El Paso has produced a wide array of celebrities, ranging from Sandra Day O'Connor (the first woman ever to serve as a Supreme Court Justice) to film star Alan Tudyk (who you may remember from Dodgeball as Steve the Pirate or Rogue One as the brusque droid K-2SO), but few, if any, are as beloved or instantly recognizable as the seven-foot tall canine mascot of your El Paso Chihuahuas.
Aside from being an enormous lovable pup, what is it that makes Chico so special compared to other mascots? Is it the fact that in college he majored in the Recognition and Retrieval of Tennis Balls with a minor in Bone-Burying? Or perhaps the fact that he was classically trained in barking and his favorite pastime is sticking his head out of the plane window whenever the team goes on the road? Obviously yes, all of those things are a part of it, but those aspects are not really what make Chico stand out from the rest of the mascot crowd, so much as his continued and dedicated involvement in the El Paso community.
Since the team's inception in 2014, Chico has made more than 1,500 appearances all over the Southwest region, from school events to birthday parties to the first ever Bravos fútbol game across the river in Juárez, Mexico. More impressively, that figure doesn't even include the 200+ games played here at Southwest University Park since the inaugural campaign that Chico is always easily visible at, using his world-class distraction antics on unsuspecting visiting players and rallying the home crowd into a frenzy. While that is undoubtedly an integral component in the lifestyle of any proper mascot, some mascots are content to only show up whenever the home team is in town. Such is most definitely not the case with Chico.
As Chico himself put it: "____________________________________________". He later elaborated on those comments, saying: "_____________________________________________________________".
Everything Chico does is for his community. They have been so good to him over the years that he just wants to give back, and the only way he knows how to do so is to be with them as much as he can. Chico has seen anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 local students through his school appearances and education programs every single year, totaling nearly 400,000 students over the brief four-year team history. If you think that sounds like a lot for a Minor League Baseball mascot, you would absolutely be correct. Chico's two to three appearances a day all year round paces nearly all of the minor leagues, with the Toledo Mud Hens and the Fresno Grizzlies being the only other teams that even come close to those numbers.
One of Chico's favorite ways to get involved in his community includes helping with the development of various educational programs. These programs serve to educate and engage area students in such topics as reading and anti-bullying. The annual National Red Ribbon week, for example, teaches students of all ages about drug awareness and helps to raise discourse on the subject; while the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. anti-bullying campaign, the most popular school program throughout all of Texas and southern New Mexico, informs kids about the four types of bullying-physical, verbal, social, and cyber-and how to best recognize and address each of them. Chico is also involved with prep for S.T.A.A.R. (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) testing, advising students how to be "ready, relaxed, and rested" for the testing.
"It is very fulfilling to hear teachers tell us how Chico's visits impact their students and inspire them to do their best socially and academically," said Andy Imfeld, Chihuahuas Manager of Promotions and Community Relations and Official Chico-walker. "Chico makes learning fun!"
In addition, Chico loves to participate in career days, explaining to kids what it is like to work in sports and furthering their knowledge of what the sports world is all about, while explaining what the path looks like to get into the industry. Chico is also a champion of literacy programs, getting kids excited about and more involved in reading in a number of ways, such as creating mad libs stories with younger students where their teachers serve as characters in the story they create together.
On his experiences with school visits, Chico eloquently and emphatically stated: "____________________________________________________________________________________________________".
Whether Chico is acting out a story for a group of students, engaging them intellectually, challenging them to improve themselves and their community, or simply making them laugh by sitting on their teacher's lap, you can easily identify that a sincere connection is being made. Observing Chico at these events, making these types of personal, lasting impressions, is genuinely something special to behold.
When Chico is scheduled to make a school appearance, for example, students will excitedly put up signs welcoming him. When he's out in public or meandering around the ballpark in search of un-chewed bones or just the right squeaky toy, random people will stop him and ask for his autograph or for a picture together. He is frequently asked to make appearances at birthday parties and corporate events or serve as the grand marshal of various holiday parades around town all year long.
Chico is not just figuratively an ambassador of the city, either, but literally one as he represented El Paso in the state capitol at the legislative sessions of the "El Paso Days in Austin" both in 2017 and 2015. The reason for all this, you see, is that people recognize the reality that Chico is more than just a mascot, much more.
Chico is a prominent and beloved member of the El Paso community. He is a distinct and recognizable ambassador of the city. He is adored and admired by hundreds of thousands of students all over the area for how he gives back in a unique and intimate way that only Chico can. He is the face of your Chihuahuas, and one of El Paso's finest.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.