Saturday, December 19, 2009

CULIACAN, HERMOSILLO BATTLING FOR 2nd HALF MEX PAC CROWN

The Culiacan Tomateros and Hermosillo Naranjeros are just a half-game apart on top of the Mexican Pacific League’s second half standings with just nine games left on the schedule.
Culiacan leads the Mex Pac with a 15-8 record, just ahead of 15-9 Hermosillo. Obregon is third at 12-11, Navojoa is 12-12 and holds fourth, Guasave is in fifth with an 11-13 mark, while Mexicali, Los Mochis and first half champion Mazatlan are tied for sixth with 10-14 records.

Sandy Madera (pictured) continues to top the LMP with a .399 batting average. Jon Weber, who joined Mazatlan 20 games into the season, is right behind at .398. Hermosillo’s Luis Alfonso Garcia has all but locked up the homer title with 20 longballs, six head of Madera and Obregon’s Carlos Valencia. Valencia leads in RBIs with 55, while Mexicali’s Brad Snyder is next with 47.


Among pitchers, Mazatlan’s Pablo Ortega continues his lights-out season for the Venados with an 8-2 record and 2.09 ERA, leading the Mex Pac in both wins and ERA. Luis Mendoza leads the circuit by a wide margin in strikeouts with 70 Ks in 78 innings, while Mazatlan closer Gabe de Hoyos is tops in saves with 12 despite having only one save for the Venados since November 17.

TOMATEROS ACTIVATE PITCHER LOPEZ

The Culiacan Tomateros have activated major league veteran pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, who spent part of the past summer with the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Lopez was signed out of the Mexican League as a 19-year-old by San Diego in 1995 and worked his way up to the big club, making his big league debut with the Padres in 2000. After becoming a free agent following the 2001 season, Lopez signed on with the Baltimore Orioles, for whom he went 15-9 and was runner up in American League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2002. He won 36 more games for Baltimore over the next three seasons, but was eventually traded to Colorado in 2007. In August of that season, the Veracruz native underwent Tommy John surgery and later became a free agent.

He inked a minor league deal with the Phillies last March and eventually was called up from Class AAA Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia on July 3, starting against and beating the New York Mets, 7-2, that same night for his first big league win in nearly two years. Lopez, who has a 68-66 MLB career record, was released by the Phils in September.

After going 1-2 with a 4.55 ERA for Culiacan last season, Lopez has won both times he’s pitched this winter thus far.

LIGA MVP CESAR TO PLAY IN JAPAN IN 2010

2009 Mexican League Most Valuable Player Dionys Cesar has signed a contract with the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League for next year.
The Dominican infielder moves to the Land of the Rising Sun after spending most of the past five summers in Mexico.The 33-year-old Cesar, a 15-year pro baseball veteran who has played minor league ball for four different major league organizations, helped the Laguna Vaqueros to their first playoff berth in five seasons this year by leading the Liga with a .380 batting average, 36 doubles and 40 stolen bases after starting the season hitting .288 in 19 games for Yuma in the independent Golden Baseball League.

Cesar's signing is rather unusual because Japanese teams historically import power hitters from the Americas. Last summer, Cesar hit just five homers for Laguna.

CLOCK TICKING ON TECOS’ REORGANIZATION

At this month’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, Mexican League president Plinio Escalante (pictured) gave the Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes one week to clarify their ownership situation the Liga’s satisfaction, or risk losing the border city’s slot in the LMB schedule for the 2010 season.

Earlier this year at a league meeting in Puebla, Escalante said that both Nuevo Laredo and Chihuahua needed to straighten out their management and financial problems before proceeding with plans to play next year. Although Chihuahua was rumored to be the possible target of a sale and move to Chiapas, the Dorados appear to have found local investors and will likely stay put in 2010. The situation has not been resolved in Nuevo Laredo, however, and Escalante put a December 15 deadline for the Tecos to get their house in order.


One other ownership situation appears to have been resolved when it was announced that Carlos Peralta will keep the Quintana Roo Tigres in Cancun after seeking to sell the team his family has owned for over 50 years to local investors. None were found.


Liga owners also announced the 2010 season will once again consist of 107-game schedules, with each club playing only against other squads within their eight-team divisions. As in 2009, the top four teams from each division will advance to the playoffs.

DIABLOS, DORADOS NAME NEW MANAGERS

Two more Mexican League managerial openings have been filled. The Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Chihuahua Dorados both announced new skippers last week.

Mexico City has chosen Max “Mako” Oliveras as their new manager. The 63-year-old Santurce, Puerto Rico native played seven year of minor league ball before replacing Fred Hatfield as manager of the independent Miami Marlins in the Class A Florida State League in 1986. The following year, Oliveras was hired by the California Angels organization, where he managed for six seasons before becoming a coach in Anaheim in 1994. Oliveras moved to the Chicago Cubs coaching staff, where he served between 1995 and 1997. He’s managed in the minors ever since, spending 2009 with Binghamton of the Class AA Eastern League.


