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Prospect Jordan Beck homers in Isotopes debut, fans enjoy Opening Night

Mar. 29—Thursday, Jordan Beck shook his head when asked if he had any Opening Day memories that stood out.

"I don't necessarily know off top of my head," the 22-year-old former University of Tennessee star outfielder now playing for the Albuquerque Isotopes said. "All opening days are super fun, obviously. Good energy. ... But I can't really say I've had any amazing memories."

Friday might not rise to the level of "amazing", but his fourth-inning, 450-foot, two-run home run launched over the centerfield wall — his first homer at the Triple-A level and responsible for the first two runs of the 2024 Isotopes' season certainly made for a memorable debut.

Unfortunately, he also accounted for the final out of the game — striking out with a runner on first in a 6-5 loss to the visiting El Paso Chihuahuas — the start of a three=game home stand and Game 1 of 150 for the team's 21st season.

Beck led Albuquerque's offensive charge, going 2-for-4 at the plate with a walk, a home run and two RBIs. His ninth-inning strikeout, his only one of the game, was the Isotopes' 15th of the night, a new franchise record for Opening Day.

But, as always, Opening Night — or any night at an Isotopes game — is hardly about the outcome on the field.

"We always have a blast here," Maria De La Fuente, a regular at Isotopes Park and the old Sports Stadium before that. "I come here with my sister and we probably watch 20 games a year or so. Can't beat a night with a beer and some baseball."

Beck's fourth-inning homer gave the Isotopes a chance to test out their new toy purchased in the offseason.

Seconds after Beck smashed a 1-0, one-out pitch from Chihuahuas starting pitcher Nolan Watson into the small green shrubbery beyond the outfield wall, Kris Shepard, the Isotopes director of video operations and production and his crew flipped the switch on the fancy new LED lights system to offer a strobe-like light show as Beck and teammate Sam Hilliard rounded the bases.

The successful, multicolored light show — which is expected to accompany all Isotopes home runs — seemed to be a hit with the announced opening night crowd of 6,118.

Among them, 7-year-old Allie Alibre, was surely happy, even if she didn't yet know the name of Beck, or any other Isotopes player.

"I like Orbit and I like the Isotopes," she said, wearing her new red, Elmer Fudd-like ear flap hat with an Isotopes logo on the front — a pregame giveaway to the first 3,000 fans in the ballpark.

She and her dad, Henry, were enjoying a close look at the Perfection Honda billboard out beyond the left-field bullpens — Allie was fascinated to learn it wasn't a large board at all but a tarp stretched out over a metal framing — when a reporter stopped them to talk to them about Opening Day.

It was a first for Allie, and one of many through the years for Henry, a Milwaukee Brewers fan who was making his first stop at an Isotopes Opening night.

"They do great with making this fun for a family like ours, even when they (his kids) don't know the team all that much," Alibre said.

MOMENT OF SILENCE: The Isotopes asked fans to observe a pregame moment of silence Friday for five people: New Mexico State Police Officer Justin Hare, who was killed in the line of duty on March 15; longtime Albuquerque Police Department Officer Lou Golson, who died last week after a long battle with cancer and who threw out the first pitch on Isotopes' Opening Night in 2015 after being shot in the line of duty; Rio Grande High School player Isaac Venzor Prado, who died this past week; former Isotopes usher Cliff Tanner; and longtime Isotopes season ticket holder Ron Jaynes.

RENT DUE: Isotopes General Manager John Traub presented Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller with a large, oversized check for $1,788,119.49 in a pregame ceremony.

The annual novelty check passing symbolizes the percentage of gross receipts revenue the franchise gives the city for use of the stadium since 2003.

OFF THE COURT: The back-to-back-to-back Class 5A state champion Volcano Vista boys basketball team was asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday.

With his team standing behind him, many donning their free red ear flap giveaway hats handed out at the stadium gates to the first 3,000 fans, head coach Greg Brown fired a strike to guest catcher, Keller, who did set that large oversized check down long enough to catch the first pitch.

FAST FOOD: Taco cruised to an opening night win in the fan-favorite chile races, edging Green Chile at the tape.

Inexplicably, there was no celebratory light show after the triumph.