PCL notes: Chihuahuas finally come home

SD affiliate ready for friendly confines of Southwest University Park

After playing 23 games away, the El Paso Chihuahuas will play their first game at home today. (El Paso Chihuahuas)

By Chris Jackson / Special to MiLB.com | April 28, 2014 10:00 AM

The El Paso Chihuahuas will get to do something today for the first time all season. They get to wear their home uniforms in their home ballpark as El Paso welcomes Triple-A baseball to town for the first time.

Prior to today, however, the Chihuahuas were the ultimate road warriors, playing 23 of 24 scheduled games away from West Texas.

"It's actually an interesting experience, more or less," catcher-infielder Cody Decker said. "We're sitting around on a 24-game road trip. That's more than twice as long as any other road trip any of us has been on."

So how does a team survive the mental aspect of living out of a suitcase for three weeks-plus? The Padres' Triple-A affiliate found a variety of ways.

"It's important to remember we play a kids' game for a living," Decker said. "It gets taken way too seriously way too often. And if you don't remember that this is a kids' game, you're going to lose your mind.

"There's a lot of outside variables. Guys are creeping their way in behind you. You've got fans that are all over you sometimes. You've got your numbers, they're not turning out the way you want to at that moment. There's so many things out there. If you can't just sit around and have a good time, have a good sense of humor about it, you're going to make yourself crazy."

Decker showed his humorous side and earned himself a small bit of fame by creating the online short film "On Jeff Ears," in which he and his El Paso teammates convinced veteran outfielder Jeff Francouer that pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf. Even manager Pat Murphy and his staff were in on the joke.

"It was fun going on with it for almost a month," utility player Alex Castellanos said. "Just letting it happen, just letting Jeff think that that's what's really going on. It got to the point that I thought he knew already that he wasn't deaf. Then one game he did some (hand) signals to him and I was like oh, man, this guy still thinks (he's deaf)."

It is that type of goofing around that can help keep a disparate group of players sane as they bounce from one city to the next for almost a month.

"In the PCL, the travel can be a little grueling at times," Decker said. "That's a nice way of putting it. What helps is we have a good group of guys. We're a tight-knit group and we have fun together. That helps a lot."

The Chihuahuas players will finally meet their new fans at Southwest University Park tonight at 7:05 p.m. PT.

"It's going to be exciting," Decker said. "It's a brand-new stadium. I know we have a fan base over there that's really excited to see us play. I think there's little things that are going to add on to it. It's always exciting when you get to play in a new place."

In brief

No decision, no problem: Colorado Springs lefty Tyler Matzek has pitched quite well in three of four starts this season, but has just one win to go with his shiny 2.18 ERA. The Rockies' No. 12 prospect has tossed 11 2/3 scoreless innings in his last two starts, but did not factor in the decision in either game.

Standing apart: Las Vegas right-hander Jacob deGrom may be overshadowed by fellow Mets pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, but so far he's been the best starter for the 51s. New York's No. 13 prospect has gone 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA while striking out 23 batters in 28 innings over five starts.

Bear down: Fresno suffered a loss when catcher Andrew Susac was placed on the disabled list this week, retroactive to April 22, with a concussion. The Giants' No. 4 prospect was hitting .291 with two home runs and nine RBIs, but the organization does not expect him to be out for too long.

Chris Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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