Chihuahuas and fans go out in style as season comes to an end

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Chihuahuas and fans go out in style as season comes to an end

The El Paso Chihuahuas lost to the Fresno Grizzlies three games to one in the Pacific Coast

The El Paso Chihuahuas lost to the Fresno Grizzlies three games to one in the Pacific Coast

Andres Martinez

The El Paso Chihuahuas lost to the Fresno Grizzlies three games to one in the Pacific Coast

Andres Martinez

Andres Martinez

The El Paso Chihuahuas lost to the Fresno Grizzlies three games to one in the Pacific Coast

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

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On the fifth pitch of the at-bat catcher, Jason Hagerty struck out swinging, and just like that, the season was over for the El Paso Chihuahuas. There was a brief hush over the sellout crowd of 8,392, and the Fresno Grizzlies players rushed onto the field to celebrate as they advanced to the Pacific Coast League finals.

But the celebration by the Grizzlies was short and the muted crowd came alive again to salute their team one last time. Nearly every fan in attendance gave the Chihuahuas a standing ovation for over two minutes shortly after the loss.

It was indicative of the support the Chihuahuas have received all season. Never ending and classy as always.

“Just classy (fans),” said outfielder Jake Goebbert in reference to the standing ovation. “Classy baseball people, (who) understand the game, who want the best for our team and who enjoy and have fun at the stadium. It was a great atmosphere.”

The 17,697 fans who came out during the Chihuahuas’ two playoff games was the largest amount of fans to attend a PCL series in a two-game home stand this postseason. But the records do not stop there.

Back in August, the Chihuahuas welcomed their one-millionth fan over the course of the first two seasons in El Paso. Along with leading the PCL in attendance, the Chihuahuas have the most Facebook likes and Twitter followers in the PCL. The Chihuahuas are also first in the country in selling team merchandise, according to general manager Brad Taylor.

The Chihuahuas’ playoff run only lasted four games, but the two games at Southwest University Park were met with unbridled passion from the fans. It was an experience new to El Paso baseball and a new experience for the players as well.

Neither game set attendance records, but Southwest University Park was never louder.

After the Chihuahuas’ comeback win in game three on Friday (Sept. 11), Goebbert said the crowd noise compared to that of a San Francisco Giants playoff game.

“That was like playing for the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs,” Goebbert said. “That was the most electric crowd that I’ve ever been a part of. I was in San Diego when (Giants starting pitcher) Tim Lincecum threw a no-hitter, and that rivals it. It was incredible.”

Goebbert was on the bench for the Padres when Lincecum threw the no hitter at AT&T Park, he did not have an at-bat.

The references to the major league crowds did not stop there, manager Jamie Quirk, who is the foremost senior person on the team had an even bolder statement.

“The crowd was phenomenal,” Quirk said. “It’s the loudest group of people that I ever heard. I’ve been in five World Series and it compares to every one I’ve been in. They (the fans) were into it from the first pitch on. They were behind us, that’s for sure.”

Quirk was in three World Series as player, twice with the Kansas City Royals, winning in 1985, once with the Oakland Athletics in 1990, and he was a bench coach in the 2007 World Series for the Colorado Rockies.

Quirk is the third manager this season for the Chihuahuas and to his credit; he helped push a depleted and tired team to the playoffs.

“Our guys gave everything they had,” Quirk said. “They were dragging and playing on fumes for a month and a half. So there is nothing to hang our head about, we gave it everything we had and I think they (the players) can go into the offseason (proud).”

The Chihuahuas were more than nine games behind the first-place Las Vegas 51s and won 33 of 52 games in the latter stages to make the postseason. There was no shortage of contributions from Chihuahua veterans, newcomers and mainstays.

“We’ve played the game hard and the right way all season,” Goebbert said. “Coming back from nine and a half games down in July to win the division is something we can all be very proud of. Not everybody is going to go home a winner, but it was a great year and a great season.”

The outpouring of support from the crowd on Saturday night was all part of what has been a long and wild season.

“(It’s been) a rollercoaster,” Goebbert said in reference to the season. “We had our high moments, we had our low moments, then we really pushed and pulled together as a team at the end. I don’t know if I have had a more fun team to be around.”

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]

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