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ALBUQUERQUE — To introduce the new manager of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Los Angeles Dodgers organizations called upon their own former manager.
Tommy Lasorda, the great Dodger manager who steered the team to two World Series titles in the 1980s, was on-hand at the Isotopes’ press conference Wednesday to introduce Tim Wallach, a former Major League All-Star who spent three years with the Los Angeles club.
The Isotopes, the Triple-A club that has played in Albuquerque since 2003, changed MLB club affiliations over the winter.
Prior to the Isotopes, the Albuquerque Dukes were the Triple-A farm club of the Dodgers.
The Albuquerque Dukes relocated to Portland in 2000, leaving New Mexico without a professional baseball team.
The Isotopes were a feeder of the Florida Marlins until this winter.
“We had a great relationship with the Marlins,” Isotopes president Ken Young said. “It’s tough to part ways, but the Dodgers mean a lot to this community.”
Lasorda, one of the more colorful personalities in the big leagues in recent history, managed the Dukes to their one and only Pacific Coast League championship in 1972.
He said Albuquerque has been a great baseball town for many years and was glad that the Dodgers and the state of New Mexico are together again.
“I was very happy when I found out,” Lasorda said. “I talked to (assistant general manager of player development) De John Watson … and we made a decision to come here when they had the opportunity to do it.”
Lasorda now acts as a special advisor to the Dodgers’ chairman. He has kept a close relationship with the Dodgers since his retirement from management in 1996.
Wallach, meanwhile, will take over for Dean Treanor, the Isotopes’ manager under the Marlins’ organization. On their roster of spring training invitees, not one of last season’s players remains.
This will be Wallach’s first season managing at the Triple-A level.
He arrived in Albuquerque Tuesday when he got his first look at Isotopes Park and said he was amazed how nice the facilities were and being around the organization in general.
“Right now, I’m more excited than anything else,” he said. “I get to see what I’m going to have and get to meet the players, have a back-and-forth with them. I haven’t looked forward too far, so I don’t know what I’m going to have yet.”
Wallach played 13 seasons with the Expos before joining the Dodgers. Lasorda said he had a great deal of respect for Wallach when he played against him.
“One game, he hit a double to beat us,” Lasorda said. “The next game, he hit a home run to beat us...when was with the Expos, I wanted to have him drilled.”
Wallach, who remembered being hit by the Dodger pitching staff, said he asked Lasorda for several years after if the drilling had been intentional and Lasorda always denied it until after Wallach retired.
Wallach said his most important job was to prepare his players for playing and winning at the Major League level.
“It’s a thrill to manage for the Dodgers,” he said. “Managing at this level ... if I haven’t helped develop players that (Dodger manager) Joe Torre can win with, I haven’t done my job.”
Young said he thought Wallach was an excellent fit for the Isotopes, not the least of reasons being because he had been an exceptional ballplayer in his day.
“The players really respond to that,” Young said. “All the players’ goal is to get to Los Angeles. Tim, that’s someone they can listen to. He gave his all, day-in and day-out.”
Young said the Isotopes were prepared to re-sign their franchise agreement with the Marlins, but he’d heard that the Dodgers weren’t all that happy with their Triple-A franchise in Las Vegas, Nev.
Despite that, Young was certain the Dodgers would still re-up with Las Vegas and he and his franchise would’ve re-signed with Florida immediately afterward.
When the Dodgers didn’t re-sign with Las Vegas, Young and the Isotopes acted quickly to get in touch with Los Angeles.
Because Albuquerque has a significant Los Angeles fan base, Young said he felt he needed to take a chance to back under the Dodgers’ umbrella.
“The fans have been loyal (to the Dodgers) going back to the Dukes’ days,” Young said. “We wanted to get back with them if we could.”
The Isotopes will start their spring training schedule March 20 at the Dodgers’ new Cactus League facility at Glendale, Ariz.
They open their regular season at home April 9 against Omaha.