Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Aguilas set roster for CS; Rodriguez to start vs. Caguas

Prior to making their first appearance representing Mexico in the Caribbean Series since 1999, the Mexicali Aguilas have set their roster for the week-long event in Culiacan.

Of the 28 players who'll be in uniform for the Eagles, 15 will be pitchers.  Mexicali has added 14 reinforcements from other Mexican Pacific League clubs and a cursory glance at the roster shows a team with experience, versatility, a good mix of power and speed, and (as mentioned) lots and lots of pitching.

The following is the Mexicali roster for the CS.  Reinforcements are noted by their regular season MexPac team in parentheses:

MEXICALI AGUILAS 2017 Caribbean Series roster
Pitchers (15): Tyler Alexander (JAL), Manny Barreda (MOC), Fautino De Los Santos, Barry Enright (HMO), Edgar Gomez, Derrick Loop (CUL), Jose Manuel Lopez, Jose Meraz, Miguel Pena, Oliver Perez (CUL), Hector Daniel Rodriguez (CUL), Sergio Romo (JAL), Jake Sanchez, Javier Solano, Hoctor Velazquez (NAV).
Catchers (2): Xorge Carrillo, Sebastian Valle (MOC).
Infielders (6): Yuniesky Betancourt, Jesse Castillo (NAV), Agustin Murillo (JAL), C.J. Retherford, Ramon Rios, Isaac Rodriguez (MOC),
Oufielders (5): Jason Bourgeois (HMO), Luis Juarez, Yordanys Linares, Ronnier Mustelier (CUL), Chris Roberson.
Manager: Roberto Vizcarra
Coaches: Martin Arzate, Eddy Castro, Jose Angel Chavez, Manuel Del Campo, Luis Enrique Huerta, Mario Mendoza, Armando Valdez.

Skipper Roberto Vizcarra's squad appears capable of providing Mexico its fifth Caribbean Series championship in seven winters, including the Mazatlan Venados last February.  Prior to Obregon's title in 2011, Mexico had won five CS crowns total since the crown jewel of Latin baseball began in 1949 and none before Hermosillo broke through in 1976.  Ironically, no Mazatlan players appear on the Mexicali roster, although Hector Daniel Rodriguez was a reinforcement who went on to win two games in the CS for the Venados. No Obregon players were brought in as reinforcements either.

It's been quite a past couple of months for the 49-year-old Vizcarra, a middle infielder during his two-decade playing career before leading the Quintana Roo Tigres to Mexican League pennants in 2013 and 2015.  The man nicknamed "El Chapo" began the winter managing the Tigres' Uriangato team in the Mexican Winter League before he was named manager in Mexicali on November 18 after Gil Velazquez was fired.  At the time, the Aguilas were 14-17 in the first half but had lost 9 of 11 games before Vizcarra took the reins.  Last winter, Mexicali reached the LMP championship series under first-year helmsman Edgar Gonzalez, who was named BBM's Manager of the Year.

The Aguilas play their first Caribbean Series game Wednesday night at Culiacan's Estadio Tomateros against the Caguas Criollos, champions of Puerto Rico's Roberto Clemente League.  First pitch is scheduled for 8:00PM MST (0300 UTC).  Rodriguez will start for Mexicali.  The lefty was a perfect 4-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four playoff starts in January for his hometown Culiacan Tomateros after going 4-6 during the regular season.  Hector Velazquez will get the start Thursday against Venezuelan champs Licey.

Monday, January 30, 2017

2017 Caribbean Series field set, play opens Wednesday in Culiacan

Now that the Mexicali Aguilas and Licey Tigres have won pennants in the Mexican Pacific League and Dominican League, respectively, the five-team field has been firmed for the 2017 Caribbean Series.  Play will open Wednesday afternoon at 3:00PM MST (2200 UTC) when Cuba's Granma Alazanes take on Licey at Culiacan's 20,000-seat Estadio Tomateros while the Aguilas will battle Puerto Rico's Roberto Clemente League champion Caguas Criollos on Wednesday night at 8:00PM MST (0300 URC). The  Venezuelan Professional Baseball League pennant-winners, the Zulia Aguilas, will have an opening day bye.

Here is a schedule of games for the seven-day event, concluding with the February 7 title contest:

FIRST ROUND
Wednesday, February 1
3pm MST/2200 UTC   Granma (CUBA) at Aragua (DR)
6:30pm MST/0130 UTC   Opening Ceremonies
8pm MST/0300UTC    Caguas (PR) at Mexicali (MEX)
Bye: Zulia (VZ)

Thursday, February 2
3pm MST/2200 UTC   Zulia (VZ) at Caguas (PR)
7pm MST/2100 UTC   Mexicali (MEX) at Aragua (DR)
Bye: Granma (CUBA)

Friday, February 3
3pm MST/2200 UTC   Caguas (PR) at Granma (CUBA)
8pm MST/0300 UTC   Zulia (VZ) at Mexicali (MEX)
Bye: Aragua (DR)

Saturday, February 4
1pm MST/2000 UTC   Aragua (DR) at Caguas (PR)
5pm MST/0000 UTC   Granma (CUBA) at Zulia (VZ)
Bye: Mexicali (MEX)

Sunday, February 5
1pm MST/2000 UTC   Aragua (DR) at Zulia (VZ)
5pm MST/0000 UTC   Mexicali (MEX) at Granma (CUBA)
Bye: Caguas (PR)


SEMIFINALS
Monday, February 6
1pm MST/2000 UTC   TBA
5pm MST/0000 UTC   TBA


CHAMPIONSHIP
Tuesday, February 7
1pm MST/2000 UTC   TBA


And now here's an edited profile of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico taken from BBM's "Mexican Baseball Road Trip" posts during the 2009-10 season:

This week, we pay a visit to Culiacan, home of the Tomateros. Culiacan is set a few miles inland from the
Gulf of California, two hours north of Mazatlan.  While Mazatlan is a better-known place among North Americans,
Culiacan is a thriving city and state capital of Sinaloa.  The name “Culiacan” is an old native word which means
“place where they adore the God Coltzin.”

A city of over 600,000 residents, Culiacan was a small village when Spanish conquistador Nuno Beltran
de Guzman founded the villa of San Miguel de Culiacan on September 29, 1531.  From the end of the sixteenth
century and throughout much of the 1700’s, San Miguel de Culiacan served as an important staging area for the
Spanish conquest of the Mexican West.  However, independence from Spain was eventually won for Mexico in the
early 1820’s, and Culiacan was granted the status of “city” in 1823.  At that time, Sinaloa’s state capital was in
Mazatlan, but was eventually shifted to Culiacan in 1873.

As with most MexPac cities, Culiacan is an agricultural center, surrounded by some of the most arable
Land in Mexico of which the major crop is tomatoes.  While Culiacan has a reputation as a tough town, it is also a
modern city with a fine State university in the city center, a lovely 19th Century cathedral sitting three
blocks away from the ubiquitous Mexican mercado, there are beaches on the Gulf a few miles away in Atlata and
El Tambor, and Ernesto Millan Escalante Park features gardens, pools, an open-air Hellenic theater and the
longest water slide in northern Mexico.  The Centro Cultural Genaro Estrada contains two theaters, several
museums and a café, and is a centerpiece for the arts.  There are several good restaurants in town, and one of the
most popular regional dishes is steak cabreria, which features six different toppings and side dishes…definitely
worth a try.

