EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Baseball is back in the Borderland.
The El Paso Chihuahuas, in conjunction with Major League Baseball (MLB), released their 2021 schedule on Thursday. The Chihuahuas are scheduled to open the season on April 8 at Salt Lake against the Bees (Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A affiliate). Opening Day at Southwest University Park is scheduled for April 22 against the Oklahoma City Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate).
“Seeing this schedule renews the excitement for everyone — from fans, to team members, to front office and game day staff that baseball and the Chihuahuas will be back at Southwest University Park in 2021,” said MountainStar Sports Group Senior Vice President and Chihuahuas General Manager Brad Taylor. “All of us are thrilled to get back to what we love.”
After the 2020 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chihuahuas’ 2021 schedule is made up of 72 road games and 70 home games as part of a full 142-game schedule that will run through September 21. Series and travel will look different this year due to the on-going pandemic. All 30 Triple-A teams will play six-game series beginning every Thursday and wrapping up the following Tuesday. Wednesday will be a designated travel day for clubs.
As KTSM reported earlier this week, the plan at Southwest University Park is to allow limited fans through the gates to at least start the baseball season, similar to what we saw at the downtown ballpark for El Paso Locomotive FC home matches. However, those plans have yet to be finalized.
“Whatever that looks like, we’re excited to pull it off,” said Taylor. “I’m glad we got practice last year by doing Locomotive games. We’ve had this ballpark and this facility open. We’ve hosted 1,500-to-1,800 fans safely and socially distanced and perhaps we start that way, but we don’t know what that number is yet.”
The schedule announcement comes a week after the Chihuahuas announced the signing of a 10-year Player Development License (PDL) with MLB, extending the affiliation with the San Diego Padres through the 2030 season.
Under the new PDL, the Pacific Coast League (PCL) is no more. The Chihuahuas will fall under a new system that realigns them in a new league – Triple-A West – competing in the East Division. The new division includes familiar foes in the Albuquerque Isotopes (Colorado Rockies’ Triple-A affiliate), Oklahoma City Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate), and Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate). The Sugar Land Skeeters (Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate) is the fifth team in the East Division.
The new alignment allows for significantly closer geographic proximity to other teams in the division as well as proximity to parent clubs, which reduces in-season travel for players and coaches.
“We are excited to unveil this new model, which not only provides a pipeline to the Majors, but continues the Minor Leagues’ tradition of entertaining millions of families in hundreds of communities,” said MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. “In modernizing our Minor League system, we prioritized the qualities that make the Minor Leagues such an integral part of our game while strengthening how we develop professional athletes on and off the field. We look forward to demonstrating the best of our game throughout local communities, supporting all those who are working hard to grow the sport, and sharing unrivaled technology and resources with minor league teams and players.”
Southwest University Park was quiet in the spring of 2020, but the buzz is back in 2021, albeit, with a much different look.