Whether you attend a pro baseball game in Phoenix, Puebla or Pawtucket, you’re watching athletes who’ve been honing their craft on baseball diamonds for years, even decades. For nearly all ballplayers, the process of becoming good enough to draw a paycheck begins when they’re grade schoolers, and the yellow-brick road leading to Fenway Park or Estadio Monterrey almost invariably starts on the scaled-down fields of Little League Baseball. Anyone who has played baseball seriously will tell you just how hard baseball is to play WELL, no matter how gifted you are or where you’re playing it.
Mexico’s largest Little League organization is the Liga Olmeca in Mexico City, where nearly 1,000 boys and girls first swing a bat in earnest and can spend years learning the fundamentals of the sport such as how to field a grounder to their right, hitting against pitchers who can throw breaking stuff and turning a double play around second base. Since its formation in 1963, the Liga Olmeca has produced future major league pitcher Rodrigo Lopez (AL Rookie of the Month in July 2002 while hurling for the Orioles) along with numerous minor league and college players. Former Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre, who is also owner of the Class AA Erie Seawolves and a minority owner of the Cincinnati Reds, also learned to play ball in the Liga Olmeca. However, the organization’s new president, Carlos Fragoso, says the focus isn’t on discovering future MLB or LMB players but rather on the traditional Little League values of “helping boys and girls develop into a future valuable citizen through the practice of baseball. If we happen to find a prospect, well, that will be a plus.”
Fragoso (pictured next to Ken Griffey Jr. at a Liga Olmeca clinic) is a native of Obregon, Sonora who now lives in Mexico City and has worked as an engineer with Siemens for several years. He is also a certified baseball nut who is godfather to Dodgers star Adrian Gonzalez and has served as an advance scout for both the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. He was unanimously voted in as Liga Olmeca president last Sunday in Mexico City, and will begin his term in August.
Salon de la Fama member Tomas Morales, a leading Mexican cronista since the days of Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio (think a Latino version of Shirley Povich), devoted his Tommy al Bat column to Fragoso on Monday and I’m barely smart enough to know his words carry more weight than mine. Here is a translated version of Tommy’s column in its entirety:
For the first time in the history of Little League of Baseball in the capital, a Major League scout was named president of one of the circuits. That’s what happened on Sunday when the Liga Olmeca chose engineer Carlos Fragoso as the new boss of this circuit, which is considered the jewel of the crown between Little League Baseball organizations in the DF, having the best fields for the practice of the king of sports. Fragoso is currently a scout for the New York Yankees as the right arm of Lee Sigman in Mexico City, and has for several years been linked to the Olmec League that has now elected him as the new president.
Throughout his life Carlos Fragoso has been a lover of our King of Sports and some years ago, as a scout of the Boston Red Sox, discovered the young pitcher Luis Alonso Mendoza, who was signed by Lee Sigman on the recommendation of the engineer, reached the Major Leagues with the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals, is currently pitching in Japan and whose right of return is held by the Mexico City Diablos Rojos. For the Red Sox, Fragoso also signed left-handed pitcher Mauricio Lara, who was injured but after recovering has had a good run on the Mexican ball. His contacts in baseball meant that past Liga Olmeca season inaugurations were attended by Major League players like Edgar Gonzalez as well as pitchers Alfredo Aceves and Fernando Salas.
Now Carlos Fragoso has put his back into the intense work that will be to successfully lead the destinies of the Olmec League in this new season that started on Sunday with the election of a new president. Of course it is not an easy task to take the reins of this Little League that numbers a population of almost a thousand young people between 3 and 21 years of age who play on the fields of Liga Olmeca, including girls softball. Carlos Fragoso told us that his main goal is to consolidate the good path that has led the league over the years and praised the work that the previous presidents have done. One of the goals set by the new president is to improve the quality of baseball that is played, and for this he announced that the Liga Olmeca will take part in tournaments as famous as Williamsport as well as the International Pony League.
Fragoso has the full support of the Mexican Amateur Baseball Federation, which was represented on Sunday in the Liga Olmeca by the president of that body, Enrique Mayorga, and treasurer Carlos Buenrostro, who is also in charge of overseeing all The Little and Juvenile Leagues of the capital. Fragoso, Mayorga and Buenrostro all came to play in those tournaments of the Metropolitan League with pleasant memories of what for a long time had Social Security Park as a stage, and who one of the founders and president of the circuit for many years was the unforgettable gift Miguel Oropeza.
Fragoso will have a lot of positives to start working with, including a complex of fields (with clubhouses and a food court) considered among Mexico’s best Little League facilities with in-house groundskeepers and maintenance workers. A crew of 14 full-time trainers and coaches works with the Liga Olmeca’s young ballplayers drawn from the hemisphere’s second-largest city of 21 million inhabitants.
Conversely, the Liga Olmeca now has one more positive to work with: Carlos Fragoso will be occupying their Presidente’s chair.