           The Tomateros have given their fans a lot to cheer about over the years, with ten Mex Pac pennants
since 1967.  Five of those came under manager Francisco “Paquin” Estrada, who also brought two Caribbean
Series titles home to Culiacan.  The city first hosted the CS in 2001 at the old Estadio General Angel Flores,
with the Dominican champion Cibaenas Aguilas winning the four-team competition.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Betancourt, Mexicali win, 13-1, to clinch pennant, CS berth

The Mexicali Aguilas overcame an early 1-0 deficit by scoring two runs in the top of the third inning and went on to pull away from the Los Mochis Caneros, 13-1, in Game Six of the Mexican Pacific League championship series Saturday to clinch the LMP pennant and a berth in the Caribbean Series. Former big leaguer Yuniesky Betancourt (pictured) drove in six runs as Mexicali starter Hector Velazquez benefitted from all the support for the win, although the LMP Pitcher of the Year certainly helped himself with six innings of sterling mound work.

Mexicali 13-16-0, LOS MOCHIS 1-7-0

The Caneros scored the game's first run in the bottom of the second when Eugenio Velez walked, stole second and came home when Sebastian Valle singled to right off Velazquez.  Mexicali came right back with a pair of runs in the third frame, starting with Yordanys Linares' first-pitch leadoff homer off Mochis starter Manny Barreda over the right field wall to tie the game.  One out later, Ramon Ruiz walked, moved to second on Chris Roberson's bunt single, took third on Valle's passed ball as Barreda was pitching to Jason Bourgeois and, after Bourgeois drew a walk to load the bases, hit paydirt on Betancourt's sacrifice fly to center field to put the visitors ahead.

With Velazquez working effectively against the Caneros lineup, Mexicali widened the gap by scoring in six consecutive innings.  The Eagles put a third run on the board in the fourth when Agustin Murillo scored from third on Rios' groundout to second, but it was the top of the fifth that took whatever wind remained out of Los Mochis' sails with three more runs to chase Barreda and open up a 6-1 advantage.

After Bourgeois led off with a groundout to third, Betancourt poked a single up the middle.  C.J. Retherford lined out to Caneros shortstop Yosmany Guerra for the second out and it looked like Mochis and Barreda would get out of the inning unscathed.  However, Luis Juarez singled to center and Murillo walked to fill the sacks, bringing manager Luis Sojo out of the Caneros dugout with his hook, waving in Jesus Verduzco from the bullpen to face Linares.  During that encounter, Verduzco uncorked a wild pitch that scored Betancourt from third, then gave up a single to Linares that brought in both Juarez and Murillo, the latter beating Leandro Castro's throw to the plate from center field.  That would be all for Verduzco and, for all intent and purposes, Los Mochis' chances to even the series and force a Game Seven on Sunday.

With Jon Sintes now pitching for the host team, Rios and Roberson led off the top of the sixth with back-to-back singles through the box.  Bourgeois grounded to first baseman Saul Soto, who threw to Guerra covering second to force Roberson as Rios scooted to third while Bourgeois beat Guerra's double-play relay to first, putting runners at the corners with one out.  Betancourt then lofted a sacrifice fly to right that brought in Rios with Mexicali's seventh run of the night, followed by a Retherford single to left that advanced Bourgeois to second.  Sojo emerged from the Mochis dugout once more, this time signalling for Guillermo Trujillo to pitch to Juarez.  Once more the strategy backfired, as Juarez redirected Trujillo's first pitch through the gap into left field to score the speedy Bourgeois, making it an 8-1 Aguilas lead.

If any doubt about the game's eventual outcome still remained, it was shattered by yet another Mexicali rally in the seventh that netted the visitors four more scores to bring the count to 12-1.  Linares opened the inning with a walk before being replaced by pinch-runner Missael German.  Xorge Carrillo singled German over to third, followed by a Rios pop fly out to second.  Sojo trudged from the Los Mochis dugout to bring in one more reliever, this time handing the ball to former Dodgers minor leaguer Thomas Melgarejo, and one more time the move failed as Melgarejo's first pitch plunked Roberson to load the bases.  Exit Melgarejo, enter Lenix Osuna, who retired Bourgeois on a pop-up to Soto in foul territory before serving up a grand slam homer to Betancourt. Mexicali added one more tally in the eighth when Murillo led off with a single, went to third on a German double and scored on a Carrillo sacrifice fly.  There was no more scoring in the game after that but it was hardly necessary as many of the 11,386 fans in a jampacked Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada had already headed for their homes in Los Mochis by then.

Velazquez was sharp in his six innings on the hill for Mexicali, earning the win to go to 3-1 in the postseason by allowing one run on four hits and two walks, striking out four.  Barreda was tagged with the defeat for Los Mochis after being roughed up for six runs on as six hits and four walks in 4.2 frames.  If misery loves company, Barreda had a full house as Sojo ended up bringing in seven relievers from the fifth inning on, searching in vain for one who could stop the bleeding.  Seven Mochis batters had one hit apiece (with J.C. Linares' double the lone extra-base hit).  Roberson and Linares each had three hits in the game, with the latter driving in three, but the night belonged to Betancourt, who went 2-for-4  with six ribbies.  The former nine-year MLB shortstop starred as a reinforcement for Mazatlan in last winter's Caribbean Series win but did not play last summer.  The rest appears to have agreed with him, with Betancourt finishing the MexPac playoffs with a .349 batting average.

With their first pennant since 1998-99 (with current Mexicali skipper Roberto Vizcarra's father-in-law Francisco "Paquin" Estrada at the helm), the Aguilas will head 125 miles down the road from Los Mochis to Culiacan for the Caribbean Series, where they'll play their first game Wednesday night against Puerto Rico's Caguas Criollos.  The Aguilas won the Serie del Caribe in 1986 under manager Ben "Cananea" Reyes.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Three teams ticketed for CS; Generales to Monterrey(?); LAS underway

THREE WINTERBALL CHAMPS CROWNED

Three of the five national winterall champions who will converge on Culiacan next week for the 2017 Caribbean Series have been determined.  Puerto Rico's Caguas Criollos will be joined in the Sinaloa city by Venezuela's Zulia Aguilas and the Granma Alazanes of Cuba.

Caguas defeated Santurce, 5 games to 3, to win the championship series and pennant for Puerto Rico's five-team Roberto Clemente League.  The Criollos had to go 12 innings to beat the Cangrejeros, 6-5, on Henry Blanco's walkoff RBI single.  Another former MLBer, Joel Pineiro, earned the win in relief.  Prior to the game, the Creoles retired the number 7 worn by their former catcher Ivan Rodriguez, one of three recent Cooperstown inductees.  Caguas has won 17 flags in the Puerto Rican League, winning the Caribbean Series in 1954, 1974 and 1987 (the latter two were played in Mexico).

