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A Night in the Minors: Mariachi's Edition

Posted by nmtwinsfan , 22 August 2018 · 645 views

Growing up in Minnesota during the days of Kirby, Hrbie, and World Championships I developed a love of not only the Twins but the game in general. I went to dozens of Twins games as a kid, making the three and a half hour trek one way to Minneapolis usually a couple of times each summer, and would often attend either Redhawks games or whatever semi-pro type teams that made Grand Forks their home. As an adult, I took my love of baseball (and traveling) and started making Minor League games a big part of my summer vacation plans and have seen games across the country from New Britain to what became my city and state in Albuquerque and New Mexico.

If you've attended Minor League Games you know that the promotions department go out of their way to find new and unique ways of bringing in fans. These events are often local in flavor and tend to embrace the history and culture of the area or recognize important individuals. Throughout the years I've attended games with Star Wars themes, 1980s nights, recognizing local UFC fighters (where else can you get a Holly Holm bobble head but at a, um, baseball game?) and my favorite, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air night complete with a first pitch and autographs from Carlton himself, Alfonso Riberio. With this in mind, I want to show you how one team, the Albuquerque Isotopes, transformed themselves into the "Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico" in a Minor League wide promotion and effort to celebrate Hispanic culture and heritage.

The "Copa de la Diversion," or "Fun Cup" was a Minor League-wide promotion where a number of teams changed their team names and uniforms for the night to become their Hispanic themed counterparts. While they typically related to the original nickname, for example the Omaha Storm Chasers became the "Cazadores de Tormentas" or the Dorados de Sacramento, the Isotopes took on a whole new persona as the Mariachis. Isotopes Park was converted into, "The Plaza" for a fiesta and included music, dancing, a "grito" competiton, and of course, ridiculously good Mexican food (I had the Mariachis Carnitas Nachos, muy, muy, delicioso). The crowd, no doubt influenced by the cervezas and margaritas, was loud and enthusiastic as they cheered on their Mariachis towards victory.

The Mariachis brought in sold out, or nearly, crowds for all four of their games. The first, played on Cindo de Mayo, brought in a record crowd of over 16,000 which even outdrew major league teams that evening (I mean, it was the Rays and all, but still pretty cool to out draw them). This is not surprising when you consider the Spanish and Hispanic founding and influence of Albuquerque goes back to the early 1600s and Spanish colonization with the area not becoming territory of the United States until the mid-19th century. Baseball also has a strong presence in Albuquerque, as the presence of Minor League and later affiliated ball goes back over a hundred years to the Dukes in the early 20th century. This combination made Albuquerque an ideal team to participate in the Copa de la Diversion.

One of my favorite things about Minor League baseball, and its promotions, is the merchandising. As Yogurt would say, that's where the "real money" is, and the Mariachis did not disappoint. Sugar skull themed jerseys, shirts, and hats were seen all around the stadium and of all the years and games and places I've been to, I would have to say this was some of the coolest apparel I've seen. I didn't get any pictures, but if you go to the Mariachis store you can see what I mean. In addition to the merchandise for purchase, the team also gave a way beer steins at one game and the bobblehead pictured below (for which I arrived 2 hours early to get). Of the 4 years I've attended Isotopes games, I haven't seen any other merchandise as popular as the Mariachis and there was in fact a waiting list for some of the shirts and the jersey.

The promotions staff with the Isotopes did an amazing job with this promotion, as they do with almost every promotion they put on. The love of the game, for their fans, and for the diverse culture and history of Albuquerque was evident in the way they put the games on. For comparison, I went to a different Copa de la Diversion game in Omaha, and they did barely anything for the game at all other than wear different uniforms and hired a Spanish speaking P.A. announcer to introduce the players. After seeing what the Mariachis did to make the night such a success, it seemed like what Omaha did was the bare minimum. Perhaps it's because Omaha doesn't have the rich Hispanic culture like Albuquerque, but having been to Omaha the last few years, there is certainly a thriving population and the team could have done more to appeal to those fans as well as to show appreciation in general for the impact Hispanics have had on baseball and society. Overall, I would have to say the Copa de la Diversion was successful, and would love to see Minor League Baseball do it again next year.

Oh, wait, I almost forgot, there was a baseball game that night too. The Mariachis defeated the dastardly el Dorados by a score of 7-1. The Mariachis hit two homeruns, solo shots by 2B Pat Valaika and LF Stephen Cardullo, and got 8 strong innings from up-again, down-again Jeff Hoffman. Brendan Rodgers, MLB.com's #6 overall prospect, went 1-4 with a run. The Mariachis finished the season going 3-1 in Copa de la Diversion games.

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