Monday, March 29, 2010


It’s one of the maxims of baseball in spring that hitters will be ahead of pitchers, but nowhere was that more apparent than in the Mexican League last Saturday night.

Laguna posted a 24-10 drubbing of Nuevo Laredo in Torreon as the Vaqueros collected 27 hits to go along with five Tecolotes errors. The game was a scoreless tie until the bottom of the second as Ivan Araujo (pictured) finished with a 5-for-6 night for Laguna, who surprisingly had no homers in the rout.
Things weren’t much better for Yucatan the same night as the Leones were on the short end of a 20-8 pasting in Puebla. The Pericos put this one out of reach early by scoring 10 runs in the first inning, including six off Leones starter Salvador Arellano (who failed to retire any of the six batters he faced). Rene Reyes was 4-for-6 for Puebla, who had no homers among their 22 hits.


It’s not unusual to see teams change managers during the season, but one week into the schedule? The Tabasco Olmecas have done just that by bringing former Mexico City Diablos Rojos skipper Daniel Fernandez to Villahermosa to replace Gustavo Llenas after just five games in the 2010 season. The Olmecas lost all five contests prior to Fernandez’ March 22 hiring.

The 44-year-old Fernandez was one of Mexico’s top players during his long career with the Diablos, and is considered by many observers to be the greatest leadoff hitter in Liga history. He ended his 25-year career in 2007 with 2,648 hits for an average of .313, is the LMB’s all-time leader in runs scored with 1,836 and stands third with 478 lifetime stolen bases.

Fernandez was quite successful in a two-year stint as manager in Mexico City as well, going 66-39 and winning the Liga pennant in 2008 and turned in an LMB-best 70-35 regular season record before being shocked by the Laguna Vaqueros in the first round of the playoffs last year, which led to his ouster by Diablos ownership. The Olmecas are 3-3 since Fernandez took over the team.


Quintana Roo Tigres third baseman Abel Martinez played in his 1,000th Mexican League game last Wednesday night when the defending southern champions squared off against the Puebla Pericos in Puebla’s Parque de Hermanos Serdan. The Los Mochis native, who turns 33 next month, began his Liga career with the old Cancun Langosteros in 1996.

After going just 4-for-26 that first season, Martinez went on to play with Cancun through 2003 (minus a season with Kansas City’s Class A Northwest League affiliate in Spokane in 2000) before embarking on an five-year LMB odyssey that took him to Laguna, Aguascalientes, Veracruz and Tijuana before returning to Quintana Roo last season. His best season came in 2005 with Laguna when he batted .334 with 11 homers and 16 stolen bases for the Vaqueros in 95 games. Martinez hit .372 for Aguascalientes one year later, but only had two homers and 7 steals.

Martinez, who plays winter ball with Navojoa in the Mexican Pacific League, hit .296 in nine games for Mexico at last year’s Baseball World Cup in Europe.


A trio of Mexican ballplayers began their 2010 regular seasons in Asia. Former Padres second baseman Edgar Gonzalez made his debut with Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants last week, drawing a walk and scoring a run in the Giants’ 4-1 Central League win over the Yakult Swallows in front of over 44,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome. Yomiuri is the defending league champion.

Two other Mexicans are playing in the Korea Baseball Organization. Karim Garcia, who has become a huge star in South Korea, blasted a homer for the Lotte Giants in a 3-2 opening day loss to the Nexen Heroes, while pitcher Edgar Gonzalez went five strong innings for the LG Twins in their 7-5 win in 11 innings over the Samsung Lions. Gonzalez left the game with a 4-2 lead.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Jasiel Acosta (pictured) turned in a solid start and first baseman Pedro Diaz contributed a pair of hits and two RBIs to lead the Monclova Acereros to a 5-2 win over the defending Mexican League champion Saltillo Saraperos on March 16 at Saltillo in the 2010 LMB season opener.

Acosta gave up one unearned run on three hits and one walk over his five frames for Monclova to take the win, while Saltillo starter Mario Mendoza, Jr. took the loss after allowing four runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings in front of 11,500 fans in Estadio Francisco I. Madero. Five relievers followed Acosta and combined to hold Saltillo to one more run over the final four innings as Tim Lavigne worked his way through a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save for the Steelers.