Zulia topped Lara, 5-2, Wednesday to end the Venezuelan League finals with a 4-games-to-1 victory over the Cardinales.  Mitch Lively, a former Giants farmhand who saved eight games with a 1.72 ERA for Reynosa of the LMB last summer, pitched seven innings for the Aguilas and allowed one run on two hits for the win as Jose Pirella contributed a two-run homer and Endy Chavez went 2-for-2 with an RBI.  Chavez and Caguas' Blanco were teammates on the 2013 Seattle Mariners.  The championship is Zulia's first since 2000 and sixth overall.  The Aguilas were CS winners in 1984 and 1989.

Granma (which is not a city but Cuba's national newspaper...think Pravda in Spanish) won this winter's Cuban National Series final by completing a four-game sweep of Ciego de Avila Monday with a 3-2 win. Longtime star Alfredo Despaigne was the first of three Alazanes batters to reach base on a walk in the eighth inning of the deciding game, breaking a 2-2 tie by scoring on a sacrifice fly.  Granma has been a member of the Serie Nacional since 1977-78, but this is their first Cuban title.  Security is expected to be on hand in Culiacan to help discoourage potential player defections.

In other CS-related league playoffs, the Licey Tigres and the Cibaenas Aguilas are tied at four gamies apiece in their best-of-9 Dominican League final going into Saturday night's deciding game.  The Aguilas beat Licey, 7-3, Saturday as Orlando Sixte drove in three runs for Cibaenas while Irwin Delgado allowed two runs in 6.1 innings pitched.  The Carolina Gigantes finished first in the LiDom regular season with a 27-23 record but were knocked out of pennant contention during the first playoff stage in which the top four finishers in the six-team loop played an 18-game round robin format.  Cibaenas advance with a 14-4 record, five games ahead of second-place Licey at 9-9.

And you've probably read somewhere that the Mexican Pacific League championship series between Mexicali and Los Mochis is still being played, with Mexicali holding a 3-2 series lead over Los Mochis going into Game Six at Mochis Saturday night

The Caribbean Series gets underway on Wednesday, February 1 at Culiacan's Estadio de los Tomateros.


GENERALES TO MONTERREY INSTEAD OF DURANGO?

The turmoil that has marked the Mexican League offseason appears to be taking another turn, with rumors floating that the would-be Durango Generales (who are the used-to-be Carmen Delfines) may end up spending the 2017 season sharing Estadio Monterrey with the Sultanes.  As noted in previous BBM missives, Delfines owner Virgilio Ruiz Isassi had planned to shift to Durango due to declining attendance in Ciudad del Carmen, a city of fewer than 200,000 in the southern state of Campeche.  However, promised renovations to Durango's 8,000-seat Estadio Francisco Villa to reach LMB ballpark standards have not materialized and now Ruiz is said to have been discussing the possibility of moving the team to Monterrey instead with Sultanes owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz.

Contrast that with the problems the proposed Leon Bravos have been having with their proposed move from Reynosa, where the Broncos consistently struggled with small crowds due to violence related to drug cartels operating in the city across the USA border from Brownsville, Texas.  Owner Eliud Villareal's transfer of the team to Leon was approved by the Liga Assembly of Presidents last November but, as in Durango, the newly-rechristened Bravos (the name used by Leon's earlier LMB franchise) are running into problems with the 3,000-seat Estadio Domingo Santana, where promised upgrades have likewise failed to occur.  Villareal has reportedly sought to instead move the Broncos to Nuevo Laredo, another city on the Texas border with cartel problems but with a nicer ballpark than Leon's (albeit one sitting out of town), but has not received any support from the Presidents since his initially-planned move to Leon was approved.

In fact, although Ruiz has been accorded a seat and vote among the Presidents, Villareal has been kept out of meetings among the governing body altogether.  The reason?  Ruiz has sided with the "Old Guard" group of owners led by Maiz seeking to limit the number of Mexican-Americans per team (anywhere from three to six, depending on the source) and otherwise keep things where they've been, while Villareal has aligned with "New Breed" owners wanting no limits on Mexican-American players (who do not apply to the LMB's six-man limit on foreigners) and otherwise representing change in how the circuit moves forward.  After Plinio Escalante resigned, or was fired, from his league presidency, Maiz' group of eight owners have been able to outvote the seven "New Breed" owners in matters thanks to Villareal's exclusion.

A previously unscheduled Presidents' meeting is said to be set for next Wednesday, interestingly in Houston and not at Liga headquarters in Mexico City.  Wherever they convene, these men are presiding over a mess that threatens to split the LMB into two leagues or division or even shut down the Liga entirely in 2017.


LATIN AMERICAN SERIES UNDERWAY

The "other" international pro baseball winter tournament opened earlier this week and while Mexico is being represented as usual, it's been anything but a usual season for what are considered AA-level teams based in the state of Veracruz.

The fifth annual Latin America Series, an event featuring champions from Colombia, Nicaragua and Panama along with a Mexican representative, began Thursday in Monteria, Combia's 11,000-seat Estadio 18 de Junio. The Panama Metros topped Veracruz' Xalapa Chileros, 3-1, in the tourney opener Thursday, followed by a 5-2 win for Nicaragua's Chinandega Tigres over the host Monteria Leones.  That the Chileros are representing Mexico is not unusual in itself, but how they (and the LAS itself) got from Xalapa to Monteria is.

The Veracruz Winter League (aka the LIV) was formed in 2005 and operated with six teams last season, four in Veracruz and two in Chiapas, with Acayucan winning the title and playing in the 2016 LAS in Managua, Nicaragua.  However, a combination of LIV financial problems and political turmoil in Verazruz during the offseason led the circuit to suspend operations for this winter.  In its place, former pitcher Narciso Elvira (a Veracruz native who had a cup of coffee with the 1990 Milwaukee Brewers) created the Veracruz State Baseball League, aka the LBEV, arose to take its place.

All six of the new circuit's teams are from within Veracruz State and all players are required to be Veracruz natives. The LBEV played a weekend-only regular season with a mix of prospects and LMB veterans, followed by a January four-team playoff from which Xalapa defeated Minatitlan in the championship series for a berth in the LAS.  Among the Mexican League veterans playing for the Chileros in Monteria are infielders Kevin Flores, Heber Gomez and player-manager Francisco Rivera, catcher Humberto Sosa, outfielders Eliseo Aldazaba and Eduardo Arredondo, and pitchers Rodolfo Aguirre, Abraham Elvira and Jose Cobos.

The series itself had been slated to be played in Xalapa's 5,000-seat Parque Deportivo Colon as part of a rotation among participating countries similar to the Caribbean Series format.  However, the venue was shifted from Xalapa to Sincelejo, Colombia on January 21 for unclear reasons before the LAS was moved again two days later to Monteria after the Leones beat Sincelejo in the Colombian League title series.  The four teams will play a three-day round robin with a championship game between the two sides with the best first-round records set for Sunday.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Aguilas hold on for Game 5 win, series moves to Mochis

Former White Sox farmhand C.J. Retherford (pictured) knocked in two runs with a fifth-inning single to give Mexicali the lead and the Aguilas bullpen combined to hold Los Mochis scoreless the rest of the way as the Eagles came away with a 5-2 victory Thursday in Game Five of the Mexican Pacific League championship Series. The third sellout crowd in as many nights at Mexicali's 17,000-seat Estadio B'Air saw the Aguilas take the lead in the best-of-seven series, 3 games to 2.

