Former owner talks about Diablos' place in history

EL PASO, Texas - The El Paso Diablos will play their final home game this weekend at Cohen Stadium, bringing with it the end of an era for a franchise whose roots date back to the late 1800's.

The team name has been part of the lives of El Pasoans for decades. ABC-7 sat down with former team owner Jim Paul Thursday to discuss the Diablo's place in minor league baseball history.

"The second era of minor league baseball could be traced to one city and one city only," Paul said. "El Paso, Texas."

From old Dudley Field to Cohen Stadium, the Diablos have always been about fun and families.

"The impact of Diablos baseball all these years has been huge, just huge," Paul said. "We set a format up that would create memories of what we did out there with your mom or dad or little brother or little sister. It was a memory creator."

Over the years, when the Diablos were affiliated (1974-2004), El Pasoans saw dozens of future Major League Baseball stars on Diablos Double-A rosters. A look at the Major Leagues today still reveals plenty of El Paso connections.

Among them are New York Yankees first baseman Lyle Overbay, who played two seasons for the Diablos in 2000-01.

There's St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, who played for the Diablos in 1993 and came within one game of leading the Cardinals to the World Series last year.

Also, former Diablos announcer Matt Vasgersian (1993-94), now the lead announcer for Fox Sports and the MLB Network.

And who could forget the late Paul Strelzin on the PA?

"There was so much stuff we did that others copied or learned from us that spread through all Minor League Baseball and eventually Major League Baseball had to go, 'Hey, they're having too much fun down there! We're going to have to try it.' To sit there and watch Mom and Dad with their two kids coming to a ballgame, that will always be the number one most amazing thing we accomplished."

The Diablos play through Sunday at Cohen Stadium before finishing up their final season on the road. Friday there will be fireworks, Saturday admission is free and Sunday there will be 25-cent hot dogs.

Current Diablos General Manager Matt LaBranche said they still hope to sell the franchise to another city in Texas, but they won't keep the name.

Paul said the Diablos' name is still his in his eyes and if the new Triple-A franchise in El Paso wants to use it instead of the Aardvarks, Chihuahuas, Desert Gators, Buckaroos or Sun Dogs, all they have to do is ask him.

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