When the Mazatlan Venados brought back Juan Jose Pacho to manage the team in midseason, the veteran skipper was inheriting a last-place team from Miguel Ojeda, who resigned on December 9 prior to accepting a job running the San Francisco Giants’ AA Richmond affiliate. The Venados had turned in a decent 20-15 record in the first half to finish in third place and pick up six playoff points, but Mazatlan was scuffling early in the second half when Pacho took the reins from Ojeda.
The Deer didn’t set the Mexican Pacific League on fire over the rest of the regular campaign, going 18-15 for another third-place finish in the second stanza, and after losing their first-round playoff series in six games to Navojoa, it took the MexPac’s wildcard rule allowing the team with the most wins in an opening-round loss to join the three series winners as a semifinal to keep the Venados’ season barely alive.
The rest, as they say, is history as Mazatlan proceeded to knock out Obregon in a tough seven-game set before topping Mexicali in five contests to win the LMP pennant. Then the Venados marched into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and ran the table to become the fourth MexPac team in six winters to win the Caribbean Series title. None of it was new to Pacho, who brought the Venados back from a similar first-round loss all the way to their first Serie del Caribe title in 2005, conveniently held in Mazatlan that year and kickstarting Carnival a little early.
Obregon finished the LMP’s best regular-season record at 39-29. Former Nats farmhand Jesus Valdez hit .347 for Jalisco to win the batting title while massive DH Japhet Amador led the circuit with 14 homers and 48 RBI’s for the Charros before leaving two weeks early after signing with Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles. Mazatlan outfielder Jeremias Pineda stole 31 bases in 36 attempts to finish on top of that table.
Mexicali’s Javier Solano topped the loop with eight wins and 71 strikeouts over 81 innings to win two of the three pitching triple crown categories and Alejandro Soto of Mazatlan posted a low ERA of 2.63. Los Mochis closer Andres Avila tied an LMP record with 23 saves, one more than Mazatlan’s Steven Hensley.
One of the biggest stories of the MexPac season was the continued significant growth in attendance. Nearly three million fans clicked the turnstile during both the regular season and playoffs for a 12 percent increase, the seventh straight winter such numbers have gone up. An average of more than 9,500 attendees places the circuit behind only Major League Baseball, Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korean Baseball Organization in average pro baseball attendance worldwide. Conversely, no affiliated minor league in the United States drew more than 7,000 per opening. In all, the LMP has seen attendance rise 39 percent since 2012 and with stadium development still ongoing in various MexPac cities, including Obregon and Mazatlan, those numbers should continue to go up.
Culiacan fans in particular have taken great pride in Estadio BBVA Bancomer, with over 16,000 people attending Tomateros games to watch a non-playoff team, and the venue will host next February’s Caribbean Series.
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