MEXICALI 5-6-0, Los Mochis 2-9-3

After both sides were set down in order in the first inning, Mochis put a run on the scoreboard in the top of the second for the early lead. With two out, J.C. Linares smoked a double to left off Mexicali starter Miguel Pena and came in to score when Eugenio Velez singled.  However, Velez got caught in a rundown trying to take second for the third out.

After three good innings, Caneros starter Julian Arballo struggled early in the fourth by walking Mexicali leadoff hitter Yuniesky Betancourt and plunking Retherford.  Both runners moved up a base on Luis Juarez' flyout to right for the first out.  After Arballo walked Agustin Murillo to load the bases, Betancourt came in from third to score when Yordanys Linares topped a slow roller down to Mochis third baseman Rudy Amador, who had to throw to first for the sure out as Retherford and Murillo advanced 90 feet.  Xorge Carrillo grounded to second for the final out of the frame.

J.C. Linares put Los Mochis back on top with a leadoff homer off Pena's third pitch in the top of the fifth, but the home side put another two runners across the plate in the bottom of the entrada.  With one out, Arballo issued consecutive walks to Chris Roberson and Jason Bourgeois, followed by a two-strike Betancourt grounder to shortstop Yosmany Guerra, who mishandled the ball in an attempt to force Bourgeois at second to load the sacks for C.J. Retherford.  The ten-year minor leaguer out of Arizona State stroked the first Arballo delivery into left field to plate Roberson and Bourgeois, giving Mexicali a 3-2 advantage.  Caneros manager Luis Sojo then waved Isaac Rodriguez in from the bullpen to replace Arballo.  Retherford was thrown out by catcher Sebastian Valle trying to steal second while Rodriguez was in the process of walking Juarez and the Aguilas' rally ended when Murillo grounded out to second.

After that, it was nothing but zeroes until the bottom of the eighth, when Mochis setup man Santiago Gutierrez allowed back-to-back singles to Murillo and Yordanys Linares with one out, with Missael German replacing Linares as a pinch-runner. Xorge Carrillo then reached base on a throwing error by first baseman Jesus Arredondo, who'd just replaced Saul Soto at the initial hassock after the latter doubled in the previous inning and was replaced by a pinch-runner.  Ramon Rios then tapped a sacrifice bunt that Arredondo made yet another throwing error on to bring in Murillo and German with the final two runs of the game to give Mexicali a 5-2 lead.  It was left to closer Jake Sanchez to retire the side in order on seven pitches in the ninth to finish the contest.

Pena pitched 5.1 innings for Mexicali to earn the win, allowing two runs on six hits and a walk.  Arballo, who was coming off an outstanding start his last time out, struggled this time in being tagged with the loss as the Californian let in three runs (two earned) on three hits and four walks in 4.1 frames, striking out two.  Sanchez retired all four batters he faced for his fifth playoff save.  Velez had three hits and J.C. Linares two for Los Mochis, who outhit the hosts by a 9-6 margin, with Yordanys Linares the only Mexicali batter
with two hits.  Errors cost the Caneros dearly, with three of the Aguilas' five runs recorded as unearned.

The two teams will take Friday off for travel before resuming the series with Game Six at Los Mochis' Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada on Saturday at 6:00PM MT (0100 UTC).  Hector Velazquez, who won his first start against the Caneros, will be on the mound for Mexicali while Manny Barreda will be on the hill for Mochis.  The Aguilas have outscored Mochis by an aggregate score of 24-15 and stand one win away from their first MexPac pennant since 1998-99 under manager Francisco "Paquin" Estrada, who is the father-in-law of current Mexicali skipper Roberto Vizcarra.

MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE
2016-17 Championship Series
Gm 1  Sat, 1/21    LOS MOCHIS 3, Mexicali 1
Gm 2  Sun, 1/22   Mexicali 7, LOS MOCHIS 3
Gm 3  Tue, 1/24    Los Mochis 6, MEXICALI 5 (11)
Gm 4  Wed, 1/25  MEXICALI 6, Los Mochis 1
Gm 5  Thu, 1/26   MEXICALI 5, Los Mochis 2
Gm 6  Sat, 1/28    Mexicali at LOS MOCHIS
Gm 7  Sun, 1/29   Mexicali at LOS MOCHIS (if necessary)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Solano sharp in Aguilas win, title series tied after four games

Javier Solano (pictured) took a shutout into the seventh inning and Jason Bourgeois collected three hits, including a key two-run single, as the Mexicali Aguilas tied the Mexican Pacific League championship series after four games with a 6-1 home win over Los Mochis on Wednesday.  For the second night in a row, a full house crowd of 17,000 was on hand in Mexicali's Estadio B'Air.

MEXICALI 6-12-0, Los Mochis 1-6-2

Mexicali broke the ice by scoring a run in the bottom of the second inning.   Regular season bat king Luis Juarez led off with a single off Caneros starter Luis Niebla.  After After Agustin Murillo flew out to J.C. Linares, a Yordanys Linares (no relation) fly ball to left was botched by Eugenio Velez, resulting in Juarez making it to third base and Linares the batter ending up on second.  Xorge Carrillo then hit a grounder back to Niebla, who made the throw to first for the out as Juarez scored from third.

The Aguilas carried their narrow 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth, where they put up three more runs on the board.  Niebla was still on the hill for Los Mochis and had pitched well to that point.  Ramon Rios led off for Mexicali with a grounder to third that Juan Carlos Gamboa was able to make the stop but couldn't get the throw to first in time as Rios beat out the infield single.  Chris Roberson followed by bunting in front of the plate and Niebla plucked the ball off the ground and threw it into the outfield.  By the time the ball was relayed back, Rios was on third and Roberson occupied second.  Jason Bourgeois stepped up and lined a two-run single to center, bringing in Rios and Roberson to put the hosts up by three.  Yuniesky Betancourt then drilled a double to right and the speedy Bourgeois motored in from first to bring the score to 4-0.

That spelled the end for Niebla, who was pulled for middleman Jon Sintes.  A 30-year-old West Florida product who pitched for Tabasco last summer, Sintes went on to record three outs without further damage. The Caneros responded with their first score of the night in the top of the sixth.  Velez led off by doubling to left off Solano, who was still working on a whitewash.  Velez completed the atonement for his second inning defensive miscue by roaring in from second on Isaac Rodriguez' single up the middle, beating Roberson's throw from center and plating the run.  Solano retired the next three batter to end the threat, then got the first two outs in the seventh before walking Sebastian Valle.  Aguilas skipper Roberto Vizcarra came out, waved in Efren Delgado from the bullpen and Solano walked off the mound to cheers from the hometown crowd. Delgado got Gamboa to ground to second for the final out.

Mexicali added another run in the seventh when C.J. Retherford lined a double to center off Sintes to score Betancourt, and the Aguilas went up 6-1 in the eighth as Carrillo, Rios and Roberson hit consecutive two-out singles, with Robo's safety driving in Carrillo.  Rios tried scoring on the same play but was nailed at the plate when Castro threw a strike from center to Valle, who applied the tag for the frame's final out.  

