Andres Acosta / El Paso Herald-Post
They will leave the footprints of legends.
The current stars of Triple-A Baseball and the future stars of Major League Baseball will convene in El Paso in July.
The always-fun Home Run Derby will be Monday night, July 8, and the Triple-A All-Star Game will be Wednesday night, July 10.
The 30 teams in the Pacific Coast League and International League will showcase Minor League Baseball, Southwest University Park and El Paso in a fun-filled game that will be televised live on the Major League Baseball Network. More than 100 alumni from this game are currently playing in the Major Leagues.
The future stars will be right there. And perhaps there will be even more than future stars.
“The lineup for this All-Star Game could have prospective Hall of Famers on the field,” said Pacific Coast League president Branch Rickey.
And this is an opportunity, an opportunity to glimpse greatness that will not dance around very often.
“There are just two Triple-A leagues and there is no other way than to alternate it between leagues each year,” Rickey said. “It is a bidding process. A team has to reach out and ask for it. Of course, our top priority is to show off our newest ball parks. But the list is a long one to host this game. We are backed up and that is a wonderful thing.”
Rickey said El Paso and Southwest University Park was at the top of that list.
“Everywhere you go around the league, people want to tell you about El Paso,” Rickey said. “Everyone who has been here is so impressed – with the ball park and with the atmosphere of the fans.
“You come into El Paso and boom, here is Southwest University Park tucked beautifully into downtown,” Rickey said. “I love this park. I never get tired of it. This place is a flat out gem. The architecture is crisp and clean. Where else have you seen two buildings in the outfield, connected together by walkways? It allows an openness … there’s an openness to this ball park.”
Rickey gazed out over the ball park and added, “The second deck is close to the action. You are closer to the action than at any other ball park. It’s a place where I like to wander around, look at the game from different spots.”
The Home Run Derby is always a fun event at any level. This 2019 version of the Triple A slugfest should be more than a little breathtaking. The Chihuahuas alone or on pace to break the Pacific Coast League team home run record. There will be balls launched into the desert air in that event that will simply swipe the breath of the most seasoned fan.
The game itself will offer El Pasoans not only a chance to see the best of the PCL, which they see at times during the regular season, but also of the International League … a group they almost never get to see.
The Chihuahuas are now in their sixth season, have notched 400 wins and are approaching three million fans. The team, thanks to the parent club San Diego Padres, have won four straight PCL Pacific Southern Division championships and won the entire Pacific Coast League in 2016.
It has been an enormous success.
But, if first impressions mattered, this baseball fiesta might not have ever begun.
Smiling, then chuckling, Rickey said, “When I was first approached about Triple-A baseball in El Paso my answer was no. I just didn’t think it would work.”
What changed his mind?
Smiling again, Rickey said, “A meeting with the prospective ownership.”
The ownership group from MountainStar Sports Group put together an impressive program and has backed up every promise.
“That is one of the things we look at when awarding this All-Star Game,” Rickey said. “We want someone who knows how to put on big events. We’ve had this ownership put on our National Championship Game and they did an outstanding job.
“The All-Star Game is our premier event for showcasing Minor League Baseball,” Rickey said. “We schedule it on the only dark day in Major League Baseball, the day after their All-Star Game. Our All-Star Game will be the baseball showcase that night.”
It is, quite simply, an opportunity to see the best of the best on a typically fun night at Southwest University Park.
“The stars of the future are coming your way,” Rickey said.
They will play the game with a special flair, with their own special gifts and they will swipe your breath and create memories for a lifetime.
They will, after all, leave the footprints of legends.
Bill Knight is a contributing writer for the El Paso Chihuahuas. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.