Monday, May 31, 2010

HERAS NAMED MVP AS LMB NORTH ALL-STARS BEATS SOUTH, 4-3

Reynosa’s Leo Heras’ RBI single in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Zona Madero team a 4-3 lead they would never relinquish as the Northerners beat the southern Zona Hidalgo by that score in the 78th annual Mexican League All-Star Game last Tuesday in front of a full house at Chihuahua’s 14,500-seat Estadio Monumental.

The Broncos’ centerfielder came to the plate with the score tied 3-3 after Saul Soto of Monclova singled and moved to second on a groundout by Reynosa’s Domingo Castro. Heras then lined a single off Yucatan’s Jose Vargas to bring in Soto with what ended up as the game-winning run. For his pinch-hitting effort, Heras (who is batting .316 for Reynosa) was named the All-Star MVP by media members attending the contest. “It’s my honor,” Heras said following the game. “I’m very happy. It’s very important for my career, very significant.”

Other notable figures in the game included Mexico City shortstop Jose Luis Sandoval and Campeche pitcher Francisco Campos. Sandoval extended his record by appearing in his 19th All-Star Game for the North, while Campos extended his own milestone with a record seventh start for the South.

The 37-year-old Campos began his professional career as a catcher in Houston’s minor league system in 1991, hitting just .141 for the Astros’ Gulf Coast League team over 21 games, but converted to pitching prior to the 1995 season for Campeche and became a starter for the Piratas one year later. While the Guaymas native spent subsequent stints pitching for the Brewers and White Sox AAA affiliates, the man called “Pancho Ponches” has become a mound mainstay in the Mexican League with over 140 career wins and multiple strikeout titles.

CERVANTES OUTLASTS AMADOR FOR HOME RUN DERBY TITLE

One day before the All-Star Game, Saltillo’s Refugio “Cuco” Cervantes defeated Mexico City’s Japhet Amador, 5-4, in the final round to win the 2010 Home Run Derby in Chihuahua. Cervantes and Amador (the Liga’s co-Rookie of the Year for 2009) beat out six other sluggers to reach the final round.

After the event, an exhausted Cervantes told the press, “I’m very happy. I put out all the desire and this was the result.” Cervantes added that getting rhythm into your swing is crucial for this kind of competition. The Saltillo first baseman has 11 homers in 64 regular season games while Amador has rung up eight dingers for the Diablos Rojos.

Just before the Home Run Derby began, Puebla slugger Willis Otanez (the defending Derby champion and one of the first round contestants this year) led a tribute to the late pitcher Jose Lima, a fellow Dominican who died recently at the age of 37 from a massive heart attack. Lima, who won 21 games for Houston in 1999, pitched for Saltillo in 2007, going 13-4 with a 3.40 ERA.

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST: VERACRUZ FIRES MANAGER MESA

While there have been no managerial changes in the major leagues this season (yet), the carousel has been getting a good workout south of the border. The latest firing occurred last Thursday when the Veracruz Rojos del Aguila cut skipper Victor Mesa loose and replaced him with Bernardo “Bernie” Tatis.

Hopes were high for the 2010 season in Veracruz under Mesa, a flamboyant star in Cuban baseball during his playing days who led all batters in the 1992 Olympics with a .516 average and winning a gold medal in the process. However, Mesa’s past success as a player did not translate to wins for the Red Eagles, who finished 14 games behind Puebla in the Zona Hidalgo first-half standings with a 24-29 record. Veracruz was off to a 3-6 start to the second half when the tap on the shoulder came.

Tatis was a renowned speedster during his playing career, stealing over 800 bases in summer ball between 1981 and 1999. He played seven years in the Liga, batting .298 with 221 steals over 718 games (mostly for the Mexico City Diablos Rojos). Veracruz marks Tatis’ ninth Liga managerial stop.
Six Mexican League managers have now been fired since the season opened March 16.