Solano pitched 6.2 innings for the win, allowing one run on five hits.  The former Dodgers minor leaguer has had a tough posteason for the Eagles, but looked good Wednesday in going to 2-3 in the playoffs.  Niebla allowed four runs in as many innings on seven hits in absorbing his second loss in four January decisions, but two of the runs were unearned and walked none as 45 of the Rockies farrmhand's 65 pitches went for strikes. Bourgeois finished with three of the Aguilas' 12 hits, driving in two runs and scoring once.  Saul Soto continued swinging the hot bat for the Caneros with the only two-hit game in the Mochis order.

Game Five is set for Thursday night in Mexicali at 7:30PM PST (0330 UTC).  Julian Arballo will get the start for Los Mochis while Miguel Pena will open the game on the mound for the Aguilas.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Caneros win 6-5 thriller in 11, take MexPac title series lead

Veteran Saul Soto punched a two-run single in top of the eleventh inning and MLB free agent reliever Sergio Romo survived a shaky bottom of the frame as the Los Mochis Caneros held off the Mexicali Aguilas, 6-5, in the border city to take a 2-games-to-1 lead in the Mexican Pacific League championship series Tuesday night.

Los Mochis 6-15-1, MEXICALI 5-9-0

Chris Roberson opened the scoring in the bottom of the first for Mexicali by reaching second after tapping a leadoff bunt and drawing a hurried throw by Mochis pitcher Roy Merritt that sailed past Soto at first for an error, then scoring when Yuniesky Betancourt lined a single to center.  That's where the score stood halfwway through the seventh inning as Merritt and Aguilas starter Kameron Loe both contributed strong starts.  After throwing 104 pitches, Loe gave way to reliever Jose Meraz in the top of the seventh.

Meraz was the first of four Mexicali pitchers to see duty in that inning alone, as the Caneros scored four runs to take the lead.  Meraz got the first out before allowing a double to Eugenio Velez, after which Aguilas manager Roberto Vizcarra replaced him with Jose Manuel Lopez.  Isaac Rodriguez greeted Lopez with a single that moved Velez to third, followed by an RBI single that drove in Velez with the go-ahead run.  Lopez was yanked for Fautino de los Santos, who drilled J.C. Linares in the left arm on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Linares had to be replaced by pinch-runner Sergio Garcia.  Leandro Castro then topped a dribbler back to the mound for an infield single that plated Rodriguez.  Unnerved, de los Santos then threw a wild pitch to Soto, which resulted in Ford crossing the plate with another Caneros run.  Soto went on to draw a walk, enough for Vizcarra to emerge from the dugout to wave in Manuel Chavez with the bases still loaded and only one out. Chavez got the final two outs, the first coming on a Yosmany Guerra sacrifice fly to right that brought in Garcia to make it a 4-1 Los Mochis lead.

That's where the score stood as Merritt put in one more inning on the hill for the Caneros before skipper Luis Sojo replaced him with Oliver Perez in the bottom of the eighth.  Perez immediately found trouble by giving up a leadoff single to Jon Del Campo and walking Ramon Rios.  After striking out Roberson for the first out, Perez allowed a Bourgeois triple to center, bringing in both Del Campo and Rios to close the Aguilas deficit to a one run.  Sojo then called in reliever Isaac Rodriguez, who got the second out before C.J. Retherford lined a double to left that scored Bourgeois with the tying run. Luis Juarez then hit an inning-ending flyout to Velez in left.

Neither team scored in the ninth to send the game into extra innings, followed by a scoreless tenth.  The eventful eleventh opened with Edgar Osuna on the hill for Mexicali after usual closer Jake Sanchez gave the Aguilas two scoreless frames.  Rodriguez (the second baseman, not the reliever) laid down a bunt in front of the plate and beat Osuna's throw to first for a single.  After a Ford bunt moved Rodriguez to second, Sergio Garcia toppled a first-pitch comebacker to the mound for the second out as Rodriguez stayed put on second. Osuna intentionally walked Castro to set up a force play at all three bases, but that strategy was scuttled when Soto rapped a full-count offering into left field to score both Rodriguez and Castro to give the visitors a 6-4 lead.  Guerra grounded out to Retherford at first to end the frame for Mochis.

Romo then emerged from the bullpen to replace Santago Gutierrez, who'd tossed two perfect innings for Mochis.  Things didn't start off well for the three-time World Series champ, as he allowed a leadoff single to Betancourt, threw a wild pitch to Retherford to advance Bentacourt to second and then coughed up a Retherford line-drive single to left that brought Betancourt in with the Aguilas' fifth run.  Sergio settled down after that, retiring Agustin Murillo on a line drive to Velez and inducing pinch-hitter Emmanuel Avila into a groundout to second to end the game with Mochis the victors by a 6-5 count.

Gutierrez got the win for the Caneros to go to 2-0 in the postseason and Romo recorded his seventh playoff save while Osuna was tagged with the loss to even his playoff record at 1-1.  Merritt allowed one run on four hits with five strikeouts for Mochis in another strong outing for the Southern University product, while the 6'8" Loe (a former Texas Rangers starter) scattered seven hits and struck out eight Caneros batters in his six innings of shoutout pitching for Mexicali.  Six Caneros batsmen recorded two hits each in the Caneros' 15-hit attack as Soto's pair of singles raised his playoff batting average to .340. Retherford, Murillo and Betancourt each had two hits for the Aguilas, with the latter's postseason average going up to .347 via his two safeties.

A crowd of 17,000 packed the stands at Mexicali's Estadio B'Air, which will be the site of Game Five Wednesday night at 7:30PM PST (0330 UTC).  Luids Niebla will get the start for the Caneros while Javier Solano takes the mound for the Aguilas.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Six Mexicans to enter Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame

When the Caribbean Series is held in Culiacan next month, six past Mexican players and executives will be inducted into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame.  The pantheon was established in 1996 by Conferederation of Professional Baseball of the Caribbean commissioner Juan Francisco Puello Herrera to honor players who've distinguished themselves in past Serie del Caribe events along with people who've contributed to the growth of baseball in the region.  Inductees are voted upon by journalists, broadcasters and historians in Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Mexico.  As with Cooperstown, candidates must receive 75 percent of the vote to gain membership.

Since 2009, membership has been awarded annually to personalities from the country hosting the Caribbean Series.  The 2017 inductees include third baseman Vinny Castilla (pictured), first baseman Erubiel Durazo, second baseman Miguel Flores, manager Ben "Cananea" Reyes, journalist Alfonso Araujo Bojorquez and late executive Juan Manuel Ley.

Castilla played in five Caribbean Series with Tijuana (1991), Hermosillo (1995, 2007, 2010) and Mazatlan (2005), winning a CS title with the Venados.  The popular Oaxacan is the all-time Major League Baseball leader among Mexicans in career homers (320) and RBIs (1,105), and played in two All-Star Games as a member of the Colorado Rockies.  After playing for Mexico in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, he managed the Mexican team in 2009.  Castillo later served in the front office and as a instructor for the Rockies.

Durazo was a member of four Serie del Caribe teams, including Mazatlan (1998, 2005) and Hermosillo (2001, 2007), winning the MVP award with the Naranjeros in 2001 and a title with the Venados in 2005 as a teammate of Castilla's.  The Hermosillo native also spent seven years in MLB, four with Arizona and three with Oakland, hitting 94 homers and winning a World Series in 2001 with the Diamondbacks.  Durazo was chosen last year to oversee development a D-Backs academy for Mexican prospects in Hermosillo.

