Saturday, December 12, 2009

BASEBALL MEXICO’s interview with OMAR CANIZALES

This week, we bring you the text of our exclusive interview with Omar Canizales, the first-year president of the Mexican Pacific League. To our knowledge, it’s the first interview Mr. Canizales has given in English.
Our apologies for not having audio on the BBM radio program due to technical matters beyond our control…

BBM: How did you become President of the LMP, Mr. Canizales?

Since I used to work as the National Sponsorships Director for the FEMSA Brewing Company, which is one Mexico’s top two beer companies and owner of the “Tecate” beer brand, I knew the League, the clubs, and most of the LMP Presidents. This was the key for being invited as one of several candidates nominated for the league’s presidency.

I was one of five candidates who were invited to introduce ourselves during a LMP Presidents meeting. Each one of us presented his curriculum and related experience. I made my presentation specifically over the marketing, sports and commercial areas, plus I added a Power Point slide show that illustrated a brief personal vision about what I thought the LMP should be. After that, I was elected as LMP President on May Seventh of this year.

BBM: What are your duties as LMP President?

To keep and enforce every rule and regulation governing the league, making sure all the associated clubs comply with them;

To administer in the most clear and efficient way all the financial and operative resources of the League;

To reach new commercial goals for the league and its clubs and improve the attendance at the ballparks in a coordinated work with every club;

To represent the Mexican Pacific League before organizations such as Major League Baseball and the Caribbean Baseball Confederation and to defend the interests of our eight associated clubs;

And to promote and disseminate the League and its clubs’ achievements in the most accurate way.

BBM: There have been very few LMP franchise moves from one city to another for many years. How has the Mex Pac been such a stable league?

First of all, the league is composed of presidents with a high moral value and with the economic solvency capable of facing the costs of maintaining a franchise in the Mexican Pacific League.
Also, they understand their social responsibility with the communities where they have a presence. And, of course, all of this comes tied up with a high-level sporting spectacle, of which its strong fan-based structure is very proud.

BBM: Are there any rules or requirements that franchises must meet to keep an LMP team in their city, or to move a team to another city?

Basically, every franchise has to keep all the rules and regulations governing the league. They also have to maintain a highly competitive team at the very same level with every other franchise. The clubs must guarantee they will have a ballpark which will comply with professional baseball regulations to play and receive the visiting teams. The franchises must maintain a dignified stadium to greet fans.

But, if by any reason, a franchise wants to move, it is necessary for it to comply with the follow requirements:

First, we must get a formal letter from the State Government where the proposed new city is located, endorsing the relocation project.

Second, we must get a formal letter from the Municipal Government from the proposed new city, endorsing the relocation project.

Finally, there must be an Official Financial and Operative Project proposal that guarantees the capacity to maintain a LMP Franchise.

BBM: There was a preseason tournament in Tijuana this year. Is the LMP thinking of putting a team in Tijuana in the future?

Tijuana is a great city for playing baseball: It is well-located, has a great population, and most important it has a huge base of fans for baseball.

However, the preseason tournament is not necessarily linked to any expansion project. We do not reject this possibility at all, as long as there is a serious project fulfilling all the requirements I commented on previously.

BBM: With no formal affiliations between Major League and LMP teams, how do Mex Pac clubs usually import players from the USA to Mexico?

Actually, we are associated to the Caribbean Baseball Confederation, through which we benefit, as a league, from the Winter League Agreement, signed with Major League Baseball. This agreement sets the terms and conditions that allow us to bring players from any Major League organization, either from a Major League Team or any affiliated Minor league team.

Let me tell you that just a few days ago, the Caribbean Baseball Confederation held a meeting in Puerto Rico where Caribbean League Presidents discussed and agreed upon the terms and conditions that will govern the new Winter League Agreement of the upcoming year’s confederation.

BBM: Has the rise of the Arizona Fall League had an effect on the number and quality of import players coming to play in the LMP?

We have been affected indeed, since some of the Major league organizations send players over there. However the effect is not severe, thanks to the fact that there are still a lot of talented players from MLB organizations that we can get our hands on.

BBM: How important has the TV deal between the Mex Pac and Megacable been in bringing LMP baseball to the rest of Mexico this season?

It has been very important. First of all, it has been great for our project to massively spread information about our league. Second, there’s the fact that our games used to be broadcasted to only three states in Mexico, but nowadays our televised game broadcasts are reaching up to 23 states, which means a huge improvement and better commercialization opportunities, as well. And certainly we are talking about a great economic contract, since it’s the most profitable TV deal ever signed by the LMP.

BBM: Does the LMP do much marketing of the league and its players to the USA, especially states like California, Arizona and Texas?

Not right now, but we are already working on some ideas on what we can do over the next few seasons.

BBM: Have you been able to find a good balance between the time you spend working for the LMP and the time you spend at home with your family?