Salon de la Fama member Francisco “Chico” Rodriguez is taking the helm in Chihuahua. The older brother of the late Aurelio Rodriguez, a former MLB third baseman who is also enshrined in Monterrey, Chico Rodriguez spent 20 seasons playing in the Mexican League, hitting .270 with 2,186 hits (including 330 doubles) for the Mexico City Tigres, Veracruz Aguilas, and Aguascalientes Rieleros before retiring in 1985. Rodriguez has also managed both the Aguilas and Rieleros, but has not led a Liga team in over 20 years. He became a Salon member in 2004, nine years after his brother Aurelio was so honored.

YANKEES PITCHER ACEVES HELPS OPEN YOUTH SEASON IN MEXICO CITY

New York Yankees pitcher Alfredo Aceves was on hand to help open the 47th season of the Liga Olmeca youth baseball and softball league in Mexico City this month. Aceves, who turned in a 10-1 record with a 3.54 ERA out of the bullpen for the World Champions this year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the inauguration, then stayed for hours until signing every autograph request.

The native of the Sonora city of San Luis Rio Colorado spoke with the hundreds of youngsters in attendance, encouraging them to work hard at becoming better ballplayers with a goal of making it to the majors as he himself has done. Aceves spent six seasons in the Mexican League pitching for Yucatan and Monterrey before Yankees scout Lee Sigman convinced the Bronx Bombers to purchase him from the Sultanes in 2008.

Sigman was in Mexico City for the Liga Olmeca opener along with fellow Yankees scout Carlos Fragoso, World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman, Mexico’s 1984 Summer Olympic gold medal race walker Raul Gonzalez, and Liga Olmeca president Carlos Islava.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE Results (12-11-09 through 12-17-09)

FRIDAY, December 11
Culiacan 6, Los Mochis 3
Jorge Vazquez hit a 3-run homer in 4-run first for Tomateros as starter Rodrigo Lopez gave up 1 run and 3 hits in 5 innings.
Hermosillo 7, Obregon 1
Travis Blackley went 7 innings and allowed 1 run on 4 hits with 8 Ks and Humberto Cota was 4 for 5 with HR for Hermosillo.
Mazatlan 4, Navojoa 3
Edgar Gonzalez, Jon Weber and Christian Quintero all swatted solo homers for Venados. Edgar Osuna tossed 5.2 innings for win.
Guasave 7, Mexicali 6 (10)
Japhet Amador smacked 2 homers and drove in 3 runs, but it was Mario Valenzuela’s sacrifice fly that gave Guasave the victory.

SATURDAY, December 12
Los Mochis 6, Culiacan 5
Sandy Madera’s walk-off single in the 9th was the difference maker for the Caneros as Madera raised his LMP-best average to .414.
Obregon 5, Hermosillo 2
Carlos Valencia pounded two homers and Mauricio Lara struck out 6 batters over 5 innings to snap the Yaquis’ 3-game losing skid.
Navojoa 5, Mazatlan 3
Mayos outfielder Matt Young was 3-for-4 with a run and RBI, while Mariano Gomez pitched two scoreless innings in relief.
Guasave 8, Mexicali 7
Another nailbiter for Guasave, as Francisco Mendez’ walk-off single capped a 3-run 9th after Mexicali scored 5 in the top of the 9th.

SUNDAY, December 13
Culiacan 4, Los Mochis 1
Luis Cruz homered for the second night in a row, finishing with 3 hits, 2 runs and 2 RBIs as the Tomateros triumphed over Mochis.
Obregon 9, Hermosillo 1
Luis Mendoza let in 1 run over 8 innings for his 6th win for Obregon as OF James Tomlin registered 4 hits (including a homer).
Mazatlan 7, Navojoa 4
Ruben Rivera had 2 doubles, a single and scored twice for Mazatlan, who also got a 2-run homer from John Lindsey.
Mexicali 9, Guasave 5
Brad Snyder tripled and drove in two runs while Adam Rosales doubled and scored 3 times for the Aguilas, who avoided the sweep.

TUESDAY, December 15
Guasave 8, Hermosillo 2
Yurendell de Caster and Gabriel Gutierrez combined for 4 doubles, 3, runs and 3 RBIs for the Algodoneros in the series opener.
Mexicali 9, Los Mochis 6
Adam Rosales hit a homer while Matt Camp scored 3 times for the Aguilas, who’ve scored 32 runs over their last 4 games.
Culiacan 3, Navojoa 2 (11)
Ramiro Pena scored the game-winning run on Jorge Vazquez’ walkoff single to give reliever Arturo Barradas the win.
Obregon 10, Mazatlan 1
Carlos Valencia was 3-for-4 with a homer and 3 RBIs for Obregon as Brian Mazone pitched 7 strong innings to go to 2-0 in 3 starts.