Flores went to the CS three times with Hermosillo (1994, 1995, 2001) and once with Mazatlan (2005), winning a championship with Castilla and Durazo in 2005 with the Deer.  After spending five summers playing in the Indians organization, Flores spent 15 seasons in the Mexican League with his hometown Monterrey Sultanes, batting an even .300 with 231 doubles while stealing 215 bases.

Reyes managed Hermosillo to the event in 1975, 1976 and 1980 and guided Mexicali to the CS in 1986, winning the title with the Naranjeros in 1975 and again in 1986 with the Aguilas.  He also managed teams to six Mexican League pennants, including five with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos, and coached with the Seattle Mariners under Maury Wills in 1981, filling in as manager during Wills' two-game suspension to become the first (and, to date, only) Mexican to manage an MLB team.

Araujo was a triple-threat journalist (print, TV and radio) who covered several Caribbean Series on each medium.  Now 83, the Navojoa native began writing for the Ahora newspaper at age 14 in 1947 and continues to this day with his "Lanzado para Home" column, marking seven decades as a scribe.  The author of 14 books, Araujo also spent 25 winters as official scorer for the Obregon Yaquis (plus 17 years on the Yaquis radio team) and has been part of Mexican League telecasts.

Ley founded the Culiacan Tomateros with his father and was the team's owner during ten Mexican Pacific League championship runs, with Caribbean Series titles in 2002 and 2005, until his death at age 82 in January of last year.  He was also at the helm when the Tomateros' 20,000-seat ballpark was constructed and lived long enough to witness his team's first season in the new facility last winter, when they averaged 16,000 fans per game.  Ley also owned the Saltillo Saraperos of the Mexican League 1999 to 2013.

Although the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame has been around for over twenty years, there were only two members from Mexico inducted during the first nine years of its existence:  Legendary first baseman Hector Espino was a member of the charter class of 1996 while pitcher Vicente Romo got the nod in 2001.  After six more Mexicans were added to the rolls in 2005 and 2006, there were no more representatives of the country brought in between 2007 and 2012.  The six figures to be inducted next month will bring the total of Mexicans in the HOF to twenty.

An induction ceremony will be held during this year's Serie del Caribe in Culiacan between February 1 and 7.

Mexican members of the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame
1996-Hector Espino (1B)
2001-Vicente Romo (P)
2005-Horacio Lopez Dio (EXEC), Victor Saiz (UMP), Juan Navarrete (2B)
2006-Celerino Sanchez (3B), Eduardo Acosta (P), Mercedes Esquer (P)
2013-Houston Jimenez (SS), Francisco Estrada (C/MGR), Arturo Leon Lerma (EXEC), Ever Magallanes (SS), Fernando Valenzuela (P), Renato Vega (EXEC)
2017-Vinny Castilla (3B), Erubiel Durazo (1B), Miguel Flores (2B), Cananea Reyes (MGR), Alfonso Araujo Bojorquez (MEDIA), Juan Manuel Ley (EXEC)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Velazquez, Retherford lead Aguilas to win; LMP title set tied

Reinforcement pickup pitcher Hector Velazquez took a shutout into the eighth inning and C.J. Retherford cracked a two-run homer to lead the Mexicali Aguilas to a 7-3 victory over the Los Mochis Caneros Sunday night as 10,835 spectators nearly filled Mochis' Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada.  The Mexican Pacific League championship series is now tied at a game apiece as the teams head north to Mexicali for the next three scheduled games.

Mexicali 7-11-1, LOS MOCHIS 2-7-1

Velazquez, who won the MexPac wins and strikeouts titles during the regular season, and Los Mochis opener Manny Barreda, who tossed the LMP's sole no-hitter, kept the contest scoreless until the top of the third, when Mexicali pushed three runs across the plate.  Ramon Rios led off with a single to left against Barreda, then moved to third when Chris Roberson lined a ground-rule double over the fence in right center.  After Jason Bourgeois struck out swinging for the first out, Yuniesky Betancourt hit a sacrifice fly to Eugenio Velez in left, bringing Rios in with the first run of the game while Robo stayed put at second.  That brought up Retherford, who belted Barreda's first pitch over the left field wall for a two-run homer to open the Aguilas' lead to 3-0.  Luis Juarez struck out to end the inning, but the early lead ended up good enough with Velazquez having his way with the Mochis lineup.

Barreda lasted into the top of the seventh, when Caneros manager Luis Sojo brought in Isaac Jimenez after Manny opened the inning by walking Yordanys Linares on five pitches and (after whiffing Xorge Carrillo) issuing another free pass to Rios.  Jimenez then walked Roberson to load the bags before a Bourgeois sac fly forced in Linares from third, bringing the score to 4-0 in favor of the visitors.  The entrada ended on a Betancourt fielder's choice groundout to third.  Velazquez left the game after striking out Sebastian Valle to open the eighth with the shutout intact.  2016 LMB Rookie of the Year Isaac Rodriguez later hit a two-run homer off off Jose Manuel Lopez to bring Los Mochis to within two, but Mexicali came back to post three more runs in the top of the ninth to put the contest out of reach for good with RBI singles by Bourgeois and Retherford and a run-scoring double by Juarez to give the Aguilas a 7-2 lead.  Mexicali skipper Roberto Vizcarra sent three different pitchers to the mound in the bottom of the frame, with 2015-16 LMP Pitcher of the Year Javier Solano coming in to record the final two outs, striking out Juan Carlos Gamboa swinging to end the game.

Velazquez was superb for the Aguilas, letting up just four hits and no walks while striking out 10 Mochis batters in 7.1 innings for his second win of the postseason.  Sixty-eight of his 88 pitches went for strikes.  Barreda took the loss, allowing four runs on four hits, four walks and a hit batsmen over 6.1 frames.  Bourgeois finished 2-of-4 with three RBIs, Roberson had two hits and scored twice and Retherford added a single to his two-run bomb for Mexicali.  Rodriguez and Saul Soto each had two hits for the Caneros.

Monday will be a travel day, with Game Three of the title series set for Tuesday night at 7:30PM PST (0330 UTC) at Mexicali's Estadio B'Air.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Linares, Arballo sparkle as Mochis wins title set opener

J.C. Linares socked a two-run homer to stake Los Mochis starter Julian Arballo (pictured with a good reason to smile) a first-inning lead and the former Yankees prospect went on to toss six innings of shutout ball as the Caneros topped Mexicali, 3-1, Saturday in the opening game of the Mexican Pacific League championship series.  An SRO crowd of 11,132 jammed into the Caneros' venerable Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada, which opened in 1947 as Estadio Mochis.

LOS MOCHIS 3-4-0, Mexicali 1-9-0

After the visiting Aguilas were held scoreless in the top of the first, Mexicali starter Miguel Pena got the first two Mochis outs of the bottom of the frame before walking Lew Ford.  Pena was one strike away from retiring the side when Linares cracked a homer over the wall in left center to put the Caneros up, 2-0.  From that point, Arballo and Pena were locked in a pitcher's duel that lasted through the sixth with no more scoring from either side. A leadoff homer in the bottom of the seventh by Ford off a Pena pitch brought the Mochis lead to three.  After Pena allowed a Linares single next, Mexicali skipper Roberto Vizcarra came to the mound and waved in Edgar Gomez from the bullpen.  Gomez finished the inning without further damage, but the only sign of life the Aguilas would show the rest of the night was a Ramon Rios solo homer in the eighth off Oliver Perez, a reinforcement pickup from Culiacan.  For all intent and purposes, the night belonged to Arballo and the Caneros bullpen as Sergio Romo recorded the final three Mexicali outs in the top of the ninth to end the game and earn the save.

