The Albuquerque Isotopes and Colorado Rockies extended their affiliation agreement through the 2020 season on Friday afternoon.
Rockies player development director Zach Wilson joined Isotopes general manager John Traub and manager Glenallen Hill for the informal ceremony at the ballpark before batting practice.
“It’s an absolute no-brainer that we were going to renew,” Traub said. “Zach and I have been discussing this for some time. It was just more of a matter of scheduling this to get Zach in here formally.”
The Isotopes and Rockies originally signed a four-year player development contract for 2015 to 2018. Colorado had abandoned Colorado Springs due to inadequate facilities, while Albuquerque had lost its affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers after that organization had purchased the Oklahoma City franchise.
This two-year extension of that PDC may just be the beginning of what both sides hope will be an even longer agreement.
“When we first started examining Albuquerque three or four years ago, it became clear very quickly that the operators here, Ken (Young), John and the whole staff of people who work for the Isotopes were at the top of their field in terms of how they treat the big-league club, how they interact with the players and the coaches, and the things that they do to make life in minor-league baseball easy,” Wilson said. “It’s been that way from the day we walked in this building. Obviously the facility is beautiful. It’s a great baseball town, the fans here have been tremendously supportive. It is just a natural fit in more ways than one.
“We are excited to be able to sign this piece of paper to ensure that we are here for 2020 and hopefully for even more years beyond that.”
In the three seasons of affiliation, a total of 43 different players have spent time with the Isotopes and Rockies, including 18 who made their major-league debuts. Key players in Colorado who finished their development in Albuquerque include catcher Tom Murphy, shortstop Trevor Story, outfielder Raimel Tapia and pitchers Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Chad Bettis and many more.
“The Rockies have been nothing but spectacular when it comes to treating us like family, making us feel we’re a part of their family and when we see the success the Rockies have had at the big-league level, so many of those guys have come through Albuquerque already,” Traub said. “You look at the core of that group, so many of the pitchers and several of the position players have finalized and honed their skills here in Albuquerque and gone on to not only contribute at the big-league level with the Rockies, but have become significant, key parts of that rotation or everyday lineup.”
The similarities between the environment at Isotopes Park and Coors Field were always a big selling point for the affiliation. Both sit at roughly one mile above sea level. Both force players to adapt to the dry, windy air as well.
“I think anytime you can have your players get developed in pretty similar environments to your major-league club, it’s a positive thing,” Hill said. “On both sides of the table it just seems to be a good fit.”
Those players, in turn, have been nothing but true professionals in their time in Albuquerque, willing to give back to the community throughout the Rockies’ tenure here.
“As you all know, we have very little to do with what happens on the field, but part of our scope and part of our focus is providing as good of an environment for the players and the players’ families,” Traub said. “We try not to ask too much of the players, but we have a very big presence in this community and we take that seriously. Michelle Montoya, who is in charge of our community relations efforts, seemingly every homestand is posting some kind of appearance that we’re doing out in the community. (Saturday) we’re doing a youth skills clinic, our first of the year. She puts a sign-up sheet and it has been a no-brainer to get guys to sign up. We don’t have to twist arms.
“It’s part of what these guys are going to have to do in the big leagues but it’s not because of that, it’s because of good-hearted people that Zach and G and the Rockies organization put in our uniforms. That’s very important for us.”
Hill said the Isotopes players are happy to give back with the way they are treated by the Albuquerque staff and fans.
“I can say from my experience with John on a day-to-day basis, he goes the extra mile,” Hill said. “He makes it very, very, very comfortable and creates an environment where our players look forward to coming home from the road.”
The Isotopes will now get back to the business of playing baseball Friday night at 7:05 p.m. MT against the El Paso Chihuahuas.