Will The Chihuahuas Change Their MLB Affiliation?
The Chihuahuas just finished the most successful single season in El Paso baseball history. The team finished with a .500 record, they attracted 548,435 fans to Southwest University Park over 68 home dates, and the new stadium recently won the award for Ballpark of the Year from Joe Mock’s baseballparks.com website. Chihuahuas merchandise ranks among the best in all of Minor League Baseball, and their special jersey featuring a Chihuahuas face on the front was worn by Keith Olbermann and the ESPN SportsCenter anchors.
Despite all of their accolades, El Paso will enter its first offseason with some uncertainty surrounding its parent club. Major League Baseball’s affiliate agreements last two years and the Chihuahuas became the Tripe-A club of the San Diego Padres prior to the 2013 season when the MountainStar Sports Group purchased the franchise. At the end of this season, there could be plenty of affiliate shuffling around Triple-A baseball.
Although only three Pacific Coast League teams have changed major league partners over the last two affiliation shuffles, this offseason could turn into musical chairs. Here are the teams who could be involved:
Albuquerque Isotopes (Dodgers) Sacramento River Cats (Athletics)
Fresno Grizzlies (Giants) Round Rock Express (Rangers)
Nashville Sounds (Brewers) El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres)
Oklahoma City RedHawks (Astros)
According the Austin American Statesman, the Astros could try and move back to Round Rock after this season. Four years ago, the Express changed their Triple-A affiliation from the Astros to the Rangers, but the recent changes with the Ryan family could have a major impact on Round Rock’s future big league parent club. Reese Ryan, the youngest son of Nolan Ryan is CEO of the Express. Reese’s older brother, Reid is the President of the Houston Astros. Meanwhile, Nolan resigned as Rangers President last October and joined the Astros as their executive director. The Round Rock Express and the Rangers have a deal in place through 2018, but if both choose to end their agreement early, the Astros could wind up back in central Texas. That would leave the Rangers without a home and El Paso could be a possible destination for them.
The Chihuahuas have had a tremendous first year, and players love their new ballpark, fans, and the city. Although, the Padres are expected to sign another two-year agreement to play in El Paso, the Astros or Rangers might try and convince MountainStar Sports to move their Triple-A home to Southwest University Park. Both have Top 10 Minor League farm systems, play their home games in Texas, and have more direct flights from El Paso to Houston or Dallas than San Diego. If the Chihuahuas do become the Triple-A affiliate of the Astros or Rangers, then the Padres would either play their games next season in Albuquerque or Fresno. Regardless of the outcome, El Paso baseball fans will be the biggest winners since Southwest University Park and the Chihuahuas have quickly become one of the most sought after minor league ballparks and franchises in all of Triple-A baseball.