Arballo allowed only six baserunners over his six innings, all on singles with only Xorge Carrillo reaching second base.  The Cal Baptist product struck out six in his 82-pitch outing as five Caneros pitchers combined to whiff ten Mexicali batsmen.  Despite allowing all three Mochis runs on two homers in six innings of work, Pena did not pitch badly.  The left-handed Texan, who spent four years in the Red Sox system, only allowed two other hits, walked one and struck out four.  All Pena was lacking over 78 pitches was luck as his Aguilas teammates actually outhit Mochis, 9-to-4.  Jason Bourgeois (a reinforcement from Hermosillo) and Yuniesky Betancourt each had two hits for Mexicali.  Linares, himself a former Bosox farmhand who was Pena's teammate at Portland in 2013, had two safeties for the Caneros, including the biggest one.

Game Two will be played Sunday night at 5PM MST (0000 UTC) in Los Mochis.  After Monday's travel day, the next three games of the title series are scheduled to be played in Mexicali, all at 7:30PM PST (0330 UTC) in the 17,000-seat Estadio B'Air, or La Nida (The Nest).  The Caneros are looking for their fourth pennant since their first season in 1947.  Their last championship came in 2002-03.  Mexicali has won three flags since their 1976 debut, most recently in 1998-99.  The 1985-86 Aguilas went on to win the Caribbean Series under Salon de la Fama manager Ben "Cananea" Reyes.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Column on Sergio Romo, discrimination causes stir in Mexico

A recent column in Proceso magazine of Mexico City detailing Sergio Romo's story of experiencing discrimination on both sides of the United States-Mexico border has raise more than a few eyeballs south of that border.  The piece, written by Beatriz Pereira and sprinkled liberally with quotes from the free agent pitcher, traces Romo's ancestral roots, his ascension from a player considered too small to succeed into an All-Star and three-time world champion with the San Francisco Giants.  Throughout, it details the racism he says he has felt both in the USA and Mexico.  At least one columnist on the Puro Beisbol site has flatly called Romo a liar, stating that the right-handed reliever was treated well as a member of the Jaosco Charros this winter.

The 2,500-word column, originally ran January 14 but appears to have been deleted from the Proceso website since.  However, a number of other Mexican media picked up the story and carried it.  The column is carried in its translated form below, with a link to its original Spanish version on the UniMexicali website.  As with any translation from one language to another, there may be disprepancies between the two versions, but every attempt at preserving the accuracy from its Spanish version has been made with alterations limited to shifting words around to create a better flow within the English version.  I apologize in advance for any errors I've made working from a Google translation (which sometimes need translating themselves).  I've done the best I could do to be as accurate as possible. 

