Saturday, January 2, 2010

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #14): Monterrey, Nuevo Leon

Our Mexican baseball road trip takes us away from the U.S. border for the final time as we leave Reynosa westbound on Highway 40D until we reach Monterrey, the capital of the state of Nuevo Leon, the leading city in northern Mexico and the industrial center of the nation. Monterrey was founded in 1596 by Diego de Montemayor, but it wasn’t until after the War of Independence in the 1820’s that it started blossoming as in important business center. Present-day Monterrey is home to nearly four million residents, and is Mexico’s third-largest city behind Mexico City and Guadalajara.

While many visitors will not be impressed by the factories, traffic and smog they’ll encounter here, Monterrey’s city center is actually quite pleasant, with a combination of colonial elegance and modern architecture and statues. The heart of Monterrey, many say, lies in the Plaza Zaragosa (also known as the “Macroplaza”), which was created by the demolition of six complete city blocks in downtown Monterrey. The crown jewel of the Macroplaza is the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, or MARCO, a museum that is considered a “don’t-miss” experience for art lovers visiting Monterrey. While not as beautiful on an overall basis as some of the more colonial cities in Mexico’s south, Monterrey has much to offer those willing to look past the industrial congestion that creates the city’s wealth.

Home to three past Little League World Series champions, Monterrey is also perhaps the center of Mexican baseball. It is home of the Salon de la Fama, the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame, which is located at the Cuauhtemoc Brewery grounds. The Salon was built in 1971.
Also in the area is the Mexican Baseball Academy, where all 16 LMB teams share funding for the 100 young domestic athletes hoping to develop into pro ballplayers. The complex consists of 56 dorm rooms, four baseball fields, four batting cages, a computer room, a weight room, an infirmary and a plaza where players can congregate. The Academia runs an eight-team rookie league during the winter, and its players are subject to an annual Liga draft of young talent.

The Monterrey Sultanes are one of the Mexican League’s flagship franchises, and have won nine Liga championships since their founding in 1939 (although the team failed to reach the playoffs in 2009 just two years after winning their last pennant). The Sultanes are usually near the top of the LMB in attendance, playing home games in Mexico’s largest ballpark, the 27,000-seat Estadio de Beisbol Monterrey. It is the only ballpark in Mexico to have hosted Major League Baseball regular season games (in 1996 and 1999), and there was an attempt to bring the Montreal Expos to Monterrey before they were finally moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#15): Saltillo, Coahuila

No comments: