EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — It has been a waiting game for the El Paso Chihuahuas, but the countdown is almost over.
The last time we saw baseball at Southwest University Park was September of 2019, after the 2020 Minor League Baseball (MiLB) season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With Opening Day at Southwest University Park scheduled for Thursday, May 13, the Chihuahuas will have gone 20 months in-between pitches at the downtown ballpark.
“We relish the opportunity to come back and get this ballpark open again,” said Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor. “I think everything that we feel along the way is that people are excited to get back and I’m thankful for their trust to come back with us.”
Southwest University Park will operate at 70% capacity to begin the season and face coverings will be required of fans and ballpark staff.
It’s not just fans and staff members that are excited to return to baseball, the players and coaching staff are also eager. Edwin Rodriguez is returning for his second season as the manager of the Chihuahuas and has been in Peoria, Arizona, at the San Diego Padres’ spring training complex since February. With the MiLB season pushed back from April to May, Rodriguez and the Padres’ minor leaguers have been participating in what has functioned as an extended spring training.
“Most of the time it has been intersquad games and it has been very valuable,” said Rodriguez. “Sometimes we play eight innings, sometimes we play 10 innings and we get all our work done.”
Rosters have yet to be finalized, but with the Padres so active during the offseason and trading some of their top prospects for proven big league talent in an attempt to make a move in the National League West, the Chihuahuas roster will look very different since the last time we saw them on the field in 2019.
“Everyone is going to be new to El Paso. I don’t think we have any players that were there [in El Paso] in 2019 and everyone has been coming to me with questions [about El Paso],” said Rodriguez. “I’m excited to start the season, the players are excited to start the season, and I keep telling them — if you’re going to play in the minor leagues, El Paso is the place to play.”
Rosters are expected to be announced by the San Diego Padres within the next week. Individual tickets for the Chihuahuas 2021 season go on sale on Saturday.