2020 Freitas Awards: El Paso Chihuahuas (Triple-A)
The first week of March, Brad Taylor flew to Arizona, part of a small front office contingent from the El Paso Chihuahuas. Taylor, the club’s senior vice president and general manager, was having a standard, annual preseason meeting with executives from the San Diego Padres, for whom the Chihuahuas are the Triple-A affiliate.
Almost immediately after he returned to El Paso, he realized he would be navigating through a very different season than he was talking about just days earlier.
“One thing we weren’t going to do is sit around, wondering what’s next,” said Taylor, who is also the senior vice president of MountainStar Sports Group, which owns the Chihuahuas.
The Chihuahuas stood up, pivoting amid the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and using a lost season to still make an impact in the El Paso community. The Chihuahuas are the recipient of Triple-A Freitas Award, which recognizes the top overall operation at each level of the minor leagues.
The Chihuahuas and their employees have worked this year with nonprofit organizations in the El Paso community that have been devastated by the financial impact of the pandemic. According to a team spokesperson, employees have provided more than 1,000 hours of cumulative support to 27 different organizations, including the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank, United Way, BorderRAC, Coalition for the Homeless, and Kelly Center for Hunger Relief.
Employees have given help in the form of delivering food to veterans and people without housing. And they’ve also lent support in areas like marketing, sales, website design and videography, crucial elements for these nonprofit organizations to be able to connect with the broader community.
That the Chihuahuas were able to pivot so efficiently, Taylor said, is a credit to the organization’s ownership. Despite the pandemic, the organization kept its entire staff intact without furloughs or layoffs.
“This community has done so much for us since we got here in 2014,” Taylor said.
He added that nonprofits “rely on giving to literally function. When they have to furlough or lay off people, some of what they lose is the marketing-type things. We figured that was a place we could really fill a hole.”
Taylor and the rest of the Chihuahuas organization are already looking ahead and hoping to welcome back the community next season at Southwest University Park. Since March, Taylor said, the organization has mapped out different contingencies for a new normal. They’ve hosted small outdoor events at the stadium—like high school graduations that have provided trial runs for different protocols, such as fans entering the stadium in a touchless manner.
Taylor, who has worked in professional baseball for more than 25 years, is optimistic about the future of minor league baseball even amid perhaps its most daunting season. He worries about younger people who are just entering the field. He got his start in Huntington, W.Va., where there is no longer a minor league team. He hopes good people aren’t driven out of the business.
“We’re all built differently working in minor league baseball,” Taylor said. “Our adrenaline is the event, getting to the event, putting on the event and serving our communities. It’s what moves us.
“We miss it. We hope it’s going to continue to normalize itself, so that we can have a season and get back to what we enjoy, which is hosting events and people and having us here and be with us and watching what we all love, which is minor league baseball.”