Monday, October 10, 2016

MexPac to open 2016-17 season in Mazatlan Tuesday

As is often said here, there is no such thing as an offseason in Mexican baseball and Exhibit A will be on display Tuesday night in Mazatlan.

Less than four weeks after the Puebla Pericos ended the summer season with a pennant-clinching Game Six win at Tijuana in the Mexican League Championship Series, winterball gets underway in the Pearl of the Pacific when the Venados host the Mexicali Aguilas at Estadio Teodoro Mariscal Tuesday in the Mexican Pacific League season opener.  The two teams met in the LMP title series last January, with Mazatlan winning the MexPac pennant en route to their second Caribbean Series crown.

Juan Jose Pacho, who had managed Mazatlan to both their Serie del Caribe crowns, is back for another year with the Venados.  Gil Velazquez will be starting his first winter as Mexicali's helmsman.  Velazquez, a former MLB outfielder who managed the Dodgers' Class A Great Lakes team of the Midwest League over the summer, replaces ex-Padres second baseman Edgar Gonzalez, who will manage the Mexican National Team in next March's World Baseball Classic.

The same eight teams return for another 68-game MexPac season, the loop's 72nd since beginning as the Pacific Coast League in 1945-46.  Last winter, the LMP averaged nearly 10,000 fans per opening, more than any summer minor league in North America, although Indiana Jones had an easier time finding the Holy Grail than he would searching for team-by-team attendance.  The Culiacan Tomateros, who will host the Caribbean Series next February, drew more than 16,000 a game at their brand new ballpark, the 20,000-seat Estadio BBVA Bancomer, which features Latin American baseball's largest video display board at 36 feet high by 108 feet wide.

One more new ballpark will make its debut Wednesday when the Obregon Yaquis welcome Hermosillo at the creatively-named Nuevo Estadio de Yaquis, a 15,900-seater that replaces Estadio Tomas Oroz Gaytan (which the Yaquis had called "home" since its 1971 opening).  Other openers on Wednesday include Navojoa at Los Mochis and Culiacan at Jalisco.  The Charros will host first round games for next March's World Baseball Classic at Guadalajara's Estadio Charros.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE 2016-17
Omar Canizales, president
CULIACAN TOMATEROS
City: Culiacan, Sinaloa
Team colors: Red, Maroon
First year: 1965
Pennants: 14
2015-16 record: 28-40 (7th place, missed playoffs)
Manager: Lino Rivera
Stadium (capacity):  Estadio BBVA Bancomer (20,000)

HERMOSILLO NARANJEROS
City: Hermosillo, Sonora
Team colors: Orange, Black
First year: 1945
Pennants: 18
2015-16 record: 27-40-1 (8th place, missed playoffs)
Manager: Lorenzo Bundy
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Sonora (16,400)

JALISCO CHARROS
City: Guadalajara, Jalisco
Team colors: Blue, Gold
First year: 2014
Pennants: None
2015-16 record: 30-38 (6th place, lost in first round of playoffs)
Manager: Homar Rojas
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Charros (13,000)

LOS MOCHIS CANEROS
City: Los Mochis, Sonora
Team colors: Green, Yellow
First Year: 1947
Total pennants: 3
2015-16 record: 35-33 (5th place, lost in first round of playoffs)
Manager: Luis Sojo
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada (11,000)

MAZATLAN VENADOS
City: Mazatlan, Sinaloa
Team colors: Red, White
First Year: 1945
Total pennants: 14
2015-16 record: 38-30 (3rd place, won League Championship, Caribbean Series)
Manager: Juan Jose Pacho
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Teodoro Mariscal (14,000)

MEXICALI AGUILAS
City: Mexicali, Baja California Norte
Team colors: Red, White, Blue
First year: 1948
Pennants: 3
2015-16 record: 38-29-1 (1st place, lost League Championship Series)
Manager: Gil Velazquez
Stadium (capacity):  Estadio B'Air (17,000)

NAVOJOA MAYOS
City:  Navojoa, Sonora
Team colors:  Red, Yellow
First year: 1950
Pennants: 2
2015-16 record: 36-32 (4th place, lost in semifinals)
Manager: Matias Carrillo
Stadium (capacity): Estadio Manuel "Ciclon" Echeverria (11,500)

OBREGON YAQUIS
City: Obregon, Sonora
Team colors: Blue, Orange
First year: 1947
Pennants: 7
2015-16 record: 39-29 (2nd place, lost in semifinals)
Manager: Eddie Diaz
Stadium (capacity):  Nuevo Estadio de Yaquis (15,900)