"I'm Here for the Churros!"
"I'm Here for the Churros!"
A T-shirt emblazoned with this message, accompanied by a drawing of an anthropomorphic, mustachioed churro decked out in San Jose Giants gear, is available for purchase at the Giants' team store. This is, surely, the only officially sanctioned Mexican-dessert-referencing piece of apparel in all of Minor League Baseball. Its existence was motivated not just by the churros themselves, but by the man who first brought them to Municipal Stadium over two decades ago and who continues to sell them to this day.
Hipolito "Paul" Cerda -- aka "Super Churros Man" -- is a ballpark icon.
Cerda has resided in the San Jose area for the past four decades. He got his start in the commercial food industry while still in his teens, selling milk and honey in his native Mexico. Upon moving to the United States, Cerda found employment "here and there," working construction and assorted odd jobs as a means to get by. Making churros -- a fried-dough pastry, crispy on the outside and soft within -- was, at least initially, a hobby.
"I started just for the family, then we decided to share with the people," said Cerda, speaking during Aug. 4's San Jose Giants game. "I liked it myself and I said it was good to share with everybody and I started selling outside of the churches. Then I got involved with the baseball."
He continued, "I have a friend of mine, my neighbor, she was married to someone who worked here. She tried the churros before in my house and that's how we got involved. She introduced me [to the San Jose Giants]. They got to know me and they like the quality, so I did it little by little."
The combination of Cerda's product and his ebullient personality soon made him a fan favorite.
"I say, 'Churro, churro, churro time, best churros!'" he said. "And then I just try to make them laugh. I like to play around with the people. Because if you don't joke, you don't sell, so you have to. I try to get attention and the people like it like that.
"They say, 'I was looking for you!' and I say, 'Yeah, I was looking for you too!' I think I know most of the fans, from here and the Salinas Rodeo, because I do everything in there, too. So I know people from all over.... So this town, the people come, and they tell me sometimes, 'I come just for the churros' and that makes me happy. I don't just work for the money. I like the people and I get my exercise too, up and down, so I enjoy it."
Juliana Paoli, San Jose Giants senior vice president of communications, said Cerda is one of the team's "most coveted treasures."
"We always knew that Paul was incredibly special, but this became even more evident about five years back when fans made T-shirts with his photo on it that said, 'I'm only here for the churros,'" noted Paoli. "It was apparent that the time had come to create an official logo for our infamous Churro Man, and even a T-shirt for fans to purchase in the San Jose Giants Dugout Store."
"That makes me happy too, because that means my business is getting a little bit better and its promotion as well," said Cerda of the T-shirts.
While he no longer makes all of the churros himself, Cerda said he "gets everything ready to go" and "keeps a good eye on it."
"I made the recipe," he said. "I think maybe in the future I'll share it, but now it's a secret."
And as long as Giants fans keep coming for the churros, Cerda will continue to sell them at the ballpark.
"Everywhere we go they appreciate it, and that keeps me going," he said. "I just try to make people happy."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.