EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, minor league baseball is back around the United States.
Opening day for some leagues was last Tuesday; for the El Paso Chihuahuas in Triple A, they waited until May 6, with their first home game coming on May 13. But, after waiting for over a year, what’s an extra 48 few days?
The 2021 Chihuahuas’ opening day roster features some top future Padres, including the organization’s top prospect: Pitcher MacKenzie Gore. However, there’s also a lot of minor league veterans this season, who have had an interesting year.
With no minor league baseball in 2020, some players were on MLB taxi squads, practicing every day at an alternate site, hoping for a call-up during the 60-game season, but otherwise in limbo.
“I got to go with the Astros through the playoff run on their taxi squad, so I was still playing baseball almost to November,” said infielder Nick Tanielu, who is in his first season in the Padres organization. “I got lucky, not everyone got that opportunity and I was blessed with that.”
Some players were forced to go overseas to leagues in Korea, Japan and elsewhere; and others simply didn’t get to play at all, so they’re excited to hit the field in Thursday’s season opener.
“I got released on the first day of the alternate site, so I didn’t play at all last year,” said El Paso outfielder Patrick Kivlehan, who is back for his second stint with the Chihuahuas, after three separate Big League call-ups. “It was that anxious feeling of, ‘will I get a call or not,’ because the season was so short. It was stressful, but at the same time it was nice to have a summer at home with my wife and kids.”
The Chihuahuas are about to get their fill of baseball; they played their first series on the road at Tacoma; played their first home game May 13 against Albuquerque, the first game of a six-game home series with the Isotopes; and then hit the road again to play at Sugar Land.