Triple-A All Star week was a huge hit for El Paso baseball fans.
More than 7,500 fans attended the Jarritos Triple-A Home Run Derby on July 8, when Reno’s Yasmany Tomas won the event with 59 home runs over three rounds. Chihuahuas infielder Ty France did not disappoint the home crowd, losing to Tomas by just one home run in the semifinals.
The most remarkable thing about the Derby was watching so many baseballs disappear into the night sky at Southwest University Park. Team officials estimate that 250 home runs were hit by the eight competitors, and many baseballs cleared the ballpark entirely and landed on Santa Fe Street.
The following night, MountainStar Sports Group held an invitation-only gala in San Jacinto Plaza. All Star players, their families, executives from every Triple-A team and Chihuahuas season seat holders were invited to attend the event, which featured live music and free food and drinks. The mixer was a terrific way for El Paso to showcase Downtown to everyone visiting from Triple-A baseball – and all of them raved about the gala.
Hot game, hot day
The Ronald McDonald House Charities Triple-A All Star Game was held July 10 – the hottest day of the year in El Paso. The temperature peaked at 104 degrees, and by the time the game got underway, fans were still cooking in temperatures in the upper 90s.
The extreme temps did not keep people away from the ballpark; in fact, 9,706 fans attended the game.
They were treated to the same offensive show by the Pacific Coast League that the Chihuahuas have demonstrated all season. France and fellow Chihuahua Luis Urias homered for the PCL, and their 9-3 victory over the International League marked their third-straight win in the midseason classic.
What was even more impressive than the final score was the number of people who traveled to El Paso to watch the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game.
Jaime Arrieta, who grew up in Socorro and lives in Alamogordo, attended the ballgame. He arrived at Southwest University Park in his trademark San Francisco Giants jersey and engaged with fans from Indianapolis, Omaha, Buffalo, Round Rock, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
“They were surprised that El Paso was so far away from the rest of Triple-A baseball cities,” Arrieta said. “They all stayed at the hotels around the park and many were impressed with El Paso’s friendliness and baseball knowledge.”
Showcasing the community
It could be a long time before Southwest University Park gets another opportunity to host the Triple-A All Star Game.
There are 30 different cities in the highest level of Minor League Baseball, and many of them will want the same chance to showcase their community like El Paso.
“The events surrounding the RMHC Triple-A All Star game certainly showed the other 29 Triple-A cities and out of town sponsors and guests the beauty, spirit and hospitality that El Paso offers,” Chihuahuas general manager Brad Taylor said.
“One consistent theme throughout the week from our numerous out of town visitors was that they had no idea what a gem our city is. It was an honor to host this and put El Paso on a national stage,” Taylor said.
“Twenty-nine other cities want to showcase their city as we did, and this game may not come around again for decades. The citizens of El Paso should feel proud that they welcomed these people in and sent them back home as ambassadors for our community.”
Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at email@example.com.