After opening the Albuquerque Istopes’ road series against Sacramento on June 29 by going 1 for 4 with a double in front of an estimated 100-150 friends, family and supporters, who were among the Raley Field crowd that day, Dom Nunez couldn’t help but appreciate the hometown support.
“I think last night (Saturday), the headcount was anywhere between 100 and 150 people so it was pretty special,” Nunez said Sunday morning at Raley Field. “Last night I reflected on it a little bit on just how special it was to have that amount of people to show so much love and support for me. It’s been seven years since I played here in high school, obviously, so it’s pretty cool that seven years later, there’s a lot of people that still remember who you are and want to come support as much as they can.”
Nunez was a member of the Elk Grove Thundering Herd from 2009-2013. In his senior year, the team had five players who are now on minor league or Major League teams, including himself, Nick Madrigal, Dylan Carlson, Derek Hill and Ryan (Rowdy) Tellez.
As a first-year Triple-A catcher for the Isotopes, Nunez said that he has had a good first half and that he has learned from his team, especially veteran catcher Drew Butera, how to further his game.
Nunez had a .258 batting average prior to the Isotopes’ July 3 game against the River Cats, had 40 hits, 32 runs, 27 RBI and 10 home runs.
“It’s been a good year. Obviously you have ups and downs that the game of baseball brings. You just try to take a little bit when you have a down and take them to the next day and try to learn from them and use them to get better but overall it’s been a good year. My first year in Triple-A has been a good learning experience for me,” Nunez said.
In talking about the team camaraderie on the Isotopes, Nunez naturally mentioned the Isotopes other catcher, Butera, who has played in the big leagues since 2010 with teams ranging from Minnesota to the Angels to the Rockies.
“As far as players, the biggest thing for me is probably Drew Butera. Being another catcher, he has eight-plus years of service time and a World Series ring so I think just learning from him has had a large impact on my career and definitely this year overall, I’m just trying to pick his brain as much as possible,” Nunez said.
On July 1, Nunez went 1 for 4 with a run and a walk in the Isotopes’ 9-5 win over the River Cats.
In tackling something he thought needed improvement before the 2019 season started, Nunez said tweaking his swing has helped him.
“I think the biggest thing was this off-season, going down and having a little bit of a swing change. For my offense, it’s definitely helped me more than anything, to relax and have confidence in the box against good pitchers and I think the way that I prepare on a daily basis has been a big change for me, probably more from the mental aspect on a day-to-day basis, just preparing and getting ready to face different pitchers or whoever’s on the mound that night.”
Nunez was drafted in 2013 by the Rockies and after making the move from Double-A Hartford to Albuquerque in March, he set his mark as a part of Isotope history: on April 21, Nunez became the first Isotope since 2010 to hit three home runs in one game.
Nunez ended up going 3 for 4 with six RBI and four runs in that game, which the Isotopes won 23-2 over Tacoma.
In tackling any challenges this year during the season, Nunez said that instead of focusing on mechanical changes to his game, he has found that visualizing success and keeping a steady approach through the highs and lows has been something on which he has focused.
He is also enjoying and making the most of his time with his team.
“This team learns pretty well. I think you have a handful of guys that are first year in Triple-A and then you have a handful of guys that are veterans. So it’s been a good mixture, a really good clubhouse and our coaching staff is really one of the best coaching staffs,” said Nunez. “They keep guys wanting to have success every single day.”