 -Bruce

SERGIO ROMO: DISCRIMINATION ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BORDER
Mexico City (Beatriz Pereira / Revista Proceso) January 14 .- Sergio Romo has gone from jail to stardom in the U.S. as a consequence of racism.  One of the best players to have represented Mexico Romo was born in the United States but has never denied his origins. However, both countries have rejected him.  He was systematically beaten at the University of Alabama for his skin color, and discriminated to the south of the Rio Bravo as a "pocho" and "Chicano".
Only after winning three times the World Series was summoned to the Mexican national team.  "I had to achieve everything so that they turned to see me," he recalls.
Mexican pitcher Sergio Romo was invited to open the game that spring Friday, a privilege reserved for the best pitcher of the rotation for the University of North Alabama Lions.  The 2004 season was expiring. Romo climbed the hill knowing he needed seven strikeouts to tie the all-time school record.
When the second out of the fourth inning fell, the announcer of the stadium warned that the Mexican had already tied the mark.  With the next punch, Romo would have a place in history.  In all the games that he’d pitched that campaign, he had not tossed less than seven innings.  For a few moments, the 21-year-old considered the idea of ​​continuing to pitch and raise the bar to hard-to-reach heights.
But the shout from Mike Lane, the coach of the team, brought him back to reality.  Lane asked for time out and headed for the mound. Romo's smile faded when he heard, "Give me the ball."  The Mexican looked at his fellow players around him.  All with their heads down.
"No Mexican is going to break any record in my team because he does not deserve it," he said while holding out his right hand to wait for the ball.
"He turned to the dugout, called a pítcher who hadn’t warmed up and put him in.  I threw the ball over my head and left.  He disrespected me.  He went straight to where I was and tried to hit me.  If my teammates didn’t defend me, we would have fought there," says the player.
Romo is a Mexican-American right-handed pitcher who played eight seasons with the San Francisco Giants, the team that won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.  He has three Major League championship rings, a feat no other Mexican has achieved.
In the second title, he was the key factor of the triumph with the three saves he obtained against the Tigers of Detroit.  In the fourth and final game, Romo retired the Tigers in order in the ninth inning with three strikeouts, the last one to Venezuelan slugger Miguel Cabrera.  In that World Series, he threw three perfect innings with five strikeouts.
That sporting success allowed him, for the first time, to be called to the Mexican National Team.  At the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Romo wore the green jersey of Mexico.  He fulfilled a longed-for dream: to be considered Mexican, just like any other, and represent the country where his parents and grandparents were born before moving to California to work in lettuce fields in the 1960s.
FINDING LOVE WITH THE DIAMOND
Evaristo Romo, Sergio's grandfather, was born in the Jalostotitlán municipality of the Altos Sur region of Jalisco. There he married Francisca, who was from Ameca, from the Valles region.
Evaristo was born with the stamp of a player.  He was a natural pitcher who threw a poisonous sinker in the dirt fields. The Mexico City Diablos Rojos discovered his talent and wanted to sign him.  But his father refused.  The warning was simple: In baseball there is nothing safe, get to work. Evaristo traded the baseballs for lettuce.
When the money from the crops was insufficient, Evaristo and Francisca gathered their six children and crossed the border through Mexicali. They settled in a mere 25 miles north in Brawley, California and the Imperial Valley, a region of hope for Mexicans. Among the splendid green fields crowned with lettuce, the six kids were helping their parents.
Francisco, Sergio's father, was barely 12 years old but he was already picking and chopping onions and alfalfa. In the summers, the Romos spent the school holidays in Salinas, California, very close to San Francisco, harvesting watermelons. There Francisco learned that there was a team dressed in black and orange called the Giants who played in an almost-new stadium, Candlestick Park.
If the lettuce helped him fill the belly, baseball fed the soul to Romo. The payoff of curling his spine six days a week was playing baseball on Sundays. It took him 20 minutes by car to cross that border.
The fields in Mexicali were waiting for them, Dad and Mom, boys and girls, all with bats and balls in a dusty diamond.  There nested the dreams of Francisco Romo of being a professional player.  He imagined going to college, then being selected in a draft and making his major league debut.
"He wasn’t given a chance to play, either.  My grandfather did not let him go.  He was taught that you have to choose safety, not to 'hope that a team gives me a chance.'  You have to earn enough to support the family.  My dad went to the Navy, and was there about five years; It taught him to work and he returned to Brawley," says the player.
On March 4, 1983, Sergio Francisco Romo was born, and 25 years later would make his debut in the Major Leagues with the San Francisco Giants.  Evaristo and Francisca ( "my nana Pancha," Sergio says) were his baptism godparents.
Sergito learned to walk. And his grandfather Romo put a baseball glove on his left hand, the Mexican brand Vázquez Hermanos, and filled his baseball ears. He explained the game.  He taught him to throw, as he said, the opposite. He raised his arm to learn the sinker. He attended all his games.
Sergio Romo's life was baseball. On his bike, he rode the streets of Brawley to school with his backpack on his back, a bag for baseball equipment. Balls, gloves and spikes were mixed among notebooks and pencils.
His 5’7” height and 139-pound weight were held against him. No one was betting on him. "You're little, you're a little chap.” You don’t throw hard, you don’t have speed. "  He grew tired of listening to it.
Romo says he always knew he could play baseball at a great level. At age 11, he promised his dad that he would go to college and get to the big leagues. He assured him that he would materialize his dreams. That promise was the engine that carried him.
Sergio Romo left the Imperial Valley with the desire to succeed, wearing a medal of the Sacred Heart that his nana Pancha removed from her neck after 30 years. In his head resounded the voices of those who told him that he would fail and return soon, as had all those who had gone before.
Brawley is a wild neighborhood and most of Romo's friends are no longer alive.  The drugs killed them.  Prior to his departure from Brawley Union High School, only two outstanding players had left: Sid Monge and Rudy Seanez, also of Latino origin.
The first two years of university studies for Sergio Romo were at Orange Coast College and Arizona Western College.  By the third year, his skills guaranteed him a scholarship at the University of North Alabama.  That great lift helped him to resist the loneliness and the distance from his family. The Romos who did everything and took care of him were far away.
THE BRUTAL UNITED STATES
Sergio learned to take care of himself. Despite his stature and weight and the speed of his pitches being below average, he had become an exceptional player. But outside the field, the mere fact of being Mexican made him an outcast.
"In Brawley, I didn’t know the dangers of the world.  I didn’t know they would treat me badly for being Mexican. Alabama was a place of white purity. They discriminated against me a lot. My teammates did talk to me, they gave me the opportunity to show that their perception of the Mexicans was wrong, but with the people where I was going to play I did not do well. They insulted me. They told me the worst things.
"I learned something that I didn’t know existed. I had never known racism or discrimination. Times came when I said 'I can’t do this,’' but I had to honor my word and I endured."
Sergio liked to go out with his classmates at parties and have fun. But he always ended up on the ground with blows raining on him. The whites did not like having a Mexican among them. Romo would greet or look at a girl, enough to be pushed and rushed, amid insults.
Romo says he was silent, sticking against the wall and raising his arms as a sign of not seeking trouble. When the first blows fell on him he defended himself, at least to run, but he almost always ended up lying in a pool of blood. He did not even dare go to a hospital for relief. He was afraid he would not be served because he was Mexican.
He remembers one game day, when the players were formed along the stripes of lime, with caps on the chest singing the national anthem. One of the opposing team's players shouted at him, "Hey, you're not from here. Sit down, this is not your national anthem, go home."
"He said it in very ugly words. And I saw who it was, thinking: 'It's number 35, it's number 35', and how I would start the game and hit him when he came up, to defend myself. I heard someone laughing and it was my coach.  After the anthem was over, the coach went to the mound and said, 'If you hit him, if you give back what he did to you, I'll take you out of the game.'  I asked him why he gave me a scholarship if he did not want me.  He took me for my ability, because he needed me, although he did not like me being Mexican. They don’t care if you're good, they just look at your skin. "
The player prefers to tot mention the coach's name. But in the record books at the University of North Alabama appears Mike Lane as the coach who has given the greatest success to that school. He is admired and respected.  The baseball field has carried his name since he retired in 2008 after a 25-year career. Among his greatest achievements are the five players who passed through before arriving in the majors. One of them, the last one, is Sergio Romo.
But he took the scholarship away after the incident that Romo had with Lane when he didn’t allow him to set the team's strikeout record. It didn’t matter that Romo obtained excellent grades in school or that he was an all-American player, that is, one of the best at his position in the nation.  "I went to my apartment and grabbed all my things. I had a Ford Thunderbird where I dumped everything, it was the old family car. I returned in 31 hours driving to Brawley myself. "
HIS STATURE
Romo caught up with one of his best friends, one with whom he had played in a summer league in Arizona the previous two years. He was part of the Mesa State College team and Romo asked him to ask the coach if he would give him a chance to play. Coach Chris Hanks contacted him.
"'I saw your numbers and I can not believe you have nowhere to play,” said Hanks. “What happened?”  Romo recalls, “I told him everything, the fights, one that got me two nights in jail because I fought at a fraternity party and police were called because 'the Mexican was to blame'. I told him what I did, good and bad. He said, 'Let me think about it.' He called me again, offered me a scholarship of 80% and said he would be happy to have me on his team.
"I broke six school records that season and four of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, a league that’s over a hundred years old.  I didn’t believe what was happening to me.  I started 15 games and finished 14-1. Each time I pitched, I imagined I was facing North Alabama. The bad things that happened made me better, gave me more strength.  When I won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, the coach (Lane) sent me letters telling me he was proud of me.  With that he made me understand that he knows how he treated me, and he was telling me that he knows what he did to me. "
Next March, Sergio Romo will again wear the Mexican National Team uniform during the World Baseball Classic, whose group will play the first phase in Guadalajara at Estadio Charros de Jalisco of the Mexican Pacific League. The Charros hired Romo for the last month of the regular season that recently concluded. As they did not qualify for the playoffs, the pitcher is now reinforcing the Los Mochis Cañeros. Playing in Jalisco was the initiative of Romo himself.  In a video recorded in Japan, where he played a couple of friendly matches with the national team, Romo expressed his interest to play in the land of his grandparents, to return to where his roots are.
AND FAIR MEXICO
For years he has been questioned because he is not Mexican, because he was born in California. This offends him because he feels like a non-citizen. Although born in the United States, Americans do not consider him one of their own. And since he was not born in the national territory, he says that Mexicans do not end up accepting him.
"I've already paid for what it means to be Mexican. When I'm in the United States, I defend myself against them because they do not look at me as white, they look at me as Mexican and treat me the same. My roots, my traditions, my customs, are Mexican. I would like you not to call me pocho because it lowers morale, it takes away the pride of being who I am. I am no less Mexican because of dual nationality."
With the arrival of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States, the player predicts that the condition of Mexicans, born or not in that country, will be complicated. But it also hurts that his own nationals marginalize him.
In Mexicali, "if they had to choose between a child born in Mexico and me, they always took the other.  I waited 20 years to say yes to the Mexican National Team.  I had to accomplish everything, to win my World Series rings so that they would turn me to see.  When I was a child, I did not understand it and it hurt a lot because I always heard them saying Pocho or Chicano."
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