By Paul Geneson
If Southwest University Park, the home of the El Paso Chihuahuas, is a kind of baseball palace, its prince must be Tim Hagerty, the team’s fresh-faced play-by-play announcer.
Upstairs, at the highest level of the ballpark, Hagerty sits in a high-tech booth and makes sense of the activities swirling around him. A special monitor provides him an up-close view of the batter below, and lets him call the balls and strikes.
For Hagerty, holding a position in professional baseball seems to be a natural progression. His family in Massachusetts consisted of baseball fans. He allows as how he has always “been passionate” about the sport. And growing up in the Boston area, Hagerty fell under the spell of the legendary Boston Red Sox.
“Fenway Park is a big part of why I like baseball,” he said.
Married for four years and now father to an 18-month old son, the 35-year-old said his wife is “OK” with wherever baseball takes the family. “She knew that would be part of our lives,” he said.
Baseball has provided Hagerty the opportunity to find romance in traveling the country. “I love to travel,” he said, adding that he has been to 49 of the 50 states. Diverse crowds and ballparks afford him a series of new challenges: “They are different audiences.”
He admitted to being pleasantly surprised on first meeting El Paso fans. Moreover, while he has been confused with the political Haggerty’s of this city —“I never voted for your uncle,” a fan told him — he enjoys being recognized as the team’s resident baseball expert. “You want to be someone people want to talk baseball to,” he said.
Hagerty also counts himself fortunate in being able to hear stories about the city’s baseball history. Former El Paso Herald Post sports editor and writer Ray Sanchez told him about interviewing New York/San Francisco Giants’ superstar, Willie Mays, at old Dudley Field. He has heard about fans waving tissues at El Paso Diablos games, and he’s talked with former, legendary Diablos’ owner, Jim Paul, about America’s favorite past time in the Sun City.
The fact that this season, the Chihuahuas have scheduled Wednesday home games as a tribute to the Diablos gives Hagerty a special feeling: He is becoming a participant in the long and varied baseball tradition in this city.
He looks back to four years ago when he barely knew El Paso. The team was moving from Tucson, and Hagerty was asked to announce the new name, “Chihuahuas,” to a less-than-enthusiastic group of El Pasoans.
He comments that, no matter whatever people thought of the name, he never heard a “single person criticize the logo.” One fan even let him know how Chico came to have a place in his heart: “Darn, that little dog is growing on me.”
“Players come and go,” Hagerty said, “but Chico remains year after year.” He points out that the mascot made more than 500 appearances in the last calendar year. For his part, Hagerty announces 142 games in 152 days.
Now that he’s become a year-round El Paso resident, Hagerty makes many speeches and shakes many hands, especially in the off-season. “It not only helps the broadcast, but it helps the Chihuahuas,” he said.
While some might wonder if he’s biding his time here, waiting for the call to the “Big Leagues,” Hagerty puts the kibosh on that idea. He tells about a chance he had to move to New York, but he chose not to apply. It offered 10 hours before the microphone. “You’ve got to be selective,” he said, adding, “And this is a great job!”
Hagerty not only likes what he does, but he loves his office, Southwest University Park. The award-winning baseball park has so many interesting features. There is the 58-foot wide scoreboard in center field — the largest HD in the city — which serves as a multi-purpose screen displaying: players’ pictures and on-field statistics; crowd close-ups and on-field game activities; and replays of contested plays on the field. Art by local artists can be found throughout the park. Behind home plate, near the West Star Bank Club, you can find a floor-to ceiling depiction of a baseball player, which helps put the fans in a baseball frame of mind. Within the three-story Dog House in right field, there are 2 ½ different restaurants, as well as comfortable suites available for rent.
It all makes Hagerty happy he is in El Paso and, in particular, with the Chihuahuas.
He likes to look at a sign posted on an office wall at the ballpark that energizes him before every broadcast. The sign says: “Today is somebody’s first Chihuahuas game.”
So, when Hagerty takes the mic on a brand new day in his high-tech tower, he does so with the idea of winning new listeners with a spot-on broadcast and, of course, keeping it fresh.