SAN ANTONIO – Before Ballapeno at the Wolff, there was Henry at V.J. Keefe.
Henry the Puffy Taco, named after the restaurant on the Northwest side, has been a staple at Missions games going back to 1989 when the team played at V.J. Keefe Field at St. Mary’s University.
He took pictures with fans, he danced after being introduced, he ran towards home and never (almost never) got there because he was tackled by a child to the applause of thousands.
Now, the Missions will honor Henry and the puffy tacos this coming season in a way that goes perfectly with minor league baseball today.
Starting May 22, the Missions will transform to the San Antonio Puffy Tacos for a 3-game series against the Iowa Cubs. The Triple-A team also announced that May 22 is National Puffy Taco Day.
“When people think of San Antonio’s food scene, they think of puffy tacos,” Missions President Burl Yarbrough said. “The puffy taco is a dish that is unique to our great city of San Antonio and is deserving of national recognition. These jerseys will showcase a little bit of what makes San Antonio so special to fans and the rest of the baseball world.”
Henry’s Puffy Tacos, located at 3202 W. Woodlawn Avenue and 6030 Bandera Road, have numerous pictures of their beloved mascot with the Missions over the years. In fact, 4-time NBA Champion and Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal visited the original location on Woodlawn as far back as his playing days at Cole High School.
“We take great pride in our Henry taking part in our city’s culture and festivities, and being involved with the Missions is one aspect of being a memorable part of the history of the city of San Antonio,” said Imelda Sanchez, Vice President of Operation for Henry’s Puffy Tacos Inc. “We are looking forward to working with the Missions in expanding our marketing and branding efforts and are in current discussions in finalizing the structuring of those expanding opportunities.”
With the name change, comes the uniform changes on the field and the merchandise in the team store, just like when the Missions switched to the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio two seasons ago for MiLB’s Copa de la Diversion. In the first year of the “Fun Cup”, where numerous teams had alternate names that embraced and honored Hispanic communities across the country, Minor League Baseball saw a 4.2 percent increase in licensed merchandise sales. That’s an increase from $70.8 million in 2017 to $73.8 million in 2018. Last year’s figures have not been released but according to the Missions, Flying Chanclas merchandise accounted for over half the team’s retail sales in 2019.
Missions fans will still be able to see the Flying Chanclas every Thursday home game at Nelson Wolff Stadium this coming season. The 2020 Milwaukee Brewers, San Antonio’s parent club, started reporting to training camp on Wednesday in Phoenix, Arizona. The Missions first game of the season will be Thursday, April 9, which kicks off a 5-game home stand against the Oklahoma City Dodgers.
Before the season begins, Wolff Stadium will host the Alamo Irish Classic, a four-day, round-robin style tournament that begins Thursday. The collegiate baseball teams involved this year include the University of Notre Dame, the University of Toledo, UTSA and the University of the Incarnate Word.
There’s one more week remaining for Puffy Taco pre-orders for caps, t-shirts and jerseys at samissions.milbstore.com. The fans willing to wait can purchase the new merchandise at the Wolff on the opening day of the 3-game series.
Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 Sports for over 16 years and is an award-winning sports producer. To submit story ideas, email email@example.com