Yes, I have. You know, the city where I live today allows me to eat my meals at home and attend my daughter’s and son’s events at their school as well as going out for fun with my wife, either to the ballpark or social events. My former jobs demanded a whole lot more business trips. Today I’m very happy with my duties, and the balance I have reached between my work and my family.

BBM: Thanks for joining us, Mr. Canizales. It’s been a pleasure.

Bruce, as President of the Mexican Pacific League, I want to thank you for the coverage you’re giving to our baseball. I also want to thank the people that are following your broadcast for their interest in our league. I want to invite all of you to attend to our games, the next time you visit Mexicali, Hermosillo, Obregón, Navojoa, Los Mochis, Guasave, Culiacán or Mazatlán. You will enjoy a baseball game of a high level, and will experience our “fiesta del béisbol”. Once again, thank you very much. I hope see you soon in our ballparks.

VENADOS STUMBLE AS NARANJEROS TAKE EARLY LMP SECOND HALF LEAD

First half champion Mazatlan has had their troubles in the early going of the Mexican Pacific League’s second half, but the Hermosillo Naranjeros are holding off resurgent Culiacan at the top of the Mex Pac standings.

Hermosillo has won 12 of their first 18 games to take a narrow half-game lead over the 11-6 Tomateros, who have turned things around for new manager Francisco Estrada. Navojoa is in third place at 10-8 despite winning just two games last week, while Obregon rounds out the first division at 8-9.

Los Mochis and Guasave are tied for fifth place at 8-10, while Mazatlan and Mexicali are tied for last with 7-11 records. The Venados, who cruised to the first-half title, have already lost more games in the second half than they did while going 25-10 over their first 35 games to take first place by four games. Mazatlan has won three of their last four games, however.

TIGHT RACES IN OTHER THREE CARIBBEAN LOOPS

Magallenes, Escogido and Arecibo are all on top of the standings in the Venezuelan, Dominican and Puerto Rican Leagues, respectively, but it hasn’t been easy for any of them.

Magallenes has a 34-18 record to hold a one-game advantage over 33-19 Caracas in the Venezuelan League. Zulia is in third place at 27-25. Lara shortstop Alcedes Escobar leads the league with a .403 batting average, while Margarita pitcher Carlos Monasterios has the most wins with 7 victories in 9 decisions.

Escogido leads the Dominican League at 26-17, but 2008 Caribbean Series champion Licey and the Este Toros are right behind at 25-18. Ex-big leaguer Timo Perez (pictured) leads the LiDom with a .352 batting average for Licey. Perez hit .323 for Veracruz in the Mexican League in 2009. Another MLB vet, Cibaenas’ John Halama, is 4-1 and a league-best 2.45 ERA.

In Puerto Rico, 12-8 Arecibo barely leads 11-8 Carolina in the tables. Carolina catcher Orlando Mercado, Jr. is hitting .429 in 14 games to lead the league, but the best offensive performer has been Arecibo’s Michel Abreu, who tops the circuit with 7 homers and 24 RBIs along with a .343 average. Ponce’s Juan Padilla is 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA in 8 games (2 starts).

SALON MEMBER “ZACATILLO” GUERRERO DIES AT AGE 83

Salon de la Fama member Jose “Zacatillo” Guerrero has passed away in Torreon at the age of 83.

Guerrero was a Mexican League star infielder following his debut with Union Laguna in 1949, when he hit .273 in 78 games. After five years in Torreon, he spent three seasons in the United States before returning to Mexico with Monterrey in 1957. Guerrero also played for Puebla and Veracruz before retiring in 1967 although he occasionally took to the field while managing the Mexico City Diablos and Union Laguna. As a player, he batted .301 over 1330 Liga games. Guerrero played winter ball in Puebla, Mazatlan, Los Mochis and Empalme.

The Torreon native also had a long career as a manager between 1970 and 1992, piloting Mexico City, Union Laguna, Juarez, Monterrey and Dos Laredos. He won Mexican League pennants managing Juarez in 1982 and in 1989 with Dos Laredos.

Guerrero, who was considered a class act and exemplary sportsman on and off the field, was enshrined in the Salon in 1989, and his number 49 was retired by Laguna in 2007.

THIS WEEK IN THE MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE

1} HERMOSILLO NARANJEROS (12-6/.667/0.0GB/6.0Pts)
Hermosillo won four of six games last week to maintain first place in the Mex Pac, winning two apiece from Navojoa and Los Mochis.
OF Luis Alfonso Garcia is only batting .254, but his 18 homers are best in the league and his 43 RBIs are tied for second. Naranjeros P Juan Delgadillo is 4-3 with a 3.41 ERA.