Diaz went 2-for-4 for Monclova, including a two-out single up the middle in the top of the fifth inning to drive in Ismael Salas and Saul Soto. Diaz was one of three Acereros with two hits in the contest along with Salas and Gonzalo Meza. DH Sandy Madera doubled and hit a solo homer for Saltillo, while Saraperos outfielder Jesus Cota turned in a 2-for-4 night at the plate.


Attendance numbers looked good for last week’s Mexican League opening games, with a total of 139,439 reported to have attended the LMB’s 16 home openers in eight two-game series between March 16 and 18, good for an average of 8,715 fans per game.
The largest crowd was in Monterrey, where the Sultanes drew 17,582 attendees to their tilt with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos as Monterrey, Mexico City, Saltillo, Puebla and Yucatan all drew over 10,000 fans for their openers. The smallest reported crowd was in Minatitlan, where the Petroleros hosted Veracruz in front of a cozy gathering of 3,000.
While attendance figures for the northern teams were higher than their counterparts to the south, at least one longtime observer of Mexican baseball has registered his skepticism. Former University of Texas-Harlingen professor Jim McCurdy, a native Texan who played semipro ball south of the border before embarking on an academic career, says one contact told him that while Reynosa reported a crowd of 5,409 for their opener against Nuevo Laredo, that number looked inflated. Another contact in Nuevo Laredo told McCurdy that while the box score of the Tecos’ game with the Broncos reported an even 8,000 in the stands, “no way” were that many fans there.

McCurdy reiterated his concern that drug war violence would affect attendance for border teams, adding that other northern LMB cities are now dealing with the same problems.


Los Mochis Caneros team president Joaquin Vega was voted in as the Mexican Pacific League’s Chairman of the Board last Thursday at a league meeting in Hermosillo. Vega will succeed Enrique Mazon, who served nine years as LMP chairman. Mazon, who is president of the MexPac champion Hermosillo Naranjeros, was named LMP Executive of the Year earlier this month.

Vega will work with LMP president Omar Canizalez on building the league’s marketing effort while helping maintain a sense of balance among the eight league franchises. One of the first issues Vega will face is the question of whether to allow television instant replay in helping umpires determine home run calls. ”Everything will depend on the technology that exists in the stadiums so the umpires can make this work efficiently,” he said.

Another item on the MexPac agenda will be a possible reconfiguration of the playoff system to coincide with a likely earlier start to the 2011 Caribbean Series, which will be played at 10,500-seat Estadio Isadoro Garcia in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Historically, the CS has been held the first week of February, but may be moved to the last week of January to allow for more time between the end of the winter baseball season and the beginning of Major League spring training.

Monday, March 15, 2010


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.


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.


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, and you’ll be sent one free of charge. The collection will be ready to send beginning in April.

Monday, March 8, 2010


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.


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.”


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

Monday, March 1, 2010


The ongoing battle between drug cartels and police in Mexico is well-documented, and the problem has already been a major factor in Tijuana losing its Mexican League baseball team despite being one of the country's most attractive markets. One knowledgeable Baseball Mexico subscriber says the LMB's two border franchises may be negatively affected this year.

Jim McCurdy, a lifelong Texan who played baseball in Mexico prior to spending several years as a college instructor in the border city of Harlingen, says both the Nuevo Laredo Tecolotes and Reynosa Broncos are caught up in a “war zone,” and that similar circumstances that helped drive the Potros out of Tijuana two years ago (with the franchise ironically shifting to Reynosa) “may very well play havoc with the league's schedule again this year.”

McCurdy explains that the past week has seen shootouts almost every day with several people being killed in both Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. “Cops, soldiers and drug thugs have all been killed or wounded,” he says, “and the American Consulate in Reynosa closed this week until further notice.”

McCurdy adds, “It's very bad down there right now and the government is losing more control everyday. Even with American help, the Mexican cops and soldiers are outgunned and outmanned. The ordinary citizens are scared to death and they're not going to risk going out at night to baseball games because the cartel hoodlums have no qualms about shooting up a crowd if they think thay can kill some opponents.”

