Tuesday, February 16, 2010

VETS CASTILLA, SANDOVAL HOPE TO BE BACK WITH NARANJEROS NEXT WINTER

Veteran infielders Vinny Castilla and Jose Luis Sandoval both say they’d like to come back to play another season with the Mexican Pacific League champion Hermosillo Naranjeros.

The 42-year-old Castilla, who hit .292 with seven homers in 30 regular season games at third base for Hermosillo, says, “I’d love to return next season, but my body is going to say whether I can. Baseball is my passion and my life, and when I’m on the field, I’m happy.” Castilla retired from the big leagues after the 2006 season, and currently works in the Colorado Rockies front office.

Sandoval (pictured) has played shortstop for 19 winters in Hermosillo, batting .236 in 62 games this past season after hitting .298 for the Mexico City Diablos Rojos last summer. Sandoval says he wants to retire with the Naranjeros, and that if he avoids injury and plays well for the Diablos this year, he’ll hopefully be back wearing an orange jersey in October.
Both Castilla and Sandoval indicated they’d be interested in managing Hermosillo after their playing days are over.

TIGRES TAKEN OFF MARKET, TO STAY IN CANCUN

After spending the winter with a “For Sale” sign on them, the Mexican League’s Quintana Roo Tigres have reversed course and will remain in Cancun. Tigres chairman Cuauhtemoc Rodriguez says owner Carlos Peralta ordered that the team no longer be for sale, and that the “desire of all is to stay for many years in this paradise.”

The Tigres were originally put on the market following a 2009 season in which they won the Southern Zone title and played in the League Championship Series against Monterrey. However, after no takers were found, the decision was made to keep the team in the resort city, where training camp was set to open Tuesday, February 16.

At a press conference, Rodriguez said, “We now expect the support of the fans and the state government” to ensure the Tigres’ continued presence in Cancun. He added, “No professional team can survive without the support of governments, sponsors and especially the presence of fans at the ballparks.”

AMEZAGA SIGNS MINOR LEAGUE DEAL WITH DODGERS

Shortstop Alfredo Amezaga has signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers after an injury-plagued 2009 season with the Florida Marlins.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Amezaga’s Dodger deal calls for $650,000 if the Obregon native makes the big club plus another $150,000 in incentives. Amezaga is expected to be in a three-way battle with Nick Green and Angel Berroa for a slot in the Los Angeles infield this spring.

Amezaga, who turned 32 last month, attended high school in Miami, Florida before being picked by Anaheim on the 13th round of the 1999 draft. He has gone on to play in the majors with the Angels, Colorado, Pittsburgh and Florida, hitting .251 with 12 homers, 167 runs scored and 49 stolen bases in 544 career MLB games. Amezaga only batted .217 with 5 RBIs in 27 games for the Marlins before a knee injury sidelined him for the season.

MURILLO BACK WITH MONTERREY FOR 2010 SEASON

The Mexican Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player for 2008-09, Agustin Murillo, will be back with the Monterrey Sultanes this season after spending last summer with Reno of the Class AAA Pacific Coast League.

The Tijuana-born Murillo, who turns 28 in May, hit .275 in 76 games for the Aces in 2009 on the heels of his Hector Espino Trophy-winning winter with the Obregon Yaquis in which he led the LMP with 87 hits and finished third in the batting race with a .345 average along with 11 homers, 12 stolen bases and a Mex Pac record 30 doubles.

Murillo has played for Mexico in two Caribbean Series and the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #20): Oaxaca, Oaxaca

While the city of Oaxaca is no stranger to visitors, it is anything but a tourist trap. Oaxaca has maintained a very colonial flavor while becoming known as a cultural arts center for the country because a number of local indigenous populations maintain their distinctive identities and languages. Oaxaca was named a “World Heritage Site” by the United Nations in 1987 along with the nearby Monte Alban ruins.


Oaxaca was discovered by Spanish conquistadores in 1533, and quickly became a favorite of Hernando Cortes and his family for its temperate climate and scenery provided by the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range that rims the city of a quarter-million inhabitants. There are a number of beautiful churches in Oaxaca (including the breathtaking baroque styled Templo de Santo Domingo), plus several fine mansions, government buildings and plazas throughout the city. There are outdoor markets galore throughout the state of Oaxaca, and the Saturday mercado in the city is not to be missed. Oaxaca is also known for its many colorful fiestas, and history buffs almost always visit the ruins at Monte Alban and Mitla (both built centuries ago by the Zapotec tribe and also occupied by the Mayans and Aztecs).


While Oaxaca is reasonably consistent in temperatures in the 70’s throughout the year, the rainy season between May and September is also a familiar companion.


Oaxaca is home to the Mexican League Guerreros during the spring and summer. The Guerreros play at Eduardo Vasconcelos Stadium, a 7,200-seat facility built in 1950 in the northern part of the city. Field turf was installed on the playing surface in recent years, and a 2008 renovation to the ballpark brought a new video screen and improved seats in the stands.  Oaxaca finished 42-63 in 2009 and missed the playoffs.


While the Guerreros (or “Warriors”) have yet to win a Liga crown since entering the Mexican League in 1996, they play in front of enthusiastic and noisy crowds that include cheerleaders. Yes, cheerleaders. Baseball in Mexico is indeed different.


NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#21): Villahermosa, Tabasco