By this time of year, El Paso Chihuahuas fans are usually finding their way out to Southwest University Park to enjoy baseball games.
This, though, is not a normal situation as both major- and minor-league baseball seasons have not started due to COVID-19 affecting cities and ballparks across the United States.
The Chihuahuas can’t map out their schedule until Major League Baseball reaches agreement between its owners and the MLB Players’ Union on when to start spring training. Owners agreed to a proposal for an 82-game 2020 season but the union has yet to give its response.
Brad Taylor, senior vice president for MountainStar Sports Group LLC (which oversees both the Chihuahuas and El Paso Locomotive FC soccer team) and Chihuahuas’ senior vice president and general manager, said the organization is thinking more about the cultural aspect of what is happening.
“It goes both for the Chihuahuas and Locomotive,” Taylor said, “We’re all suffering from not having our fans around, but there are bigger things going on in the universe right now.
“We still want to be of help out there and that’s especially been the case since Aug. 3 (2019),” he said, referring to the date when a gunman killed 23 people at a Walmart in East El Paso.
Gov. Greg Abbott this week cleared the way for sports to resume in Texas, without fans in the stands, on June 1. But the announcement is largely symbolic because the state’s professional sports franchises will take their cues from league offices.
One way that Chihuahuas and Locomotive players have helped fans stay connected is through using their social media platforms. Recently, the Chihuahuas put up a lengthy highlight reel of game-winning home runs. The team also has a weekly “Chihuahuas Chatter” show hosted by team broadcaster Tim Hagerty, who does interviews or offers fans a look back at Chihuahuas history.
“Both of our teams have done a great job at staying active with their social media accounts and contacts,” Taylor said. “The Chihuahuas have been putting up facts about the team regularly and re-airing old games for our fans.
“Among other things, what we have been doing for Chihuahuas fans is reach out to a lot of former players and interview them. We also are having contests where fans are being asked to send in the name of a nurse, firefighter, school teacher, or someone who deserves recognition for their hard work during these times.”
Locomotive players already were in El Paso for their full season. After one road game, though, their entire United Soccer League schedule was cancelled due to COVID-19. Chihuahua players for this year’s roster have not even made it to El Paso because MLB’s season was suspended.
Other teams in the Pacific Coast League, where the Chihuahuas play, are also in a wait-and-see mode. Team officials and representatives held conference calls on Wednesday to discuss their next steps.
“I’m the chairman for the PCL operations committee and we just had a call between teams keeping in contact with one another,” Taylor said. “I’ve been around for a few seasons, so you make sure that you have a number of good heads in common.”
On these calls, he said “we ask what they are doing in their towns to keep continually learning.”
“There have been a few times where I have found myself on Zoom calls with friends on the East Coast at night to talk and share ideas,” Taylor said. “We cannot do anything until Major League Baseball does something.”