According to Ballparks Digest, In 2009, Reynosa drew 334,369 fans to 51 home games, second in the Liga to Monclova, but Nuevo Laredo had just 112,984 attendees for 52 openings.


Longtime Mexican baseball veteran Juan Carlos “El Canelo” Canizalez has been acquired by the Oaxaca Guerreros in a trade sending right-handed pitcher Miguel Rubio to Monclova. The 39-year-old Canizalez hit .307 with 5 homers in 87 games for the Acereros last year, marking the seventh time in his 19-year Liga career that he's topped the .300 mark (including a career-best .358 average for Monterrey in 1995).

Canizalez is a career .299 batter over 1,608 LMB games, collecting 1,746 hits including 99 homers. He's also a career .288 hitter over 16 winters in the Mexican Pacific League, including a .270 average last season in 45 games in his first campaign for Culican after spending 12 seasons with Hermosillo. The switch-hitting first baseman won two LMP batting titles with the Naranjeros.


Former major league pitcher Matt Perisho has signed with Monclova for the 2010 season. A left-hander, Perisho spent last summer with the Brother Elephants of Taiwan's Chinese Professional Baseball League, going 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 79.1 innings pitched.

The 35-year-old Iowa native spent eight years in the majors with five teams after debuting for the Angels in 1999, turning in a career 11-17 record. This will be Perisho's second time around in Mexico after going 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA for Nuevo Laredo in 2008.


Minor league veteran outielder Chris Roberson, who led Hermosillo with a .333 batting average in the Caribbean Series this winter, will play for the Monterrey Sultanes in 2010.

Roberson, a 6'2” switch-hitter who played 57 games for Philadelphia in 2006, batted .232 for the Naranjeros in the regular season before batting .348 in the LMP playoffs and going 9-of-27 in Venezuela to lead all Hermosillo batters in the CS.
He spent last summer with the Pacific Coast League's Reno Aces, hitting .261 in 127 games for the Diamondbacks' Class AAA affiliate.

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #22): Campeche, Campeche

While our next stop on the Road Trip, Merida, was marked by invasions of Mayan rebels from the south, Campeche was plagued by attacks from pirates such as Henry Morgan, Jean Lafitte and Francis Drake (who was considered a buccaneer by the Spanish) cruising the Gulf of Mexico. The city was founded in 1540 by Spaniards on the site of a former Mayan fishing village. It was the most important port on the Yucatan Peninsula during colonial days, a fact not unnoticed by English, French and British buccaneers who wreaked havoc on Campeche several times. After a particularly grisly massacre in 1663, thick walls were built to protect the city, including eight bastions (seven of which can still be visited). Things calmed down a bit after that, and Campeche flourished within the fortifications, although only the Spaniards lived within the walls while the natives were kept outside. The city was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1999.

As one might expect, Campeche is full of stately reminders of its prosperous past. Many pastel-colored centuries-old buildings can be enjoyed, as can a lovely botanical garden built around one of the bastions. Like Cancun and Merida, Campeche sits in a tropical climate. Unlike their Liga rivals to the east, however, the city of 212,000 has been relatively untouched by tourism and retains its genuine feel of an old colonial working town.

The Mexican League’s Campeche Piratas (or “Pirates”) play at 6,000-seat Parque Nelson Barrera, named after the beloved third base great and manager who tragically died a few years ago when he was struck by a powerline while cleaning debris from his home rooftop after a storm. The field measures 330 feet down both foul lines and 400 feet to straightaway center field.

Campeche reached the Mexican League playoffs last season with a 56-51 overall record, but fell to Quintana Roo in the Southern Zone semifinals, 4 games to 2. Former major leaguer Ruben Rivera had a standout year for the Piratas, hitting .344 and leading the Liga with 32 homers while driving in 90 runs. Among pitchers, both Alejandro Armenta and Francisco Campos turned in 11 wins. The veteran Campos, nicknamed “Pancho Ponches” for his ability to strike out batters, whiffed 89 hitters in 144 innings while registering a 2.31 ERA.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#23): Merida, Yucatan