Former UNM baseball coach Ray Birmingham kneels to thank fans of Isotopes Park after a video tribute to him on Saturday night. (Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal)

A week ago, Ray Birmingham ceremoniously – and fittingly – donned a cowboy hat and rode off at sunset after a 43-year baseball coaching career in New Mexico. , most recently as head coach of UNM Lobos.

On Saturday night, he was already back to teach the game.

Before Birmingham, 65, was honored at Isotopes Park with the launch of the first pitch and an emotional video tribute to his four-plus decades of coaching in the state, he joined The Journal in a video call from pre-game with 36-year-old Albuquerque Isotopes manager Warren Schaeffer.

Ray Birmingham shows his grip as he used to throw the first pitch on Saturday night at Isotopes Park. . (Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal)

“Tommy Lasorda and Bill Virdon told me a long time ago that it is about people,” Birmingham said when Schaeffer asked what the key to longevity in the sport is. “Do not forget it.”

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He said he was already a big fan of young coach Triple-A, whose Albuquerque Isotopes beat visiting Las Vegas 5-3 in front of 7,145 fans announced.

“You are a good manager or you wouldn’t be where you are,” Birmingham told Schaeffer.

The two managers shared their love for “hard-line” baseball, their common bond and their love of the game.

Both recognized that baseball has become more of a challenge in getting young players to adhere to a common team goal. But neither has given up hope for the future of the game.

“Ray said things are changing and the kids (have) changed these days,” Schaeffer said. “But baseball stays the same, man. And I can learn a ton – I learned a ton from guys Ray’s age who grew up in this organization.

“In my opinion, a lot of the good things about the game are lost. Lots of these diehards – just knowing how to win is kind of a bit behind the curve. But these are things you can learn from the elders, there is no question. I hate to call you an elder, Ray, but you know what I mean?

Birmingham fired back: “I’m an elder, so go ahead, let me tear it up.”

Schaeffer has already shown as a manager the same kind of intensity and fire in his playing days at Virginia Tech and in six minor league seasons that began when he was drafted in the 32nd round by the Rockies in 2007.

Brian Cavazos-Galvez, a Manzano High graduate and former UNM Lobo and Albuquerque Isotopes player, was a surprise catcher for Ray Birmingham’s ceremonial first pitch on Saturday night at Isotopes Park. (Jim Thompson / Albuquerque Journal)

That same year, the Rockies also drafted a UNM ninth round receiver named Jordan Pacheco – someone Birmingham thinks very hard of and Schaeffer has grown close to as the two developed in the Rocky Mountain organizations.

“His best friend is Jordan Pacheco, and Jordan Pacheco is a tough fighter,” Birmingham said when asked if he would have liked to coach a guy like Schaeffer. “He’ll come after you. He wants to win and the end result is to win.

Schaeffer added: “I think he would like my attitude on his team, but he wouldn’t want my bat in order, that’s for sure.”

“We would have fixed it,” Birmingham said.

THIS FIRST PITCH: As Birmingham has fired strikes for the ceremonial first throws in recent weeks in Colorado Springs and San Jose, Calif., During its retreat tour around the Mountain West Conference, Saturday’s pace has sailed high, but with some circumstances to note.

The first was the 1 hour, 3 minute rain delay between the warm-up and the pitch itself. Second, the receiver surprised Birmingham had no idea of ​​arriving until he turned back to home plate after watching an emotional video on the scoreboard beyond the left field wall.

It was Manzano grad, ex-Lobo and ex-Isotope Brian Cavazos-Galvez.

“I had no idea he was going to be there,” Birmingham said. “He’s like a son to me.

HE SAID IT : On his retirement, Birmingham said he has made up for lost time with his family, but baseball is barely absent.

“Baseball is a good drug and I’m an addict,” Birmingham said. “… But I have grandchildren and sons and a wife who were home alone while I crossed the country and I have to hurry and reimburse them for their departure. I have to fix the dishwasher.

‘SUNDAY TOPES: Vs. Las Vegas

6:05 p.m., 610 AM / 95.9 FM,

PROMOTION: Distribution of insulated lunch bags

LIKELY: RHP Aviators Grant Holmes (0-1, 11.07) vs. RHP Brandon Gold Isotopes (1-2, 6.10)

SATURDAY: 2B Rio Ruiz shattered a draw with a sacrifice fly late in the seventh inning and the Isotopes reliever box was again impressive in a 5-3 win over Las Vegas in front of an announced crowd of fire. fireworks for 7,145 people. (Click here for the box score.)

TRANSACTIONS: Colorado called LHP Ben Bowden and Lucas Gilbreath of Albuquerque.

(Click here for the updated Triple-A West leaderboard.)

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