy a hat for the Invaders at their gift shop, though.

Continuing our streak of wearing gear for the visiting team, Pat donned his new hat for our next stop: the 1120a showing of Independence Day: Resurgence, because where else could we watch that other than Roswell? Our consensus reaction to the film was along the lines of "Well, I don't know what more I expected." Let's just leave it at that.

We then hit the road for the 3-hour drive up to Albuquerque. It was very, very, very, very, very flat and empty and boring, but we got to go really fast, so that was cool.

It's like Desert Bus, except more real and with less bus.

Since we had some time before the game we stopped by our favorite mini-golf chain, Putt Putt, for a couple rounds. Zach took the first round of the trip on a late comeback in Mississippi; Pat took today's first round, but Zach took his second of the trip on another late comeback on the second round. We had to save the third match for the next morning because it was game time!


1. Our hotel was walking distance to the stadium, so for once none of us had to DD. We took advantage of this fact.

2. Because, y'know, New Mexico, the park's condiments included chopped roasted green chiles and jalapenos. Way to live up to stereotypes, 'Topes.

3. The protective netting was maybe the shortest of the trip we've seen so far, ending by the dugouts which were pretty tight in near home plate. As the future purveyors of a league with Netless Wednesdays(TM), we support this fact. Tragically, it seems the 'Topes are planning to expand their net to meet new MLB guidance, as their stadium map depicts a much, much larger area of protective netting. For now, the deception is in our favor so we support it.

4. Our usher, Joann, who, when she saw we were in the first row, lectured us against interfering with balls in play since that happened last night. Good lookin' out, Joann.

5. She also identified Zach as a troublemaker because of his Frank Zappa T-shirt. Harsh but fair.

6. She also complained later in the game when no one yelled heads up for a foul that came screaming into her section. She has good opinions about baseball fans.

7. The whole park had a very slick, professional feel. I think it's best to just let a couple pictures do the talking, but a couple highlights were the terraced berm seating and an actual honest-to-the-baseball-Gods 'Topes-branded carnival ride in the Kidzone.

By George, that berm has terraces. You can also see the 'Topes branded carnival ride over the "W" in Wells Fargo (give us money). The carousel is on the right. 

And a nice look at the park itself. Almost forgot to mention the multiple decks, which we like because you can get a Major League view without the players being ants.

8. Along these same lines, the 'Tron was both remarkably Jumbo and crammed full of information including player weight and date of birth, the pitch count, and who's warming up in the bullpen. The players didn't just have pictures; they had brief video intros of them smiling or crossing their arms or catching a ball or whatever before each at-bat. Also, the batting averages updated live. All pro moves, 'Topes.

Here's an example of what you get near the start of the game. Notice weight and DOB, both unique. Anyway, that is one Jumbo Tron.

Here's a mid-game version of the Tron. Updated constantly during the game, very professional.

9. Centerfield had a hill in it. We're totally perplexed as to why since the 'Topes are not now nor have they ever been an Astros affiliate.

I mean, we support ballpark chaos in all its forms, but this...why? You're mad, all of you!

10. There was a whole lot of bold Albuquerquean flavor available throughout the park, though sadly no Isotopes Dog Supreme.  But there were Indian tacos (SEE below), an Enchilada dog (more or less what it sounds like), burritos, and nachos galore.

11. The organist played the Sports Center sound for strikeouts. Which is fair given how few on-the-field highlights this game offered.

12. Despite being AAA and the park's professional appearance, this was our most "This is the Minors, after all" stop of the trip so far, and it wasn't even really close. Two TOOTBLANs. One run balked in, followed immediately by a hit-by-pitch to re-load the bases. When the dust cleared, the 'Topes had extended their current losing streak to 11 games, a franchise record (yay, we saw history!). This was a shame since we actually were rooting for the 'Topes given, y'know, their shameless Simpsons coattail-riding.

13. Speaking of coattail-riding, there was a lot less of this than we anticipated. Really there were just a few bench statues and murals on bathroom doors. It's probably good they didn't just make their park into a Simpsons theme park, but we all agree we could've done with a lot more - maybe some videoboard clips?

