Monday, March 15, 2010

LMB SEASON TO OPEN TUESDAY IN SALTILLO

The defending Mexican League champion Saltillo Saraperos will host the Monclova Acereros Tuesday night in the opening game of the 2010 Liga season. The game will be played at Saltillo’s 12,112-seat Estadio de Beisbol Hermanos Serdan, and is the only contest slated for Tuesday night.

Things will get into full swing Wednesday night when all 16 LMB teams will be in action, with teams playing return matches on Thursday to complete their respective two-game home-and-home season opening series. The Liga schedule will revert to its usual three-game series format Friday through Sunday, followed by the traditional Monday off-day.

As in 2009, Mexican League teams will play their 108-game schedules solely against the other seven teams within their own division to save money on travel costs. The Northern Zone consists of Saltillo, Monclova, Monterrey, Mexico City, Reynosa, Laguna, Nuevo Laredo and Chihuahua. The Southern Zone lineup includes Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Puebla, Minatitlan and Veracruz.

No franchises were moved in the offseason.

FIVE SELECTED TO ENTER SALON DE LA FAMA

Mexican baseball’s version of the hall of fame, the Salon de la Fama, last week announced the election of five new members for 2010. Chairman of the Electors Gonzalo Camarillo gave the names of the new inductees last Wednesday at the Monterrey facility. Joining the pantheon were position players Alonso Tellez, Gerardo Sanchez and Derek Bryant, pitcher Armando Reynoso and umpire Efrain Ibarra.

An outfielder, Tellez was a perennial .300 batter (mostly for the Monterrey Industriales and Reynosa) from the mid-1980s through the early 2000s. Tellez who topped the .300 mark for 10 consecutive Mexican League seasons between 1988 and 1997. Sanchez was an outfielder for Nuevo Laredo for two decades, finishing with a .289 career batting average and 199 homers. Bryant (pictured), who currently manages the Laguna Vaqueros, was a very productive batter from 1982 through 1988, hitting .355 with 141 homers in 704 games for the Mexico City Tigres, Tampico and Monterrey. He also managed Monterrey to Liga pennants in 1995 and 1996. Reynoso, a native of San Luis Potosi, spent all or part of 12 seasons in the major leagues, compiling a career 68-62 record with a 4.74 ERA. Ibarra spent many years as one of the Liga’s most- respected umpires.

The five newest members will be formally inducted into the Salon in June.

D’BACKS HOLD OFF ROCKIES IN HERMOSILLO EXHIBITION GAME

The Arizona Diamondbacks snuck past the Colorado Rockies, 8-7, Sunday afternoon in a Major League Baseball preseason game played in Hermosillo’s 13,000-seat Estadio Hector Espino. Attendance at the contest was not announced.

Hermosillo fans saw a number of native sons involved in the contest, including Arizona starting pitcher Rodrigo Lopez (pictured). Lopez, who was 3-1 in five starts for the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies last year, was touched for two runs on five hits over three innings. Other Mexican players in the contest included Arizona pitcher Leo Rosales and Rockies players Erubiel Durazo, Miguel Duarte (an Hermosillo native) and Jorge de la Rosa.
Mexican baseball legend Vinny Castilla, who works in the Rockies front office while still actively playing winters for Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League, served as an honorary first base coach for Colorado. Rockies manager Jim Tracy spent time playing winterball in Hermosillo in the 1980s, and was warmly received by fans at the game.

Diamondbacks team president Derrick Hall said of the game in Hermosillo, “This is very important to me and important to us…We have developed a good relationship with Sonora and the city of Hermosillo over the years, and we cherish that.”

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #24): Cancun, Quintana Roo

The last stop on our 24-city Mexican Baseball Road Trip is Cancun in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo. When North Americans think of Cancun, it's usually a mental picture of warm weather and sandy beaches, but there's much more to the story than that. Cancun was a sleepy Quintana Roo fishing village of 120 as recently as 1970 before being picked by a computer as a good site for tourism. Twenty-five years later, about 500,000 people live in Cancun with another two million visitors annually.

Quintana Roo is a tropical state on the Yucatan Peninsula (at the tip of Mexico's "boot"), bordering Guatemala, Belize, Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico. Travelers willing to break away from Cancun's beaches can find Mayan ruins and artifacts predating Columbus back to the 12th Century nearby. It is a region brimming with early Mexican history, and ruins continue to be discovered after being swallowed up for centuries by jungle foliage. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, too, with hundreds of species on hand to observe. Don’t expect to find much evidence of colonial Mexico here, however.

The history of Cancun baseball is a little less impressive, however. The city’s first team made its Mexican League debut in 1996 as the Quintana Roo Langosteros before taking on Cancun's name two years later. The Lobstermen reached the second round of the playoff in 1997, but they spent most of the time near the bottom of the standings until Hurricane Wilma decimated Cancun in 2005, forcing the team to move to Poza Rica (kicking off a three-city odyssey for that team).

The city remained without baseball until the Angelopolis Tigres moved to Cancun in 2007. Unlike the Langosteros, the Tigres are one of Mexico’s most storied baseball team since their formation in 1955. The team has won nine Liga penants over the years (most of which original owner Alejo Peralta insisted on an all-Mexican roster), and their rivalry with the Diablos Rojos when both teams were based in Mexico City for 47 years was legendary. The Tigres reached the LMB Championship Series last summer before falling to Saltillo. The team was placed for sale over the winter by owner Carlos Peralta (Alejo’s son), but when no suitable offer was made, Peralta decided to pull the Tigres off the market and keep the team in Cancun…at least for the time being.

Cancun's ballpark, Parque Beto Avila, is one of the Liga's smaller stadiums with 7,000 seats. It was renovated for 20 million pesos before the Tigres moved there three years ago, and is one of two ballparks in Mexico named for Roberto “Beto” Avila, former star of the Cleveland Indians. The other is in Avila’s native Veracruz.



Baseball Mexico will be making available a full collection of all 24 profiles of Mexican Pacific League and Mexican League cities since the Road Trip started out in Mazatlan last October. If you would like a free copy, just email me at BaseballMexico@live.com, and you’ll be sent one free of charge. The collection will be ready to send beginning in April.