Monday, March 25, 2019


Full house at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu opener
While it's rarely fun to lose a lopsided exhibition baseball game to a team of prospects, players with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos may be forgiven if they were smiling after such a result last Saturday in the nation's capital.  The Red Devils were pounded, 11-1, by a collection of San Diego Padres minor leaguers but the game itself took second billing to its environs as over 20,000 fans packed the stands at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, the Diablos' brand-new home.

The man for whom the ballpark was named (after he provided all funding for its construction) was the Man of the Hour during pregame ceremonies.  Also known as Don Alfredo, Harp addressed the capacity crowd by thanking the people who built the stands they were sitting in.  "I want to thank the more than nine thousand people who participated in the construction of this dream, the construction of the home of the Diablos Rojos," Harp said.  "With this, we show that we can do great things together.  Mexico is a championship country and we will continue to be a championship country.  I hope that together, we will enjoy our new home."

Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has practically become a ubiquitous presence at baseball events south of the border as a power-broker in the sport and an ally of billionaire Harp.  AMLO was on hand for Saturday's opener and took part in the pregame ceremony.  Although Puro Beisbol reports that many in the crowd booed the country's new leader, Lopez Obrador revelled in the moment, telling those in attendance, "We will support baseball, a sport that requires intelligence, heart and a lot of passion."

The game itself was almost anticlimactic and, for all intent and purposes, settled somewhat early.  The Diablos took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when Jesus Fabela (back from his trip to Japan with the Mexican National Team) scored the stadium's first run from third base on an Adonis Garcia sacrifice fly, but the Padres roared back with four scores in the top of the fourth to take the lead.  San Diego scored four more times in the sixth, with a two-run homer by Michael Gettys giving the visitors an 8-1 lead and effectively salting the contest away.  Despite the final 11-1 score, few (if any) attendees went home disappointed.

Prior to Saturday's game (the first of two played between the two sides over the weekend), a number of Mexican players with the Padres visited with players and coaches from the Liga Olmeca, a Mexico City youth baseball organization and Little League Baseball affiliate headed by Carlos Fragoso, who has scouted for both the Red Sox and Yankees over the years while building strong ties within Mexican baseball.  In his Septima Entrada column for Solo Beisbol, writer Gilberto Ruiz Razo said that Esteban Quiroz and Luis Urias were among those San Diego players expected to spend time at the Liga Olmeca facility.  Ruiz added that Fragoso is a longstanding friend of Monterrey Sultanes co-owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz, who was a member of Monterrey's 1957 Little League World Series champions (along with Hector Torres and Angel Macias) and instrumental in Liga Olmeca's later inclusion as an LLB affiliate.


Guasave ballpark will see extensive renovations
Executives from the Mexican Pacific League met in Culiacan recently to talk about developments regarding the LMP's two new teams as well as a potential change in next winter's playoff format (including the elimination of the "lucky loser" method of advancing teams who lose their first round series to the second stage of the postseason.

According to Puro Beisbol editor Fernando Ballesteros, MexPac president Omar Canizales was at Culiacan's Fiesta Inn Hotel with LMP league directors Hector Ley of Culiacan and Joaquin Vega from Los Mochis Caneros to confer with representatives from the league's two new franchises, the Monterrey Sultanes and Guasave Algodoneros.  Although the Monterrey entry will be owned by the same Multimedios group that oversees the city's Mexican League club (along with part-owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz), the LMP version of the Sultanes will be operated separately from their summer LMB counterpart.  Rosters will not carry over from one team to the other, although it's possible that some players may perform double duty without changing cities.  Mexico's president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador facilitated Monterrey's entry into winter baseball to partner with Guasave, where AMLO promised the return of the MexPac during his campaign last year.

 The Algodoneros are partly owned by a group of Guasave businessmen who will operate the team, but they will be largely underwritten by Mexico City Diablos owner Alfredo Harp Helu.  Harp will be funding the majority of an offseason renovation of Estadio Francisco Carranza Limon for 120 million pesos, which is approximately US$6 million.  The ballpark was completed when Guasave joined the LMP along with Navojoa in 1970 and was used for 44 seasons (with some 2002 upgrades) before the original Algodoneros were sold to moved to Guadalajara in 2014.  It'll be expanded from 8,000 to 10,000 seats in time for October's opener.  The facility's traditional playing surface was smallish: Both foul lines are 305 feet away from home plate while the centerfield wall is a chummy 375 feet away.