2} CULIACAN TOMATEROS (11-6/.647/0.5GB/3.0Pts)
Culiacan kept pace with Hermosillo by winning two games against Mazatlan and registering two wins and a 12-inning tie in Obregon.
3B Mike Cervenak stands third in the LMP with a .361 average, second in RBIs with 43 and fifth in homers with 10. No Tomateros pitcher has more than 3 wins, however.

3} NAVOJOA MAYOS (10-8/.555/2.0GB/4.5Pts)
Navojoa fell out of first place by losing four of six games, including a pair of losses to Hermosillo and two more defeats against Mexicali.
P Tim Gustafson has been outstanding, with a 5-1 record and a 2.93 ERA in 9 starts. OF Matt Young leads the Mayos with a .294 batting average and 16 steals.

4} OBREGON YAQUIS (8-9/.470/3.5GB/5.0Pts)
Obregon won three games in a row against Mexicali, then dropped a pair with Culiacan before ending their series with a 4-4, 12-inning tie against the Tomateros.
DH Erubiel Durazo has hit .321 with 5 homers in 24 games since joining the Yaquis last month. OF John Mayberry Jr. was placed on the disabled list after hitting .313 with 7 homers.

5T} LOS MOCHIS CANEROS (8-10/.444/4.0GB/4.0Pts)
Los Mochis didn’t have the best of weeks, winning once and losing twice to both Guasave and Hermosillo to fall below .500 in the second half.
1B Sandy Madera leads LMP batters with a .414 average in 52 games, but 11 pitchers have started for the Caneros (none has more than 2 wins). There is no stopper in Mochis.

5T} GUASAVE ALGODONEROS (8-10/.444/4.0GB/3.5Pts)
Guasave went 3-3 last week, with the Algodoneros winning two of three against Los Mochis before dropping two out of three contests with Mazatlan.
3B Yurendell de Caster has hit .346 in 13 games, and 1B Japhet Amador is batting .315 in part-time duty. P Jim McGrane is 5-3 with a 3.93 ERA, but has struggled a little of late.

7T} MEXICALI AGUILAS (7-11/.411/5.0GB/7.0Pts)
The top two LMP teams in the first half are tied for last in the second, as Mexicali lost five straight games (including three in a row to Obregon) before taking two from Navajoa.
Four Aguilas are among the LMP’s top six batter (Brad Snyder is at .375). P Kameron Loe is 2-1 over his last 3 starts, including 5 shutout innings against Mazatlan on Nov. 28.

7T} MAZATLAN VENADOS (7-11/.411/5.0GB/8Pts)
Mazatlan got off to a horrible second-half start before winning once in Culiacan and taking two of three at home against Guasave to pull the Venados into a tie for seventh place.1B John Lindsey has hit .312 with 10 homers, while OF Jon Weber has hit .384 over 30 games. P Pablo Ortega has been super (7-2, 2.18), topping the LMP in both wins and ERA.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Results (12/04/09 - 12/10/09)

FRIDAY, December 4
Obregon 2, Mexicali 0
Former International League All-Star Brian Mazone allowed 5 hits over 5 innings for his first win as the Yaquis shut out the Aguilas.
Culiacan 5, Mazatlan 1
Jorge Campillo pitched 4 shutout innings and Jorge Vazquez cracked a 3-run homer for the Tomateros.
Los Mochis 4, Guasave 1
Defending LMP ERA champ Ismael Castillo let in 1 run on 3 hits over 5.2 innings for the Caneros as Saul Soto had 2 RBIs.
Hermosillo 3, Navojoa 1
Francisco “Pancho Ponches” Campos gave up 1 run on 3 hits with 9 strikeouts in 6 innings for the Naranjeros.

SATURDAY, December 5
Obregon 9, Mexicali 2
Carlos Valencia bashed a homer and drove in five runs for Obregon to offset Jose Amador’s 4-for-5 night with a homer for Mexicali.
Culiacan 3, Mazatlan 2
Veteran Juan Carlos Canizalez drew a bases-loaded bases on balls in the bottom of the 9th in a true “walkoff” for the Tomateros.
Guasave 9, Los Mochis 0
Oscar Bustillos combined with two relievers on a two-hit shutout as Japhet Amador was 4-for-5 with a solo homer for the Cottoneers.
Nermosillo 7, Navojoa 2
Travis Blackley whiffed 7 batters in 5.2 strong innings for Hermosillo while Geronimo Gil and Humberto Cota each had 2 RBIs.

SUNDAY, December 6
Obregon 6, Mexicali 5
Jason Botts had a homer and 3 RBIs and Chris Snelling added a homer as the Yaquis completed their sweep of the Aguilas.
Mazatlan 6, Culiacan 1
John Lindsey had a 2-run homer and Alfonso Sanchez let in 1 run in 6.1 innings as the Venados ended a 3-game losing streak.
Guasave 2, Los Mochis 1
Mac Suzuki let in 2 runs with 7 Ks in 6 shutout innings to beat Mochis’ Arturo Lopez (7 innings, 2 runs) in a pitcher’s duel.
Navojoa 3, Hermosillo 2
Abel Martinez’ 3-run double in the top of the 9th gave the Mayos a win, negating Edgar Gonzalez’ 6 shutout innings for Orangemen.

