EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Game after game you can find Sam Ornelas bopping around in Section 104 of Southwest University Park with his broad brim hat topped with an El Paso Chihuahuas cap.
Game after game Ornelas is taking the baseball experience to a new level for Chihuahuas fans, players and anyone else who might find themselves in the ballpark come first pitch.
Ornelas has attended game after game since the Chihuahuas first game back in 2014.
He bought season tickets ahead of their first year and when he was shown his front row seats, right by the visiting team's dugout, he met Kevin Shea who had the seats next to his.
Ahead of that first season the two discussed what they could do to make the experience unique.
"I noticed that there was no 'K' Zone and I just thought I can't remember there being one in a Minor League park," Shea said.
"I told him you make them, I'll hang them up," Ornelas said.
Every time the starting pitcher for the Chihuahuas records a strikeout, Ornelas hangs a 'K' banner up in their section.
Shea made the original vinyl design in his kitchen and they had them ready to go for game 1 of 2014.
“We kind of like snuck them in, they didn’t have the rules then about having a clear bag so we just had a little tote bag with the banners," Ornelas said.
The 'K' banners are just the beginning. In the Chihuahuas second season, Ornelas starting throwing out 'K' towels.
The idea combined the banners they already had going and his memories of attending Diablos games and having the ushers hand out tissues when the opposing team changed pitchers.
“We would wave the tissues," Ornelas said. "Somewhere another I don’t know how it came to me, I’m going to do the towels."
The only way you can earn a 'K' towel is by being the loudest fans cheering after a strikeout.
"I’ve had people come over to me offer me money ahah it ain’t work that way you have to earn it," Ornelas said.
For the Chihuahuas tenth year, Ornelas decided to add flames to the original design.
“The Chihuahuas are hot," Ornelas said.
He estimates he throws out around 15 towels every game and that this year with the new design, each towel costs just over $1. With 75 home games in the season, Ornelas spent more than $1,125 on the towel. This is the ninth year he's been throwing out the towels.
The time, effort and money is all worthwhile to Ornelas.
“I remember when I was a child, the fun I used to have for getting foul balls," Ornelas said. "If I can do something as small as this to bring a smile to a child out here to a kid, why not.”
The fans aren't the only ones reaping the benefits of Ornelas' passion, creativity and loudness.
“The first day you show up here you can see him over there he’s getting everyone excited during the game," pitcher for the Chihuahuas Reiss Knehr said. "Last year he was handing out the towels to guys who had a bunch of strikeouts. You had to have like six or seven strikeouts in a game to get the towel and only four of us got it and we all hung it up on our locker so it was really cool. I feel like he just brings the baseball experience here to a new level.”
That baseball experience has seen fans go out of their way for him - one hand stitched him and his wife pillows for their seats, another made stickers to represent his section and one even registered him with Topps and made him his own playing card.
The following story was first published June 19, 2023 as a preview of Rachel Phillips' special report, The K Man, which airs June 22, only on ABC-7 at 10.
EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Game after game Sam Ornelas is taking the baseball experience to a new level for El Paso Chihuahuas fans, players and anyone else who might find themselves in the ballpark come first pitch.
Every time the starting pitcher for the Chihuahuas records a strikeout, Ornelas hangs a 'K' banner up in section 104 and throws out a 'K' towel to the loudest fan.
"I’ve had people come over, offer me money," Ornelas said. "It ain’t work that way you have to earn it."
On Thursday on ABC-7 at 10, ABC-7 sports reporter Rachel Phillips brings you Xtra Depth on how Section 104 came to be, why Ornelas throws out the towels, and just how much it costs him out of his own pocket to ensure your experience at a game is enhanced.