Opening Day is Here: Fresh-Looking Chihuahuas Embark on Season 6
Ah, there's nothing sweeter than opening day at Southwest University Park and six years feels like it's soared past us.
That's a good thing, right? The novelty hasn't worn off, the excitement is still here and four-straight Divisional Titles suggests that the baseball itself is still going strong.
This year will have a new feel to the ballpark though. The Chihuahuas now share Southwest University Park with their soccer counterpart, the Locomotive FC, with soccer branding everywhere across the stadium. Still, the groundskeepers make the transition from soccer to baseball so swift and makes it hard to distinguish from one another.
They will have a new look in the dugout as well. New manager Edwin Rodriguez will succeed Rod Barajas, who was promoted to a bench coach for the Padres. He is excited for the upcoming season with a lot of talent on the team.
"We're ready to start this season," Rodriguez said. "We excited about being here in El Paso. We were in Peoria, Arizona and I can tell you these guys were ready to start the season two weeks ago. Excellent facilities, great fanbase so we're excited about the whole situation."
The pitching staff for the Chihuahuas has been bolstered by a young, talented bunch. It starts with the younger pitchers like Logan Allen, who is a 21-year old prospect that was named Double-A Texas League Pitcher of the Year in 2018. Opening Day starter Jerry Keel will be a treat to watch as he returns to the Chihuahuas having played for El Paso at the midway point last year. One of the most impressive young arms that could spend significant time at San Diego in El Paso's rotation is Cal Quantrill, a 24-year-old pitcher that was the eighth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft.
"San Diego is in a great spot right now," Quantrill said. "We have a lot of talented pitchers here. I think a lot of guys are fighting to get wins here and move up to the next level. We're here to win, pitch well and show that we deserve to play at the next level."
For players by position, the Chihuahuas have a nice mix of young and veteran talent on their team. Returning players like Ty France and Jose Pirela will provide some veteran guidance, while Rodriguez sees a ton of leadership potential from second baseman Luis Urias, who will probably spend a good chunk of the season in San Diego.
Having the veterans mentor younger guys like Austin Allen and Josh Naylor will help the young prospects develop better in the farm system.
"Just continue to work hard and be the best player I can be," Naylor said. "I got a lot of help last year and that's just me—try to work hard and be the best I can be."
Opening pitch is slated for today at 7:05 p.m. versus the Las Vegas Aviators at Southwest University Park.