Jose Cuevas, second from left, is shown with (from left) wife Rocio, son Jose Cuevas III, Roberta Duran and mascot Orbit. (Mike Sandoval/For the Journal)
The Albuquerque Isotopes try to make every fan feel special at every game. Jose Cuevas says when he and his family come to any of the “10 or 12” games they attend a season, they always feel welcome and have a good time.
Nevertheless, when the Albuquerque man walked through the first-base gates into Isotopes Park at about 6:15 pm Thursday and was greeted with balloons and a hug from team mascot Orbit, he wasn’t sure what was going on.
“They were taking so many pictures. I told my kid, ‘Hey, pose for the pictures,’ Cuevas said.
When it was explained to him by Isotopes Marketing & Promotions Manager Dylan Storm – maybe for a second time – that he was being honored as the Isotopes’ 10 millionth fan since their first game in 2003, a smile hit his face that he couldn’t shake.
“It’s really nice; a great experience,” said Cuevas, who was wearing a Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico hat and was at the ballpark with his wife, Rocio, and 12-year-old son, Jose Cuevas III.
“We’re never gonna forget it. We’re gonna talk about it (forever).”
The ‘Topes gifted Cuevas a jersey with the no. 10 – the name on the back read “Million” – and a free trip to the location of their choosing, flight tickets courtesy of Southwest Airlines and hotel courtesy of Marriott.
Also on hand to meet Cuevas and shake his hand was Roberta Duran, who in 2003 was officially the first ticketed fan to walk through the gates at Isotopes Park.
“It’s amazing,” said Duran of the moment. “This is a livelihood to the city. … Our kids grew up here. I grew up here. It’s just part of my life. Baseball is just part of my life. I just love it.”
Duran worked for the city of Albuquerque in 2003 and then was a contract manager who was involved with the Isotopes’ rental deal with the city for the ballpark. She also worked in the Isotopes Park per shop a few years after retiring from the city job.
“This is my baby,” she said of the stadium. “I just feel like this is home.”
SYMBOLIC: Ticketing is a complicated thing. And pinning down the exact 10 millionth fan with 100% accuracy is a tall order, especially with three entrances around the stadium letting fans in simultaneously.
The Isotopes did the best they could, but did hedge a bit with their postgame statement at the moment by calling Cuevas the “symbolic” 10 millionth fan.
“We are thrilled to welcome Jose Cuevas and recognize him as the symbolic 10 millionth fan in club history, which is emblematic of the wonderful success the franchise has enjoyed since our inaugural season in 2003,” said Isotopes general manager John Traub in a statement.
CHEERS! Earlier in the day, the Isotopes and Albuquerque-based Safe House Distilling Co. unveiled the “Mariachis Margarita” – a canned, ready-to-drink margarita cocktail that will be sold at Rio Grand Credit Union Field starting with Saturday night’s first Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico game of the season.
The drink will be sold the rest of the season and at various locations around the state starting Monday.