 Maybe they don't like to remember those dark days when they were the Springfield Isotopes.

14. The costume race didn't feature much suspense. It was a straight-up footrace regrettably devoid of shenanigans or shenanigoats; the tortilla got out in front to start and ended up winning.

15. Zach had been saving his money for a gear purchase here. There were many excellent options, but one stood head and...well, head above the rest. I give you, HEISEN-SHIRT:

I am the one who knocks (home runs)

16. Steep, steep beer price gradient from crap to good stuff, which we endorse. $7.50 for domestics, $9.00 for a comparable amount of crafts (and there were some tasty ones available, though not too much local). That's the biggest difference we've seen.

17. The current standings, rather than being written manually or electronically displayed, were posted with magnets on a board near the main gate. I guess their interns all have crappy handwriting? Still, unique so cool.

18. In news that surely interests only us, at one point the 'Topes had 4/9 players in the lineup all hitting between .274 and .276. Hooray, consistency!

19. Somebody spent $35 to wish Ross Perot a happy 86th birthday on the 'Tron. It was, in fact, the man's 86th birthday. This seems like a move a wacky billionaire would approve of. We also think it's most likely Ross Perot himself did it.

Regularly Scheduled Metrics:

Price of Beer: Bank error in Zach's favor! 24 oz of IPA for the price of 16 because the lady grabbed the wrong cup. That still wasn't the cheapest beer at the park, though, because of the steep price gradient. $8.75/24 oz of cheap shit takes the cake --> 2.71 points.

Most Caloric Concession Item: Pat's Indian taco (a bunch of southwestern stuff piled up on top of a piece of fried bread) was impressive, but Zach's mega nachos were just so...big and full of stuff it was probably that. 6/10 points.

Minor League Personalities: There were some drunks...maybe us. Definitely a LL team. We'll call anywhere there in 'Topes gear a minor league diehard, since the team had just lost 10 straight games. Teens on dates, families, and Major League Rockies fans rounded out a nice showing. No local celebrities (Ross Perot is way too big, c'mon guys) that we could ID, LL teams, or groupies. 5/10 points.

Willingness to Give Random Bloggers Free Seats: 0 points, yet again. Somebody could make a killing our metrics if they'd just step up.

Tailgating: We didn't see any in the parking lots by the stadium, but we drank some whiskey and ate some gummy bears in our hotel room before the game. 2/10 points.

Funniest Name: Bumper crop here. Matt Flemer (we're hoping it's pronounced "Flamer", since he's a pitcher), Jason Gurka (we hope he gets in a lot of run-down pickles), Alex Castellanos (not THAT one, though I would pay good money to watch him play baseball), and Kaleb Cowart were all strong contenders. But we're gonna have to have a tie here between two porn star names: Al Albuquerque (he was on the visiting Salt Lake Bees!) and Anthony Bemboom (coach). 8/10 points.

Promotion Quality: None really to speak of. Our travel schedule sandwiched us between Bucket Hat Night and 50-cent hot dog night (100% inflation over Vermont last year!). The inter-inning contests were pretty typical. 3/10 points.

Bonus Points: +2 for stereotypical condiments, +1 for short nets, +2 for Joann, +4 for general park and 'Tron professionalism, +2 for centerfield hill, +1 for Simpsons characters, +2 for TOOTBLANs and errors galore, +3 for Heisen-shirt, +1 for beer price gradient, +1 for Ross Perot joining the game.

45.71 points on our totally arbitrary scale. Remember, these scores are arbitrary. Albuquerque was a very solid professional experience (except for the game play). Getting to Albuquerque is kind of hard, so we didn't have much choice on when we showed up, hamstringing the team's score when they had solid promotions on either side of when we showed up. I think our expectations were (unfairly) sky high, too, because of "Hungry, Hungry Homer" (we really wanted to see Pain Drinking Pete). Besides the design of the park nothing here really stood out to us after nearly 60 other parks, which is also not really a fair thing to say. So let's close this by saying if we lived in Albuquerque we'd definitely take in a lot of game there. 7.5/10.

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