The Albuquerque Isotopes are but one of 33 teams participating in the Copa de la Diversión, Minor League Baseball’s new multicultural marketing program tailored to attracting local Hispanic and Latino communities to the ballpark. The Isotopes did show off how to do the promotion right when they transformed into the Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico as part of their Cinco de Mayo celebration that included special mariachi jerseys, Mariachi bands and Ballet Folklorico dance groups, and pinatas hanging from the ballpark entrances.
Albuquerque’s promotion not only attracted a record crowd to Isotopes Park, but also earned the Pacific Coast League franchise the top promotion award for the month of May and a spot among the finalists competing for a coveted Golden Bobblehead at the Minor League Baseball Promotional Seminar in Des Moines, Iowa, in September.
It is certainly an honor well-earned. Not only did the Isotopes—or rather, the Mariachis de Nuevo Mexico—attract a team record 16,975 fans to the ballpark, they also were a hit on social media with 107,977 total Twitter impressions between the Isotopes and Mariachis accounts. The rebrand was equally successful at the merchandise stands, with the team reporting record-breaking sales. The team has said it plans to incorporate the Mariachis identity more frequently in the future.
Albuquerque beat out four other worthy promotions for the honor, which we highlighted earlier this month. They included:
- Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Half-Off for Hunger
- Greensboro Grasshoppers, Royal Wedding Celebration
- El Paso Chihuahuas, First Bi-National Play Ball Event
- Frederick Keys, Cool Runnings Night
Chuck Greenberg broke into minor league baseball on April 1, 2001, after completing the purchase of the Altoona Curve. A minor league outsider whose experience in sports grew out of overseeing the sale of his hometown Pittsburgh Penguins to his client and friend Mario Lemieux, Greenberg has grown into one of the most successful and influential owners in minor league baseball.
In the 16 years since his purchase of the Curve, Greenberg has grown his minor league stable by adding the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and State College Spikes in 2006, selling the Curve back to previous owner Bob Lozinak in 2008, and buying the Frisco RoughRiders in 2014. He oversaw the purchase of the Texas Rangers out of bankruptcy court in 2010 and briefly served as team president before resigning due to a dispute with co-owner and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. Greenberg sits on the board of trustees for Minor League Baseball and helped create the Baseball Internet Rights Company (BIRCO).
What follows is my conversation with Greenberg about his path in minor league baseball — which while not traditional, could serve as a blueprint for aspiring owners and executives — as well as his views on the state of the game. The transcript has been edited in spots for length and clarity.
It’s been over 15 years since you broke into minor league baseball. Coming from outside of the sport, what was your inspiration for buying a minor league team?
Ironically, today April 1, is 16 years to the day we closed on the purchase of the Altoona Curve. So, it’s been 16 years today. We had our first game on Thursday, April 4, and it was quite a scramble to get ready. I only brought in two people, Parney [Todd Parnell] and Rick Janac, and we got handed this string of keys and we didn’t know which key opened up the men’s room or anything else. But we figured it out and had a great opener with [former Steeler] Jerome Bettis throwing out the first pitch and it’s been a blast ever since.