WEDNESDAY, December 16
Nermosillo 4, Guasave 3
Chris Roberson slammed a walk-off 2-run homer for the Naranjeros, who got 6 innings of shutout pitching from Francisco Campos.
Los Mochis 4, Mexicali 3
Hector Hernandez’ 2-run triple in the bottom of the 9th iced the comeback victory for the Caneros.
Culiacan 4, Navojoa 3
Jorge Campillo was solid for the Tomateros, letting in 2 runs on 4 hits in 6 innings. Brian Adams allowed 1 run in 7 IP for Mayos.
Mazatlan 7, Obregon 3
Venados’ Jon Weber went 4-for-5 with 2 homers to raise his average to .394 as Esteban Loaiza went 7 innings for his 4th win.

THURSDAY, December 17
Nermosillo 8, Guasave 3
Luis Alfonso Garcia’s 2 homers and 3 RBIs (along with Geronimo Gil’s 2-run shot) aided the Orangemen win over Guasave.
Mexicali 4, Los Mochis
Matt Camp hit a 3-run homer and starter Andy SIsco gave up one hit (a Christian Quintero homer) over 3 innings for the Aguilas.
Navojoa 6, Culiacan 1
Matt Young was 3-for-4 with a solo homer, an RBI double and scored 3 runs as Oswaldo Verdugo let in 1 run in 5.2 innings.
Obregon 4, Mazatlan 3
Flavio Romero’s walk-off single drove in Hernando Arredondo with the winning run as the Yaquis took the series, 2 games to 1.

UPCOMING MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE GAMES
DEC. 18-19-20 Culiacan at Guasave, Obregon at Navojoa, Hermosillo at Mexicali, Los Mochis at Mazatlan
DEC. 21-22-27 Guasave at Obregon
DEC. 22-23-26 Hermosillo at Culiacan, Navojoa at Los Mochis
DEC. 25-26-27 Mexicali at Mazatlan

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #12): Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas


The 12th leg of our Road Trip takes us north from Monclova on Highway 57 to the town of Sabinas (a Mexican League city in the early 1970’s), where we’ll then head east on Highway 22 to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, home of the Tecolotes. Nuevo Laredo sits directly across from Laredo, Texas on the Mexico-USA border, where only the fabled Rio Grande separates the two cities (and countries).

The Laredo region’s history dates back to 1755, when Spaniard Don Tomas Sanchez founded the original settlement. The territory and its population remain united for nearly a century until the war between Mexico and the United States resulted in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which partitioned Laredo between the two countries via the Rio Grande. Present-day Nuevo Laredo was founded in 1848 by 17 families who remained loyal to Mexico and moved south of the river, even taking the remains of their ancestors so they might continue to rest in Mexican ground.

Nuevo Laredo has evolved into the most important trade border crossing in all of Latin America, with about 8,500 trucks crossing the border daily. The location of the city of 350,000 is almost perfect for international commerce, as it sits on the primary trade route between Mexico, the USA and Canada and is the only city on the Mexico-USA border strategically positioned at the convergence of all ground transportation systems. Seventy percent of all Mexican exports to North America travel through Nuevo Laredo, which is considered to be the largest inland port in Latin America.

Although the drug wars that have affected nearly all Mexican border cities are a present plague on Nuevo Laredo, there is still an active educational and cultural side to Nuevo Laredo. The city is home to six universities, four of which have strong emphases on business administration and technology trades while the other two are teacher’s colleges. There are three main theaters in town: the Centro Cultural, Teatro de la Ciudad and the Casa de Cultura, which all feature diverse fares such as music, plays, dance recitals, films and other forms of artistic expression. The major park in Nuevo Laredo is Parque Viveros, a 124-acre forest park overlooking the Rio Grande and housing a zoo, two swimming pools, walking trails and a picnic area with barbeque pits.

Nuevo Laredo is home to the Mexican League Tecolotes (or “Owls”), who returned to the city in 2008 after a four-year stay in Tijuana. Baseball has a long history in the Laredo region, where some claim the game was first played in Mexico. Nuevo Laredo has hosted five Mexican League pennant winners since 1945, with the last Liga flag coming in 1993. The team plays its home games at a 12,000-seat ballpark in the Ciudad Deportiva complex. For a number of years in the 1980s and 1990s, the Tecos split their home games between Nuevo Laredo and Laredo, becoming the only pro baseball team ever to share its home games between cities two countries.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#13): Reynosa, Tamaulipas