Saturday, October 3, 2009

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #1): Mazatlan, Sinaloa

For the next few months, Baseball Mexico is going to bring you along on a road trip as we virtually travel through all 24 cities with teams in the Mexican League or Mexican Pacific Leagues. We’ll end up in Cancun at the end of the trip, but our first stop on the west coast is the Mex Pac’s most glamorous city: Mazatlan.
Named after a native word for "place of the Deer," Mazatlan is first and foremost the largest Pacific Coast seaport between Los Angeles and the Panama Canal, in which tourism gradually developed as an adjunct to its prior success as the "Shrimp Capital of the World." Mazatlan’s thriving seafood industry lessens the need for tourist dollars that are the sole economic driver of other cities on Mexico’s west coast.

While there are tourists who come for the outstanding sports fishing, a lot more people visit Mazatlan for its year-round sunshine and temperate climate. While the other seven LMP cities can get frying-pan hot during the summer and even the winter, Mazatlan sits just south of the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, which blocks breezes off the ocean from getting to places like Obregon, Culiacan and Hermosillo. Mazatlan has miles of Pacific beaches lined by a seawall promenade called the Malecon. Visitors also indulge in golf, bicycling, tennis and water sports. However, if that's all any traveler in Mazatlan does, they'll miss the essence of the city.

There is an area in Mazatlan called the Zona Dorado, or “Gold Zone,” and that’s where the tourists generally congregate (and there are a lot of them). If visitors head outside the Gold Zone, they'll find that there is a lot more to Mazatlan than expensive hotels and restaurants. While the downtown core can’t be called “Old Mexico” in style because Pacific coast cities were mostly fishing villages until the 20th century, Mazatlan is a lively place with lots of interesting places to go. It’s a lot less expensive than the Zona Dorado, too. English is probably spoken in Mazatlan more than any other city in the LMP except perhaps Mexicali, which is right on the California border.

The Mazatlan Venados have historically been one of the strongest franchises in the Mexican Pacific League. The Venados (or "Deer") have won eight pennants in the modern LMP, plus another five flags in the old winter Pacific Coast League in the 1940’s and 50’s. Mazatlan survived a first round loss in January 2005 as the "lucky loser" team, and then went on to capture the Mex Pac pennant and their first Caribbean Series title playing in front of their home fans at 12,000-seat Estadio Teodoro Mariscal.
The Venados enter the 2009-10 season as defending Mex Pac champions.

NEXT WEEK: Mexican Baseball Road Trip (Culiacan, Sinaloa)

No comments: