First, the Albuquerque Isotopes lost their 2020 baseball season.
Then, on Nov. 27, they lost their vice president of corporate development, Nick LoBue, who died in an Albuquerque hospital of complications from COVID-19. He was 71 years old.
“I’m still numb, trying to process it all,” Isotopes General Manager John Traub said. “Nick is a guy who loved the Isotopes — he was a reason for our success. He was more than an employee, more than a co-worker, more than a colleague — he was absolutely part of the backbone of our franchise and we are going to miss him immensely.”
Traub said he knew LoBue was in the hospital, where he’d been admitted a week prior.
“I’ve been in touch with the family this whole period, you know,” he said. “We were all hoping for a better outcome. We’re just shaken to our core.”
But, Traub said, LoBue was more than a savvy executive.
“He had such an impact on so many people,” Traub said. “His family was No. 1 to him all the time, and he always talked about taking his family to Italy to see where his ancestors came from.
“In the summer of 2019, he was able to fulfill that dream. I know he was really grateful for that,” he said. “He loved Rio Rancho (The LoBues’ home was on the North Nine of what was once the golf course), and he loved the Isotopes more than words can describe.
“He loved folks from all areas of the community,” Traub added. “He had a way of making people feel that he cared about them and his family.”
LoBue was raised in Chicago, where he was a devoted fan of the Chicago White Sox, especially the great Go-Go Sox squad of 1959, and, ironically, the first ballplayer he met was famous Chicago Cub Ernie Banks.
At one time the general manager of the Iceoplex (Now The MAC) in Rio Rancho, LoBue was the general manager of the New Mexico Scorpions.
With the Isotopes since they began operations as the triple-A farm club of the Florida (now Miami) Marlins in 2003, LoBue told the Observer in a feature story a few years ago that, “I started learning the business and reinventing myself (with the pro hockey team, 1999-2001). I learned sports marketing there. There was something new every night.”
His son, Andrew, played hockey for Rio Rancho High School; his daughter (Lauren) owned the Grove Café & Restaurant in Albuquerque; another daughter of Nick and Judy LoBue, Lisa, lives in Denver and works for Pepsi, Traub said.
“He was a genuine human being, with no false pretenses,” Traub said. “He had a way to command a room that is unmatched by many.
“He was like a brother to me, personally. I know that’s cliché to say, but we were locked at the hip since the construction of the stadium; he was hired in August of 2002.”
Services for LoBue had not been announced by press time Friday.
Through the years with Nick LoBue, who thoroughly understood “the art of the deal.” (From Observer preseason stories, 2010-19.)
2010: “We always under-promise and over-fulfill. That’s a mission statement from (team owner) Ken Young.”
2011: “We’re here as family entertainment. You hear this from me every year but it hasn’t changed: People come here and they have a good time.”
2012: “It’s a beautiful park, a new-looking park, and the show is as good, hopefully as good, or better.”
2013: “(Isotopes games are) a getaway from the daily grind. And, by the way, there happens to be a ballgame. They’re here to have a good time; enjoy the show.”
2014: “We have created a great show while putting on a baseball game. Every part of our organization runs on all cylinders, from the green grass to the great food and the ‘shows’.”
2015: “Everything with the Rockies organization is going to be better; the ‘regionality’ (proximity to Denver) makes too much sense.”
2016: “We just get so much support from the community that it’s just outstanding. We try to be very good corporate partners, as you know, not just from the fans’ standpoint, but from the corporate perspective.”
2017: “I’m 68 years old now and enjoying and doing something that I enjoy doing. It’s a pleasure to come into the office every day.”
2018: “(Promotions) do sell tickets. That’s the bottom line. There’s a fine line you’ve got to walk between promotions and entertainment that entertains.”
2019: “That’s what we’re playing to — we always answered what the fans have asked us for,” he said. “We want to put on a better show than we did last year, and what we did the year before, and so forth and so forth, and that’s what it’s really going to take.”