EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember, regularly attending Major League Baseball (MLB) games at stadiums across the country. As much as I love MLB, I’ve always had a soft spot for Minor League Baseball (MiLB) and everything that comes with it.

From the small-town atmosphere to player accessibility, promotions and the affordable cost (in comparison with MLB) to attend games, baseball has a different feel to it down on the farm. It’s professional baseball in its purest, most personable form, which I believe is a unique draw for baseball fans.

Out of everything I mentioned, though, nothing comes close to seeing big league superstars making rehab starts at MiLB ballparks. Case in point would be Fernando Tatis Jr., who is currently on a rehab stint with the El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres) as he continues to serve an 80-game suspension after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2022.

Despite the controversy surrounding Tatis, few names in the game pack a punch the way his does. Tatis was in the lineup on Tuesday night for the Chihuahuas, going 3-for-4 in his first career start at Southwest University Park.

A crowd of over 7,000 packed the downtown ballpark to take part in “Taco Tuesday & Brews,” but let’s be honest, the fans came to see the man they call “El Niño” take the field in their own backyard. Tatis isn’t the first big name in MLB to play at Southwest University Park, but the excitement and scene around these rehab assignments never gets old.

Fans — young and old — came to the ballpark over an hour before first pitch on Tuesday to catch a glimpse of Tatis in the home dugout. They brought their jerseys, cards, balls, bats and whatever else they could find for him to sign.

For baseball fans who have been around the game for quite some time, these experiences in a place like El Paso take you back to the good old days. It’s the little things that matter most when it comes to falling in love with the game of baseball.

The smell of fresh cut grass and concessions filling the air, players putting the fundamentals of the game first and not forgetting what makes this game so special: the fans. It’s the little things that sometimes get overlooked at MLB ballparks. The love of the game can sometimes take a backseat to the bottom line.

For the players, I imagine it also takes them back to a place where they fell in love with the game. Sure, Tatis is focused on getting in his work so he can get back to San Diego to help the Padres try to win their first-ever World Series title, but I’d have to think his experience this week at Southwest University Park brings back a series of memories that got him to the point in his career he is now, one of baseball’s most-recognizable superstars. 

I’ll say this, Tatis also deserves a lot of credit for embracing the moment like a true professional. He took the time to interact, sign autographs and take pictures with El Paso’s youngest baseball fans who became lifelong “El Niño” fans.

Moments like these make lasting memories. It’s what makes MiLB so special, the perfect reason why you should secure tickets to a Chihuahuas game this week before “El Niño” goes with the tide to back to San Diego.

If you have a topic you want us to discuss on “Views from the Anchor Desk”, send your ideas to amorgan@ktsm.com.

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