Who doesn’t like hitting grand slams? — Shortstop Alan Trejo
Considering the frenzy of fun and excitement it sends fans into, the button has a rather unassuming, maybe even boring name.
And for the “home run siren” button on the main computer in the Isotopes Park control room – the one smashed every time an Isotopes player launches a ball over the outfield fence – the end of the season can’t get here soon enough.
The Isotopes are on a record-setting pace for home runs this season – a blistering pace even for a team playing half its games in a ballpark, and city, well known around the country for decades (dating back to the pre-renovation Albuquerque Sports Stadium days) as one of the most home run friendly places in all of baseball.
Not only are the Isotopes on pace to shatter the franchise single-season record of 212 home runs, but with 12 grand slams already under their belts, they are within striking distance of what is believed to be the all-time minor league record of 13 hit in a season by the 1995 Indianapolis Indians of the Double-A American Association/
They also are closing in on the all-levels record of 14 in a season set by two Major League Baseball teams – the 2006 Cleveland Indians and the 2000 Oakland A’s.
So why is this year’s team on such an impressive, breakneck pace of homers even in an era when every team is trying to do what they are doing?
“We’ve got a lot of good players that can hit homers,” Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer said, rather matter of factly, when asked that question earlier this week.
“I mean, we brought in some free agents that can hit homers – guys like D.J. (Peterson), (Carlos) Perez. You do that and you can hit a lot of homers as a team because we also have a lot of young guys coming up (in the system) who can hit ’em.
“We’re talking a lot of timely homers, too. Guys who can already hit, combined with them working the right way with their approach to what they’re doing up there is putting them in a position for good things to happen.”
Entering Wednesday’s late home game with the Round Rock Express, the 54-63 Isotopes had hit 192 home runs on the season through 117 games – a pace of 1.63 per game.
That is the second most in all of affiliated, professional baseball, behind only the New York Yankees at 199. But the Yankees reached that number in 124 games, putting them at a slightly slower home run pace of 1.60 homers per game.
The next closest minor league team in home runs is fellow Pacific Coast League member El Paso, which had hit 180 homers through Tuesday night’s games.
And lest one think the homers are just about the high-elevation of Albuquerque – which make the partnership with the Colorado Rockies whose home field in the high elevation of Denver a perfect match – the numbers aren’t as lopsided as you might think.
Albuquerque had hit 101 homers in 55 home games and 91 in 62 road contests coming into Wednesday.
Shortstop Alan Trejo, who has 15 home runs and three of the team’s dozen grand slams this season, said there’s no denying the players are well aware of the record pace they’re on when the bases are loaded.
“One hundred percent. Who doesn’t like hitting grand slams?” said Trejo.
“But our team is oriented around getting runs whenever we can. So, when there’s bases loaded, our plan is just to get one guy in. If you get two or three guys in, that’s a bonus. And a grand slam is even a bigger bonus on top of that, but it’s never about changing our approach up there. It’s just about driving the ball, not trying for home runs.”
First-year hitting coach Jordan Pacheco, the La Cueva High School and University of New Mexico alumnus, says the organization has done a good job of filling its farm system with hard-working players who trust the work they put in outside of the games, so when a high-pressure situation like being up to bat with the bases loaded comes up, it doesn’t faze them.
“I think that shows you the work that they put in,” Pacheco said. “They trust their work and they trust the hitter they are. They’re not trying to do too much. They’re trying to put a good swing on the ball and they’re in a good spot to hit. That’s all you can ask for.”
Most home runs in 2022
Team home runs in all of affiliated baseball (MLB and MiLB)
1. 199 – NY Yankees (124 games – 1.605/gm)
2. 193 – Albuquerque Isotopes (118 games – 1.636/gm)
3. 192 – Atlanta Braves (126 games – 1.524/gm)