Declaring a National Puffy Taco Day
Raise a frosty glass of your favorite cold beer, and pass the picante sauce, please. The San Antonio Missions have declared May 22 as National Puffy Taco Day.
In addition, the local Pacific Coast League baseball club will transform itself into the San Antonio Puffy Tacos from May 22-24 for the middle three games of a five-game series against the Iowa Cubs.
Players will wear special jerseys and caps for all three games -- the first two at night, followed by a Sunday afternoon matinee.
Souvenir attire also will be available to the fans.
Officials announced details of the festivities Tuesday afternoon at a Wolff Stadium news conference attended, naturally, by the Missions' costumed Puffy Taco mascot of the past 31 years.
"We've been thinking about this for quite some time," general manager David Gasaway said. "We just felt like this was a fun weekend to do this. Hopefully, San Antonio will enjoy it."
The Missions' second season in the PCL is fast approaching.
Pitchers and catchers report to the Milwaukee Brewers' spring training camp in Phoenix on Wednesday, and then they work out for the first time on Thursday.
The Brewers, a National League playoff team in each of the past two seasons, open Cactus League play on Feb. 22 against the Rangers at Surprise, Arizona.
After a month in the desert, they'll break camp in preparation for a March 26 regular-season opener at home against the Chicago Cubs.
Meanwhile, the organization's Triple-A players and staff will have to wait awhile. They'll open a 140-game PCL slate on April 9 at the Wolff.
Gasaway said it's difficult at this point to predict what kind of talent Missions fans will see.
"But, as successful as the Brewers have been over the last three or four years, and how they've built their rosters, there's no reason to believe we're not going to be really good," he said.
One thing is for certain - they'll play Triple-A ball in San Antonio with multiple identities.
For most of the year, naturally, they'll be the Missions. It's the nickname most commonly associated with the San Antonio minor league baseball franchise since it first started playing in 1888. On Thursday nights at home, they'll be the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio. The Missions will play for the third straight season as the Chanclas under minor league baseball's Copa de la Diversion program to promote Hispanic heritage. Finally, for one weekend in May, they'll become the Puffy Tacos.
"We'll just be honoring something that makes San Antonio great," Gasaway said.
Over the years, the team's unofficial mascot has proven to be almost as much fun as the food. In a tradition that began in 1989 at V.J. Keefe Field, the Puffy Taco chase has delighted thousands. It always starts innocently enough with a costumed character impersonating a Mexican food delicacy, dancing off second base following the sixth inning. Decked out in a yellowish outer shell, the mascot is always stuffed with fake lettuce and cheese and all the trimmings. A tomato serves as its head. And the legs? Skinny and green, of course.
When the race begins, a young fan starts running toward first base in an effort to catch up. In the end, always, a young boy or girl rounds the bases and chases down the waddling menu item, sending it reeling into the dirt between third and home.
Never a sore loser, the Taco always rises, dusts himself off and then executes a very respectable cumbia dance in front of the home team dugout.
Over the years, it's a schtick that has earned mention in the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and Texas Monthly.
The Taco wasn't saying much at the news conference. But in a 2015 interview with Texas Monthly, he was asked if he ever loses his puffiness.
His tongue-in-cheek reply: "Never. Even after running around the bases, I can't seem to seem to shred my extra cheese. It's my body armour of love."
In recent years, the Ballapeno and the Mamapeno have come along to challenge for mascot superiority at the Wolff.
But, most agree, it's just hard to beat the Taco for entertainment and historic relevance.
With the help of a skydiving unit, a member of the unit dressed as the Taco once parachuted into V.J. Keefe. The Taco's also been involved in scrapes with players and with the Famous Chicken.
In his one shining moment, the Taco actually won one of the races to home plate in 1992, only to lose in a rematch to the same person in 2010.
Explaining the night that the Taco prevailed, Missions president Burl Yarbrough said it was a case of a young man suffering stage fright at the end of the chase.
"Every once in a while, you get kids that are not quite as confident as others," Yarbrough said. "We've had our cases of kids running through first base and continuing to run into right field, or (they) get to the (Taco) and don't want to touch him or tackle him. That's what happened that night."
Yarbrough said the fan eventually earned redemption years later.
"We found him somehow, and we had him come back and race again," Yarbrough said.
Another memorable incident involved former Houston Astros pitcher Mike Hampton.
"I remember when the Astros and the Tigers played an exhibition here and Mike Hampton came out of the dugout and absolutely smoked the Taco," Yarbrough said. "I mean, just smoked him."
Years later, the Missions pranked Hampton on his return to the Wolff.
"Probably three or four years ago, he was a pitching coach for the Arkansas Travelers," Yarbrough said. "So, I got one of my police friends to go down and try to question him about the incident. The look on his face was pretty good."
Clearly, the Missions have gotten more mileage than they could have hoped for out of the Taco chase, which originated with a staffer in the late 1980s trying to sell a billboard to the owner of a Mexican restaurant near St. Mary's University.
Gasaway noted that the Chicken also had humble beginnings in San Diego. At one time, he said, the Chicken would make appearances at San Diego Padres games only as a promotion for a local radio station.
"Then it just took off from there, and (he) became one of the most beloved characters in all of baseball," Gasaway said. "Well, the Puffy Taco ... in this market and region, he's become kind of our Famous Chicken."
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