EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The wait to see Fernando Tatis Jr. in an El Paso Chihuahuas uniform at Southwest University Park was more than worth it for thousands of Sun City sports fans who came to see El Nino on Tuesday night.
The Chihuahuas lost to the Albuquerque Isotopes 13-12 in the first game of a six-game series, but the loss didn’t do much to dampen a day the club has waited years for. Tatis Jr. famously skipped Triple-A on his way to the San Diego Padres in 2019, so this was the club’s first chance to see him on their home turf.
Tatis Jr. went 3-4 with an RBI and a stolen base in his first game at Southwest University Park. Tatis Jr. batted first and played in right field again for El Paso, in his fifth game with the club as the San Diego Padres superstar continues his rehab assignment in Triple-A.
“He’s competed very well, he’s run the bases the way he always does with excitement and energy,” Chihuahuas manager Phillip Wellman said. “He’s played well in right field. I think another week’s worth of at-bats he’s ready to cut the cord and go on his way.”
He’s eligible to return to MLB on April 20 from an 80-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Tatis Jr. played four games for El Paso on the road last week in Sacramento. As of now, he won’t be available for interviews while he’s in El Paso.
Tatis Jr. emerged from the dugout about 20 minutes before first pitch, to thousands of fans waiting and hoping to get an autograph from or a photo with the Padres’ popular young star. He stopped outside El Paso’s dugout and signed autographs for about five minutes pregame.
“It’s great for El Paso,” Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor said. “If you think about it, one of the best players in Major League baseball has already worn our city’s name across his chest on the road in Sacramento. Now the people of El Paso are going to see one of the elite players in the world right here at their ballpark, Southwest University Park. It’s great to have him here in a Chihuahuas uniform on his path back to the Padres.”
When the game started, his immense talents were on full display. Tatis Jr. singled three times, the last of which drove in a run in the fifth inning, his third RBI with the Triple-A club. Tatis Jr. is hitting .353 in five games with El Paso.
It remains to be seen how many games Tatis Jr. will play during El Paso’s six-game homestand, but Wellman said on Tuesday to expect to see him in the lineup at least four or five times as he ramps up his work rate before returning to the Padres on April 20.
The Chihuahuas will host the Isotopes for the second game of the series on Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Southwest University Park.