Since the affiliation in El Paso began, 59 Chihuahuas have subsequently made their major league debut and 52 of those made their debut with the Padres. | Photo by Andres Acosta – El Paso Herald Post
Baseball America announced Monday afternoon that the El Paso Chihuahuas are the recipient of the Triple-A Bob Freitas Award given annually to an organization that recognizes their community involvement, long-term business success, and consistent operational excellence.
This is the first time the Chihuahuas have been presented the Freitas Award, named after longtime minor league baseball ambassador Bob Freitas, and marks the second time the Chihuahuas have been recognized in 2020, receiving Minor League Baseball’s (MiLB) Golden Bobblehead in September for Best Community Event.
“Our organization is incredibly proud to be recognized by Baseball America with the Freitas Award,” said MountainStar Sports Group President Alan Ledford. “Our success is a direct result of an ownership group which has invested in and supported our organization and this region in an extraordinary way, an amazing community which has embraced the Chihuahuas and Southwest University Park, and a staff which is incredibly dedicated and talented. This combination of attributes is unbeatable and ultimately responsible for our success.”
With the cancelation of the 2020 season by Major League Baseball and MiLB, the Chihuahuas turned their focus from games to community, creating programs that include service, online engagement, and ballpark events.
In July of this year, the Chihuahuas launched the largest of these programs – the non-profit organization (NPO) program, providing their respective expertise in areas of marketing, promotion, development, operations and general administration to the non-profit sector in El Paso which has been negatively affected by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Since launching, the Chihuahuas staff, completed more than 1,200 hours of service in just a few months, increasing community engagement to a level that usually takes a year to accomplish.
Apart from the NPO program, members of the front office contributed more than 200 hours as part of Career Day appearances, and the team’s mascot, Chico, also committed to serve and raised more than $10,000 for the MountainStar Sports Group Foundation in community, birthday & graduation parades and partnered with area school districts to join online classrooms. Recently, El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank received a CommUNITY grant through the Chihuahuas from Minor League Baseball Charities.
With the number one social media following in all of MiLB, the Chihuahuas engaged fans via social media platforms including Opening Day at Home, the rebroadcast of the 2016 Opening Day home game, Chihuahuas Chatter presented by Budweiser Select, a variety show featuring Chihuahuas play-by-play broadcaster, Tim Hagerty and special guest appearances, and Turbo Trivia presented by Helen of Troy.
They hosted events, such as Father’s Day Catch on the Field presented by Bank of America, the 9-1-5K Virtual Race, and Movie Night at the Ballpark, presented by Texas Gas Service.
Apart from 2020, and since the gates opened at Southwest University Park in 2014, more than 3.3-million guests have attended Chihuahuas games and the team has won numerous awards for providing the highest quality and most memorable affordable entertainment in a safe first class and family-oriented environment every day and every game.
These achievements are only a small part of what MountainStar Sports Group (MSSG), the owners of the Chihuahuas, had in mind when they purchased the team in 2012. With four local owners, Woody Hunt, Josh Hunt, Paul Foster and Alejandra de la Vega Foster, and led by President Ledford and Senior Vice-President and Chihuahuas General Manager Brad Taylor, MSSG has seen their mission come to fruition: to improve the quality of life and foster economic growth in the El Paso, Juarez and Southern New Mexico region.
“To see the complete body of work over seven years by our ownership and staff get recognized with the prestigious Bob Freitas Award, is truly an honor. I am proud of our staff for continually representing our core values so consistently,” said Taylor.
Southwest University Park has seen its share of premier MiLB events since it opened its doors in 2014. The Chihuahuas hosted the 2015 Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game, 2019 RMHC Triple-A All-Star Game and Jarritos Home Run Derby, all of which were nationally televised and played in front of standing room only crowds.
The team also hosted one of the MiLB’s major industry events, the 2019 Minor League Baseball Innovators Summit™ and Trade Show.
The Chihuahuas have also become a significant partner in community endeavors. Since 2014, the Chihuahuas staff and the El Paso Chihuahuas Foundation helped local organizations raise more than $1.5 million through in-stadium fundraising, provided $1.2 million in monetary donations and $150,000 in in-kind donations.
Since Opening Day in 2014, downtown El Pao has benefited from more than $450 million in private investment. As a result, the more vibrant downtown features new office buildings, hotels, apartments, condominiums, bars and restaurants, and an energy that has not been experienced for decades.
The Chihuahuas, alongside El Paso Locomotive FC, are currently taking donations for a virtual toy drive – the Chico and Ozzy Holiday Giveback presented by Helen of Troy. The initiative will help raise money to purchase toys for children at Child Crisis Center of El Paso and the Lower Dyer Community Center, a proud partner of the GECU Foundation. The two organizations have been adversely affected by COVID-19.
“MSSG takes significant pride in ensuring that Southwest University Park is always a first-class facility recognized as one of the best venues in MiLB,” club officials added. “MountainStar Sports Group has invested more than $19 million (including $3.25 in 2019) into the City-owned property to continue to innovate, design and build new, exciting attractions.”