Friday, May 5, 2017

LMP 2017-18 schedule out, Caneros to host All-Star Game

The Mexican Pacific League has released its 2017-18 regular season schedule, which includes a midseason All-Star Game in Los Mochis.  Once again, all eight MexPac teams will play 68 games from mid-October through the Christmas holiday season before the playoffs open in January.

As in seasons past, teams will open the schedule with home-and-away single games against a rival side.
The campaign will begin with a single game on Tuesday, October 10 when the Los Mochis Caneros travel to Mexicali to take on the Aguilas in a rematch of last winter's LMP championship series.  Three games on October 11 will kick things off for the remaining six teams while a full slate will close out the inaugurations.  Besides the Mochis-Mexicali set, Obregon will play two against Hermosillo, Mazatlan and Jalisco will lock up for a pair of games and Navojoa and Culiacan do battle twice.  After that, each LMP team will play eleven three-game series at home and a like number on the road, with the final contests of the regular season set for Friday, December 29.

The MexPac All-Star Game has been scheduled for Monday, November 20 in Los Mochis at Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada.  This will be the sixth time the ballpark has hosted an All-Star Game, but only the first since 1993.  Unlike the Mexican League, which has converted its own midseason classic into a three-day All-Star Weekend similar to leagues north of the border, the LMP All-Star Game will merely be shoehorned into a typical open Monday with no extra time off for participating players and coaches.  The game will also serve to mark the end of the first half schedule and the beginning of the second half.

Although such events bring their own degree of importance by bringing the best players in the league together for a single game, there may be additional scrutiny placed on Los Mochis and the Caneros this time around.  It is common knowledge the LMP president Omar Canizales would like to expand the circuit to cities beyond the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of California, with Mexico City and Monterrey the likely preferred destinations.  Rather than expanding to ten teams, however, two existing franchises may end up packing their bags for new destinations and both the Caneros and Navojoa Mayos appear to be the likely candidates due to the smaller markets they represent along with aging ballparks they play in.

In the case of the Caneros, they toil in a 11,000-seat facility that will be celebrating its 70th anniversary next winter, making it the oldest ballpark in the MexPac.  Estadio Emilio Ibarra Almada held 3,000 fans when it opened in 1947 and has gradually expanded to its current capacity over the years.  Although the symmetrical field has served adequately over seven decades, it has fallen behind newer ballparks opened since 2013 in Hermosillo, Culiacan and Obregon (as well as a massive renovation in Guadalajara when the Guasave Algodoneros moved there in 2014).  A new US$20 million ballpark on the site of the current Los Mochis stadium has been proposed but does not appear to have been approved and, given the combination of a devalued peso and growing governmental resistence throughout the west to paying for new ballparks, it's anything but a sure thing.

While nobody is saying as much, this game may serve as a referendum of sorts on Los Mochis' future as a member of a Mexican Pacific League that appears to be outgrowing the Sinaloa city of 256,000.  Los Mochis has been represented in the circuit back to its Pacific Coast League days, first by the Pericos between 1947 and 1955 followed by the Caneros from the 1955-56 season to the present.  Although the city has only seen three pennant winners in all that time (the most recent coming in 2002-03), Mochis has done an adequate job of supporting its team.  Last winter, the Caneros finished sixrh in the LMP attendance derby with a total of 228,449 attendees over 34 home dates for an average of 6,719 per opening, which would've ranked in the middle of the pack among Class AAA teams in Minor League Baseball in 2016.