Franchise fees for the respective new entries were considered with Guasave, the loop's smallest market, expected to have received a price break.  An expansion draft was also discussed and a format comparable to when Arizona and Tampa Bay joined Major League Baseball was decided upon.  Each existing Mexican Pacific League team will be allowed to protect 18 players on their current rosters.

Finally, the LMP playoffs were restructured into a three-stage competition involving the top eight teams. The league opted to align as a single entity of ten teams rather than split into two five-deam divisions while the 68-game regular season schedule was retained for 2019-20.


Manny Barreda celebrates no-hitter for Caneros
The Mexican League is switching to Franklin baseballs this season after decades of using Rawlings balls.  The Liga announced the signing of a multiyear agreement with Franklin in February that also includes the manufacture and public sales of licensed team products and merchandise.  Franklin's new OL4000 baseball will be used.

It didn't take long for one of a group of people whose success depends on what they throw to register his concerns.  Tijuana pitcher Manny Barreda was quoted on the Hitazo site last Tuesday as saying the Mexican League had not sent the new balls to the Toros training camp in Tucson, Arizona yet.  "It's difficult.  It's not long before the season and we haven't really tested them," Barreda said.  "We don't know how they look and we don't know how it'll feel in our hands.  We don't know how it's going to work, like how our pitches will break."

A 30-year-old Arizonan who spent eight years as a reliever in the Yankees organization before becoming a starter with Los Mochis in 2016-17, Barreda subsequently authoring two no-hitters months apart in both the LMB and LMP (using 138 and 135 pitches, respectively).  He was 5-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 11 starts for Culiacan over winter after splitting last summer between the rotation and the bullpen with Tijuana.  The 5'11" righty does seem certain in advance of one likely feature of the new ball:  "We do know it'll fly farther.  It's the show that they (the Liga) want to give to the fans and we as pitchers will be affected.

Barreda doesn't think his fellow pitchers will easily adapt to the Franklin ball.  "It's something very different," he said.  "We've been pitching all our career with the Rawlings ball.  It's thrown in the minor leagues, in winter and summer.

"Now that we have to change it, we're not very happy about that."

Monday, March 18, 2019


Mexico City's Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu
After a number of unexpected delays, the Mexico City Diablos Rojos are finally going to be able to inaugurate their brand new ballpark this coming weekend when they take on a team of San Diego Padres prospect at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu in a two-game exhibition series.  Both contests have already been been sold out for several days.

The new facility, which was funded entirely by Diablos team owner Alfredo Harp Helu, cost in the neighborhood of three billion pesos (or about US$161 million) and will have a capacity of 20,233, making it the second-largest ballpark in Mexico behind only Estadio Monterrey, which now seats 22,061 following its 2018 renovation.  The original capacity of Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu was going to be closer to 13,000 permanent seats with a grass berm above the outfield providing room for a few thousand more spectators.  However, it was subsequently determined that permanent seating would occupy all available areas within the ballpark, with the only grass located in the bullpens beyond the left and right field fences.

The Diablos have spent the past four summers playing home games at 5,000-seat Estadio Fray Nano after leaving Foro Sol following the 2014 season.  Foro Sol had replaced Social Security Park, a 25,000-seater that opened in 1955, in 2000 and served the Diablos for 15 years.  While it was certainly large enough (25,000 capacity), Foro Sol was designed as a concert venue and never a good fit for watching baseball, although the playing surface was considered good.  The return of Grand Prix auto racing to Mexico City meant a remodeling of the facility that would not work for baseball. 

This meant a move to Estadio Fray Nano, which is more baseball-friendly but was the smallest ballpark in the Mexican League.  Fray Nano was expected to only be used for one or two seasons while the new ballpark (originally announced in 2010) was constructed but natural disasters and soil issues combined with the usual delays for such a project to require the Red Devils to remain at Fray Nano for four years.

The future is finally now for baseball in the nation's capital, however, and president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be on hand for Saturday's opener.  Managed by former star outfielder Victor Bojorquez, the Diablos have moved to the LMB South for 2019 and are expected to contend with the Yucatan Leones for divisional supremacy with such veterans as Japhet Amador, Ivan Terrazas, Carlos Figueroa, Cyle Hankerd, Luis Mendoza and Octavio Acosta dotting the roster.  Hopes are that the Padres and manager Andy Green will bring some of their best Mexican minor leaguers, including infielders Luis Urias and Esteban Quiroz and outfielder Tirso Ornelas, to Mexico City.  Quiroz spent an injury-shortened 2018 in the Boston Red Sox system before being traded to San Diego for pitcher Colten Brewer in the offseason.


WBSC chief umpire Gustavo Rodriguez
The World Baseball Softball Confederation has signed a working agreement with the Mexican League in which both organizations will exchange umpires in an attempt to bring more Mexican arbiters into the fold for future WBSC tournaments and other competitions.  As part of the arrangement, the WBSC's Director of Umpires, Gustavo Rodriguez, was recently a visitor at the LMB's High Performance Academy near Monterrey, where he observed Liga umpires in training while consulting with his LMB counterpart, Luis Alberto Ramirez.

"I'm here partly as an observer," Rodriguez said, "and talking to the umpires about some rules like obstruction and balks."  From what he'd seen, Rodriguez said he was satisfied with what he saw from the 52 umpires who'll be working in both the LMB and its Class AA Academy League this summer.  "Mexican umpires are among the best performers in Latin America," he observed.  "I've found some here that I already know but in general, they all do a good job." 

With joint work between the WBSC and LMB, Rodriguez said, he plans for more and more Mexican umpires to participate in international tournaments.  One of those umpires he watched at the Academy, veteran Jair Fernandez, was in Osaka earlier this month as one of the crew for the WBSC-sanctioned Samurai Series between national teams from Japan and Mexico.

Along with the training and rules analyses with Rodriguez, the Mexican umpires also worked with a multidisciplinary team including nutritionist Adriana Aguila, psychologist Gabriela Rodriguez, physical trainer Josue Galvan and sports doctor Angel Lugo.  No word on whether an opthamologist was also on hand, as some fans might suggest.


Some Puerto Penasco players in dugout
The Class AA North Mexico League has already had a tough offseason, with the withdrawal from their formal league-wide affiliation agreement by the AAA Mexican League offsetting the addition of the new La Paz Delfines.  La Paz became the first Baja California Sur franchise in LNM history when the loop expanded to the city after the Tecate Indios requested and received a year off to regroup financially, creating a need for a new sixth team for scheduling purposes. After all that, the Liga Norte is back down to five clubs after the Puerto Penasco Tiburones bowed out for the 2019 season in late February, also due to financial reasons.  As with Tecate, Puerto Penasco owners have have stated a desire to return in 2020.

The Tiburones entered the Liga Norte in 2015 and had yet to win their first LMN pennant, but baseball is no stranger to Puerto Penasco, a resort city of 62,000 on the Gulf of California in northeastern Sonora 62 miles south of the Arizona border featuring the closest beaches to Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma.  Prior to joining the Liga Norte, the Tiburones won four titles in the old Northern Sonora League (1974, 1978, 1979 and 2013), but the sport dates to at least 1960 locally.  The Sharks turned in a winning record last year by going 50-45 over two halves but missed the fourth and final playoff berth by one point.  Even worse, turnout for home games was sparse at Estadio Francisco Leon Garcia, an 1,850-seat facility remodeled in 2017 for 35 million pesos and one of Mexico's relatively few ballparks sporting artificial turf.  The low turnout and uncertain LMB affiliation situation ultimately proved too much for Tiburones ownership to handle.

The result of the Puerto Penasco's pullout has been a scramble to create a schedule for a five-team league in which one team will always be taking a night off.  The Liga Norte has yet to release its full docket of regular season games for 2019 but it has announced where and when home openers for each of the remaining teams will take place.  The LNM season will open Tuesday, April 11 in Ensenada when the defending champion Marineros host Caborca.  One night later, La Paz will make its pro baseball debut when the Delfines welcome San Luis to Estadio Arturo C. Nahl and April 13 will see the Caborca Rojos at home in Estadio Heroes de Caborca against Ensenada.  After that, La Paz will be in San Luis Rio Colorado's Estadio Andres Mena Montijo to face the Algodoneros on April 16 while the final home opener is played April 19 in San Quintin, where the Freseros take on Caborca in Estadio Dr. Miguel Valdez.

Monday, March 11, 2019


The Mexican National Baseball Team currently sits sixth in the World Baseball Softball Confederation's latest rankings, but they entered the lion's den last weekend when they traveled to Osaka for a two-game series against the number one team in the world, Japan, in the Samurai Series.  The set served as a warmup of sorts for both teams months ahead of November's Premier12 tournament, which will be a qualifier for next year's Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.

