Monday, February 22, 2010

VERACRUZ TEAM TRAINING IN CUBA

The Veracruz Rojos del Aguila are spending a month’s worth of training camp in Cuba. Aguilas president Jose Antonio Mansur says he was pleased with negotiations that took place between Cuban officials and Veracruz state governor Fidel Herrera, who he said has always had good relations with leaders of the island nation.

The Aguilas began training in Cuba on February 22 and are scheduled to remain there until returning home next month to play a preseason game with the Yucatan Leones on March 9. Veracruz will play exhibition games against Cuban teams prior to returning to Mexico.

Veracruz will play their 2010 Mexican League schedule under manager Victor Mesa (pictured), himself a native of Cuba.

MEXICAN LEAGUE TEAMS HOLD MARKETING SEMINAR

One of the reasons baseball has fallen behind soccer in popularity in Mexico is that the baseball teams have fallen behind their soccer counterparts in selling their product to the public. Mexican League teams are hoping a recent workshop in Mexico City among their marketing directors will be a step toward closing the gap in public perception.

The workshop on February 18 was held by Javier Salinas, the marketing director of the Mexican Football League’s Morelia Monarcos and a professor of sports and entertainment marketing at various universities in Mexico. Among the items discussed were new technologies, sales methodology, fan appeal and the need for teams to work with each other on marketing strategies. The attendees spent time sharing their experiences in their respective markets, while brainstorming for new ideas that might bring more fans out to ballparks in Mexico.

PRESEASON BICENTENNIAL CUP GAMES SET FOR GUANAJUATO

The central Mexico state of Guanajuato will be the site of a number of exhibition games between Mexican League teams competing in the so-called Bicentennial Cup tournament. The Monclova Acereros, Laguna Vaqueros, Chihuahua Dorados and the defending Liga champion Saltillo Saraperos will play contests in seven cities between February 26 and March 7.

The tournament is being organized in part by the Acereros. Monclova general manager Victor Favela and new manager Mario Mendoza attended a press conference last week along with city and state officials from Guanajuato to unveil some of the Bicentennial Cup schedule and to stress the tourney will bring a high level of baseball to the Bajio region. Guanajuato is actually located closer to Mexico City to the south than to the four northern cities that will comprise the competition.

The first game is scheduled for February 26 in Silao when Monclova faces Chihuahua.

CANTU WORKS OUT WITH REYNOSA PRIOR TO MARLINS CAMP

Florida Marlins infielder Jorge Cantu spent some time in Reynosa last week training with the Mexican League Broncos prior to reporting to spring training in Jupiter, Florida later this month. A native of the city near the Texas border, Cantu took batting practice wearing shorts and a turned-around cap after individually greeting each Broncos player.

“It’s an honor to be sharing baseball experiences with the boys,” Cantu said. “The team looks very good and always smiling on the diamond…it’s a blessing to play this game,” he added.

Cantu hit .289 with 16 homers and 100 RBIs with the Marlins under manager Fredi Gonzalez in 2009. Cantu expects a solid year in Miami this season. “We are a team with a lot of spark,” he said. “We are going to fight and play hard. I think we have a chance to do something this season.”

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #21): Villahermosa, Tabasco



The state of Tabasco in the southeastern part of Mexico was largely ignored during the nation’s turbulent history over the centuries, but the development of oil drilling within the past century changed all that and has resulted in the growth of the state capital of Villahermosa (which means “beautiful town”).

Centuries ago, Tabasco was the center of the Olmec culture, which is considered by many archeologists as the mother culture of Mesoamerica. Hernando Cortes landed at the mouth of the Rio Grijalva in 1519 and easily conquered the native Mayans, but found raiding pirates more difficult to deal with and moved inland to what is now Villahermosa.

The Tabasco region was fairly untouched during the colonial period because the Spaniards found the steamy, insect-ridden jungle climate less than hospitable, and Tabasco was largely bypassed during former president Porfirio Diaz’ industrialization efforts in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Oil was discovered in the 1930’s, but wasn’t fully exploited until the 1970’s. The oil boom has led to tremendous growth in Tabasco and Villahermosa, which is now a metropolis of over 500,000 residents.

While one would be hard-pressed to call Villahermosa a “beautiful town” in a literal sense, it is not without its charms. The nearby Olmec site of La Venta was discovered by oil drillers years ago and is now a popular park with a zoo. In the city itself, the impressive CICOM complex includes a concert hall, theater, museum, research library and a restaurant. The Carlos Pellicer Regional & Anthropological Museum has four levels, and is very popular with visitors.

Villahermosa is home to the Tabasco Olmecas baseball club, named after the original inhabitants of the region. The Olmecas play their home games at Parque Centenario 27 de Febrero, which seats 10,500 fans.