Monday, March 8, 2010

NARANJEROS’ GARCIA NAMED MEX PAC MVP

The Mexican Pacific League’s team presidents voted on individual awards for the 2009-10 season last week in Hermosillo, and a somewhat surprising choice was made for Most Valuable Player. The LMP leaders picked Luis Alfonso Garcia (pictured) of the champion Hermosillo Naranjeros as their MVP despite a terrific batting average put up by Los Mochis’ Sandy Madera.

Garcia did have a solid season for the Orangemen, leading the Mex Pac with 23 homers and finishing second to Obregon’s Carlos Valencia with 58 RBIs while hitting .266. All Madera did was bat .413 with 14 homers and 47 runs scored to become only the third player in LMP history to top the .400 mark, joining Matias Carrillo and the legendary Hector Espino in that exclusive club, but that apparently wasn’t enough for an MVP trophy.
Mazatlan’s Pablo Ortega was voted Pitcher of the Year after going 8-2 with a 2.43 ERA for the Venados, leading the LMP in wins and ERA. Madera’s Mochis teammate, catcher Sebastian Valle, was named Rookie of the Year for batting .281 with 11 homers. Navojoa skipper Orlando Sanchez earned Manager of the Year honors for coaxing a talent-starved Mayos team into the playoffs with a 32-36 record.

Hermosillo scored a front office double play, with team president Enrique Mazon voted as Executive of the Year and Naranjeros general manager Juan Aguirre being awarded the Abundio Vargas Trophy as GM of the Year.

RAMON ARANO, 72, WANTS TO PITCH IN SEVENTH DECADE

The Mexican League’s all-time winningest pitcher says he wants to come back, however briefly, to pitch this season. Ramon Arano, whose 334 wins spanned 32 seasons between 1959 and 2001, claims he’s serious in stating his desire to pitch in 2010 and become the first man in pro baseball history to pitch in seven decades.

Arano, who is tied with Hub Kittle for the record of pitching in six decades, says “I’m not crazy. I want to pitch the seventh decade…My speed is between 67 and 68 miles per hour, even at 72 years old. I’m not killing anyone or offending anyone, and it would be very nice to say that Mexico has a pitcher who got to pitch in seven different decades and is entered into the Guinness Book.” He adds he’d like to pitch for either Mexico City or Veracruz.

After debuting for Poza Rica in 1959, Arano went on to fashion a 334-264 career mark, including a Liga record 57 shutouts. He last pitched 3.1 innings for Veracruz in a 2001 game and allowed one run, eight years after his 1993 induction into the Salon de la Fama. Arano also posted an 89-88 career winterball record in the Mexican Pacific League.

“I’ve always said that the day I die, I want to die on a baseball field doing my job,” Arano adds. “I will not wake up dead in a bed.”

LONGTIME BASEBALL SCRIBE MORALES HONORED AT YOUTH LEAGUE GAME

Veteran baseball writer and Salon de la Fama member Tomas Morales was recently honored prior to a youth baseball game in Mexico City. Morales, whose “Tommy al Bat” column has been a Mexican baseball staple for decades (and can still be read in Mexico City’s Esto sports newspaper), was feted at a February 28 contest in the Olmeca League, which he helped form.

Among the attendees honoring the 78-year-old Morales were representatives from the Mexican League, Mexico City Diablos Rojos, the Liga Olmeca and numerous friends and contemporaries of the past 58 years. Morales began in baseball working in 1952 as producer of a Game of the Day broadcast before starting writing his “Tommy al Bat” column for Hit magazine in 1954. He has written and edited for a number of magazines and newspapers since then, and was inducted as a full member of the Salon de la Fama in 1990.


Morales said that although he never had the faculties to play baseball, he was lucky to direct his passion for the sport towards writing. “I will never forget this day,” he added.

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #23): Merida, Yucatan

The next-to-last stop on our Mexican Baseball Road Trip is Merida, Yucatan, home of the Mexican League’s Yucatan Leones. Merida is located in northwest Yucatan about 22 miles south of the Gulf of Mexico. According to the 2005 census, Merida has around 781,000 residents, making it Mexico’s 12-largest city.

Merida was first settled in 1542 by Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo, although the site had actually been a center of Mayan activities for centuries prior to the arrival of the Spaniards. In fact, it was known as “The City of Five Hills” because of the presence of five pyramids built by the Mayans. As a result, many historians consider Merida the oldest continuously-occupied city in the Western Hemisphere. Carved Mayan stones were used to build Spanish colonial buildings that are plentiful in downtown Merida, and much of the local architecture comes from the colonial period of the 17th and 18th centuries. Like Campeche to the west, Merida was a walled city in response to periodic revolts by the indigenous Mayans. Some of the old gates remain, but Merida has evolved into a modern city.

As the cultural capital of the state of Yucatan, Merida offers visitors many things to do. There are numerous museums, art galleries, theaters, shops and restaurants in town. It should be noted that food in Yucatan is far from what the rest of the world calls “Mexican,” with influences from Mayan, Caribbean, European and Middle Eastern cultures creating an entirely unique cuisine. Merida has a symphony orchestra and the Jose Peon Contreras Theatre featured jazz, opera and classical music. The Paseo de Montejo is dotted by several original sculptures, and the MACAY Museum annually exhibits new sculptures for ten months.

The Yucatan Leones play their home games at Parque Kukulcan, a 13,600-seat ballpark that opened in March 1982, and the team is usually among the leaders in LMB attendance figures. Parque Kukulcan is a pitcher’s park, with the Gulf of Mexico marine air from 22 miles to the north combining with fairly deep outfield dimensions to limit fly balls that would be homers in other Mexican stadiums to warning track outs in Merida.

The Leones have appropriately tended to build their teams around pitching and defense over the years and as a result, Yucatan has been a perennial Liga playoff entry. The Leones have won three Mexican League pennants, in 1957, 1984 and 2006. Last season, Yucatan had a 68-38 regular season record, but was upset by Puebla in five games in the Southern Zone semifinals. Fernando Alejos led Leones batters with a .355 average while Edgard Clemente (son of the late Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente) topped Yucatan with 10 homers despite only playing 59 games before being dealt to Reynosa. Javier Martinez led the pitching staff with an 11-2 record and a 2.95 ERA.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#24): Cancun, Quintana Roo