Monday, January 26, 2015

Recapping the Rockies Winter Caravan in Albuquerque

The reception all over in Albuquerque was impressive yesterday for the Colorado Rockies' Winter Caravan stop. The Rockies sent general manager Jeff Bridich, field manager Walt Weiss, reigning National League batting champion Justin Morneau, 2014 all-star outfielder Charlie Blackmon and their mascot Dinger.

Mayor Richard Berry issued a proclamation that it was "Colorado Rockies" Day in Albuquerque, then Bridich presented him a heavy Rockies jacket for those cold nights. The Rockies contingent visited Eugene Field Elementary School for a "Make an Impact Program" presentation, then visited with patients at UNM's Children's Hospital. After a stop at Frontier Restaurant for something to eat, the day concluded at Isotopes Park. Fans were able to questions for about an hour, then signed autographs for an hour.

The Q&A was a mix of serious and not-so-serious questions, from young and old fans, and there was a little bit of news that came from it. Here's a few of the highlights:

* Bridich denied the rumor the Rockies offered a seven-figure contract to James Shields. (Morneau joked that he started that rumor.)

* Bridich told the audience he was never actively trying to trade shortstop Troy Tulowitzki or outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Promoted to GM back in October, Bridich wanted to establish relationships with the other 29 GMs in the league and he was able to accomplish that.

* Bridich and his staff are very high on recently acquired right-hander reliever Austin House, who saved 19 games for single-A Stockton last year and pitched briefly at triple-A Sacramento. The Rockies were trying to obtain House from the Athletics. They were finally able to swing a deal by selecting Mark Canha in the Rule V draft, then traded him to the Athletics for House.

* The Rockies invited House to attend the Q&A last night as well. House attended La Cueva High in Albuquerque, played for the New Mexico Lobos and there's a good chance we'll see House in an Isotopes uniform at some point this year. I tried to get House to ask his boss which level he'd start in the minors, but neither took the bait. House would love to start the season at Albuquerque.

* House told me he found out about the trade around 7 am when A's assistant GM David Forst called him. House enjoyed his time with the A's organization, but was thrilled with the opportunity with the Rockies and possibly playing for the Isotopes. As a kid, House attended many games at Isotopes Park, and played home games on the field with the Lobos.

* Weiss was playing nice, but it didn't sound like he was too excited about the "pitch clock" that will be used in double-A and triple-A games this year. My feeling is that most baseball people feel the same way.

* Isotopes GM John Traub reports there will be pitch clocks located in three areas of The Lab: near the first- and third-base dugouts, plus an area in centerfield to be determined.

* Oh yeah, Traub says nothing official to announce yet. But there's a good chance we'll have a special purple jersey in the future, similar to how the Isotopes wore Dodger Blue on Saturday and Sunday home games. There's already some purple Isotopes shirts and hats in the Pro Shop.

* One of my favorite answers occurred when a young kid asked the players for their advice on the best fundamentals to become better ballplayers. Morneau replied it's best to just have fun. Play games. Invent games, whether it's 2-on-2 with a whiffleball, or anything. Just make it fun with your friends and play as much as possible.

* Blackmon recalled that Isotopes Park was one of his favorite ballparks in the minors. He loved the background for hitting, the energy of the crowd, and how the design of the ballpark makes you feel like the fans are on top of you. (It didn't hurt that he went 6-for-18 with two home runs and five RBIs during a four-game series in 2011.)

* Unofficial historian Gary Herron dug up his scorebooks from 1987 and found the four-game series that Weiss played for the Tacoma Tigers against the Dukes at Albuquerque Sports Stadium. Weiss went 3-for-16 with four walks in the series, highlighted by an RBI triple in Tacoma's 7-4 win on August 20, 1987.

* Huge thanks to Gary's son, Jesse Herron, and his business partner Michael Silva, for transporting everybody around in the Abq Trolley. If you live here locally, or plan on visiting, check them out. And if you're a Breaking Bad fan, you must go on their BAD tour.

* And finally, since everybody wanted to know: Bridich said green chile, Weiss said green, Morneau said green, and Blackmon said Christmas.

For more photos from the event, follow me on Instagram: @josh_suchon

The Rockies and Topes posted lots of great photos and content on their Twitter accounts.

Links from the local media:

Albuquerque Journal: Rockies visit Albuquerque

Examiner: Rockies caravan rolls through Albuquerque

KRQE: Here comes the Colorado Rockies

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