TUESDAY, December 8
Los Mochis 4, Hermosillo 3
Henry Mateo had 2 hits and scored 3 runs while Luis Suarez added 2 hits and 2 RBIs to lead the Canecutters to the win.
Culiacan 5, Obregon 3
Jorge Vazquez doubled and homered and Adan Amezcua cracked a longball as the Tomateros opened the series with a victory.
Navojoa 9, Mexicali 8
Adan Munoz led off the 9th with a single and later scored the winning run on a wild pitch to hand the Aguilas their 5th straight loss.
Mazatlan 5, Guasave 2
A 4-run seventh inning was the difference for Mazatlan as Reid Brignac doubled and scored twice in his first game for the Deer.

WEDNESDAY, December 9
Hermosillo 8, Los Mochis 7
Vinny Castilla homered in a 4-run 8th and Nelson Teilon added a solo blast for Hermosillo to even the series at a game apiece.
Culiacan 5, Obregon 4
Jorge Vazquez homered for the second game in a row and Ramiro Pena doubled in a run as Culiacan clinched a series win.
Mexicali 8, Navojoa 2
Santiago Gonzalez was 4-for-4 with 4 runs and Adam Rosales scored 3 times as Mexicali finally broke their losing skid.
Guasave 1, Mazatlan 0
Gabriel Gutierrez had both of Guasave’s 2 hits and drove in the game’s only run as Francisco Cordova bested Walter Silva.

THURSDAY, December 10
Hermosillo 6, Los Mochis 5
Geronimo Gil and Jesus Castillo each hit 2-run homers to help the Orangemen win the game and series with Mochis.
Obregon 4, Culiacan 4 (12) tie
Adan Amezcua had an RBI single for the Yaquis in the bottom of the 12th to knot up a game subsequently suspended by curfew.
Mexicali 9, Navojoa 1
Oscar Robles was 4-for-4 with 4 RBIs and Oswaldo Morejon added 4 hits as the Eagles won their second straight and the series.
Mazatlan 5, Guasave 3
John Lindsey homered while Ruben Rivera doubled and scored twice to back starter Esteban Loaiza’s triumph.

UPCOMING MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE GAMES
DEC. 11-13 Mazatlan @ Navojoa, Culiacan @ Los Mochis, Hermosillo @ Obregon, Mexicali @ Guasave
DEC. 15-16 Guasave @ Hermosillo, Mazatlan @ Obregon, Mexicali @ Los Mochis, Navojoa @ Culiacan
DEC. 17-19 Los Mochis @ Mazatlan, Culiacan @ Guasave, Hermosillo @ Mexicali, Obregon @ Navojoa

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #11): Monclova, Coahuila

This week, our Road Trip is a fairly short jaunt that takes us from Torreon (home of the Laguna Vaqueros) for about 200 miles northeast on Highway 30 to the city of Monclova, Coahuila, home of the Acereros.

Monclova’s history begins with the first of a number of fitful attempts to establish a town under Spanish rule, first under Don Alberto of Canto in 1577. It was only on the seventh attempt that a permanent town was finally created in 1689. It was granted the title of “city” in 1811 and was actually the state capital of both Coahuila and Texas in 1833. The war against the United States of the 1840s gave Texas and several other present-day states to the USA as American troops occupied Monclova (which was initially an agricultural town) in 1846.

However, like most of the northern cities of the Mexican League, Monclova has become an industrial center that is not geared towards tourism at all. As one might expect of a place whose team name translates to “Steelers,” Monclova is one of the leading steel-producing cities in the Western Hemisphere. With just under 200,000 residents, it is one of the smallest cities in the Liga.

Visitors to Monclova will have to look past the factories to find the two Xochipilli Parks that cover 108 acres in town, and there are also golf courses, museums, discos and bowling alleys for recreational opportunities. Again, this is a city geared towards production, not tourists, so don’t expect the widest of choices for entertainment.

Monclova is home to the Mexican League’s Acereros (or “Steelers”), who just hired Mario Mendoza as their manager after finishing 57-50 in 2009 but missed the playoffs. Despite that, Monclova led the Mexican League in attendance last season with over 430,000 fans in 53 home games for an average of 8,114 per opening.

The Acereros play their home games at the 11,000-seat Estadio Monclova, where attendance is usually in the middle of the LMB pack. The Acereros date back to 1974, when the Sabinas Pirates moved to Monclova to become the Coahuila Miners. The team name was changed to Monclova Acereros in the early 1980s. The Steelers have never won a Liga pennant.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#12): Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas