Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Thumbs up for the baseball gods

link Kevin Wilson

Staff writer

I had a conference in El Paso that ended 10 a.m. Sunday, and the El Paso Chihuahuas had a 1:05 p.m. first pitch against the Sacramento River Cats.

I logged on just in time to get the last ticket on the first-base side.

I didn’t know El Paso geography enough that I could comfortably drive there myself, but the city’s bus system offered $3 round trip from a station a half-mile from my hotel.

If you believe in baseball gods, you’d have to say they aligned things just for me on Sunday.

That was about the 20th professional baseball game I’d seen in my life, and Southwest University Park was my fifth different baseball stadium. It was my first time seeing an inaugural team on its first homestand.

The Chihuahuas started the year on a three-week road trip because of the delays in building the stadium. Oh yeah, it’s the stadium El Paso destroyed its city hall and a local museum to build.

The new tenants, the Chihuahuas, were the old Tucson Padres. The Detroit Tigers fan sitting in front of me said, “Weren’t they unpopular in Tucson?”

I responded, “I’m not sure why they’d be popular. Tucson’s less than an hour away from the Arizona Diamondbacks, a division rival of the San Diego Padres. I’m not sure that, ‘Hey fans, come see the players you’ll boo as major leaguers next year,’ was a great marketing slogan.”

That was one of a few conversations I had in Section 106, Row M, Seat 10.

We talked about the ballpark.

I liked that the outfield walls weren’t walls, but fences so fans could get a ground-level view of the action.

I didn’t like that it took me an inning and a half to get a specialty hot dog. There are many reasons for that, but the simplest might be that any restaurant would be slow if every single employee was in their first week. But I got to talk a little with David and Lance — we figured we should know each other, as long as we had conversed in line.

Oh sure, there were a few nice plays, like the two-run homer by Sacramento’s Nate Freiman. And there were the plays that made it minor league baseball, like the River Cats horribly misplaying a pair of bunts that turned what should have been a solo homer into a three-run blast.

But the game, a 7-4 Chihuahuas win, didn’t matter to me as much as my conversations with Luce, who ran a snack distribution company and sat to my right. Or Diane, whose family was only at the game because the kids’ youth baseball tournament didn’t go so well.

Or the guy who sat behind me on the charter bus back, who took a daily photo of the city hall destruction and ballpark construction. I was lucky enough to go to the game he’d picked to photograph the park from the inside, and he’s emailing me when the slideshow goes online.

There are few melting pots better than a minor league baseball game. When the tickets run between $8 and $18, you never know who’s going to be in Seats 9 and 11. The game matters, but so do the strangers you share it with.

Oh, one more thumbs up for the baseball gods. If you’re going to an afternoon game, sit first-base side in Row M. Nothing but shade all day.

Kevin Wilson can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 319, or by email:

[email protected]

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