How bad was the Cornonavirus outbreak in El Paso?
At one point up to a thousand people a day were being infected in a city with a metropolitan population of just under a million. With minor league baseball shut down, the Chihuahuas, who moved to the Sun City in 2012 from Tucson could have easily furloughed the staff until next year when the vaccine, and stadium revenue, would become available.
However, they didn’t do that.
Two of the team’s four owners, Paul Foster and his wife Alejadra De La Vega Foster, who was born in El Paso, are significant philanthropists in the area. One of the reasons they bought the Tucson Padres and spearheaded the drive to build Southwest Field, a state-of-the-art minor league stadium, was a belief that bringing baseball back to a community that had lost two minor league teams and saw college baseball at the University of Texas-El Paso disappear was part of making the city a better place to live.
Another part was also not leaving their employees out in the cold.
“All of us were really grateful to our ownership group that from the beginning decided not to furlough anyone,” said Brad Taylor, the Senior Vice-President and General Manager of the Chihuahuas, who has been with the team since baseball returned. “Because one of the reasons they brought the Chihuahuas here was for the community and we wanted to do what we could to support our community in its time of need that has meant so much to us.
“From the end of June through December we did over 1,300 volunteer hours. One of the things that we were really proud of was that we were able to assist a lot of non-profit groups that had to lay off employees because of the Pandemic, by loaning them our social media people to get the word out to assist with food drives, such as helping El Pasoans Fighting Hunger.”
One advantage that the Chihuhuas have over the Padres’ other minor league affiliates was that they were able to host games of their soccer club in the USL Championship (a second division soccer league team), the El Paso Locomotive FC at Southwest University Park. “We never really had to take our foot off of the gas and because of the regulations in our state we were able to have games with 1,800 fans,”said Taylor.
“We now have sanitizer stations all over the ballpark and we have done the legwork. We will be able to have fans in the stands but it’s going to be safety first; we won’t do it unless it’s right.
“Right now we are lining up everyone for when games start in our priority queue, so we can get everyone here that wants to be here.”
Triple-A will be a little different than the rest of minor-league baseball this season with the start of its season concurrent with the major leagues.
For Taylor, that can’t come soon enough.
“I’m probably like everyone else in this business, just the energy that gameday brings,’ said Taylor when asked what he missed the most about a lost season. “Walking down the halls and seeing everyone putting out their best effort, seeing the fans that have been with us for the past six years, the corporate partners that make so many things possible, the police and EMT – just everyone.
“I’ve been doing this for 26 years and get energized by the game day events that are a product of us being able to execute our plans.
“It’s also just a lot of fun.”
Tomorrow we chat with Burl Yarborough, the President of the Double-A San Antonio Missions and the Padres return to the Alamo City.