Friday, November 13, 2009

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #7): Hermosillo, Sonora

From Obregon, we’ll drive north on Highway 15, which connects all LMP cities except Mexicali. After we go through Empalme and Guaymas (both former Mex Pac cities now with teams in the Class A Mexican Northern League), we’ll reach Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora and a city of 600,000 residents, the largest home of a MexPac team. Hermosillo is in a rather unique setting, a landlocked desert city surrounded by various rock formations and crowned in its center by a tall outcrop lit at night by several radio towers.

Besides serving as a political center, Hermosillo is very much an agriculture-oriented city, especially cattle ranching. It is also an important place for industry, with car making one of the leading local occupations. Many early figures of the revolutions in the early 20th century called Hermosillo home, including General Alvaro Obregon, Plutarco Elias Calles and Abelardo Rodriguez. However, the relatively recent boom over the past fifty years has all but obliterated anything that may have survived from the old days.

While Hermosillo is very spread out and not the best place for visitors who like to walk around, there are some fairly interesting things on hand for tourists to check out. The Plaza Zaragosa is very pleasant with many trees and a lacy white bandstand, and on its edge sits a 19th century cathedral featuring twin towers and a dome with crosses atop each. A largely neo-classical structure, the cathedral took over a century to build. Also nearby is the similarly styled Government Palace, most notable for its courtyard murals painted by three artists in the 1980’s. Another interesting spot is the Museo de Sonora, a beautifully-restored former prison (which maintains vestiges of its past life) which is now a museum. South of town is the Centro Ecological de Sonora, a zoo and botanical garden.

Hermosillo is home to the Mexican Pacific League’s Naranjeros, or “Orange Growers.” The Naranjeros are considered one of the Mex Pac’s flagship franchises, and have played over 50 seasons and raked in 14 LMP championships. They play their home games at Estadio Hector Espino, a 13,000-seat ballpark named after Hector Espino, a Mexican baseball legend who spent 24 winters playing in Hermosillo. The right-handed batting Espino won 13 batting titles and seven home run crowns in the Mex Pac and still holds most LMP career hitting records. Considered by many to be the greatest player in Mexican baseball history, Espino hit a total of 752 homers between the Mexican League and Mexican Pacific League.

NEXT WEEK (Stop #8): Mexicali, Baja California Norte

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