As host team, Japan will have a berth in the 2020 Games regardless of how they do next winter, but the series was a crucible for the Mexicans and new manager Dan Firova, who replaced Enrique "Che" Reyes at the helm after the Puebla Pericos would not allow their new skipper to make the trip to the Far East.  When the dust settled, Mexico had won one of the two tilts along with an added measure of respect from baseball observers around the globe.

Mexico won Saturday's opener, 4-2, in come-from-behind fashion.  Japan took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Masataka Yoshida singled in Seiji Uebayashi and added another run in the fourth when Takuya Kai pushed Yoshida across with a singleton.  The Verdes Grande put their first score on the board in the top of the sixth after Victor Mendoza crossed home plate on a Luis Juarez single to make it a 2-1 contest but the game really took a turn in the Mexicans' favor one inning later.

An Ali Solis double in the top of the seventh brought in Jose Juan Aguilar to knot the score at 2-2.  Solis then scored Mexico's go-ahead run on a single by Chris Roberson, a naturalized Mexican citizen who was not on manager Dan Firova's original roster.  The Mexicans plated an insurance run in the eighth on a Luis "Cochito" Cruz single that drove home Joey Meneses, who'll be playing his first season in Japan this year with the Orix Buffaloes in Osaka after winning MVP honors in the AAA International League last summer.  Reliever Javier Cota earned the win for Mexico while Jake Sanchez held the hosts scoreless to pick up the save.

Japan turned things around Sunday with a 6-0 shutout over Mexico to earn the series split.  The key blow for the home team came early when Yoshida belted a first-inning grand slam off Verdes Grande starter Manny Barreda as Japan staked opener Juri Hara a 5-0 lead heading into the second frame.  Hara, who got the win, combined with six relievers on the six-hit whitewash and Barreda absorbed the defeat.  Mexico got two-hit nights from Mendoza and Juarez while Roberto Lopez and Xorge Carrillo each contributed one hit apiece.

The Samurai Series was well-attended, with good crowds both nights at the 36,000-seat domed stadium.  Saturday's contest brought in 28,933 spectators while another 28,622 fans clicked the turnstiles Sunday night, very respectable numbers for an exhibition series a month ahead of the regular season.  

According to Puro Beisbol writer Bambino Sedano, one of the off-field highlights for the visitors came when a Japanese fan, 24-year-old Ryu Ishibashi, traveled about 500 miles from Sendai to Osaka to meet Juarez, his Mexican baseball idol who had three hits in the series.  Juarez invited Ishibashi (who hopes his favorite someday plays for his Rakuten Golden Eagles) to have dinner with him and teammates Mendoza and Aguilar. In return, Juarez received a shirt featuring a drawing Ishibashi made of the Yucatan slugger.


The NCAA's 2018 Pitcher of the Year, Luke Heimlich, has signed a free agent contract with the Mexican League's Dos Laredos Tecolotes.  While the presence of a left-handed hurler with such bonafides represents a baseball coup of sorts for the Tecos, the Oregon State University product also brings no small amount of controversy to the border team.

On the field, there's little question that Heimlich has the chance to be a Mexican League standout.  After turning in an 11-0 record with a 0.66 ERA as a senior at Puyallup (WA) High School, he was named Washington's 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year.  Playing collegiately for west coast powerhouse Oregon State, Heimlich was selected the Pac 12 Pitcher of the Year in 2017 as a Junior after leading the nation with an 0.81 ERA, and he followed that up with a standout Senior campaign last year in which he was named NCAA Pitcher of the Year on the heels of a 16-3 record with a 2.42 ERA (also winning his second consecutive Pac 12 POY award).

However, Heimlich is bringing considerable baggage to Nuevo Laredo with him.  During the 2017 season, it was discovered that he had pled guilty as a 15-year-old to sexually molesting his six-year-old niece.  The revelation created a firestorm that resulted in Heimlich being left behind in Corvallis when the Beavers travelled to the College World Series in Omaha, where Oregon State was eliminated by Louisiana State in the semifinals.  He did make the trip to the CWS last June, when the Beavers won their third NCAA title, but lost both his decisions to North Carolina and Arkansas, the latter in Game One of the title series (which would prove to be the final competitive game he's pitched to date).

After slipping through the MLB amateur draft in both 2017 and 2018, Heimlich began looking for work as a free agent.  The Kansas City Royals considered signing him last year, but backed off after protests were raised. He did eventually sign a contract with the Latigo Monkeys of Taiwan last August, but the Chinese Professional Baseball League voided the deal due to his criminal record and may be facing the same outcome with the Mexican League office.

LMB president Javier Salinas told the New York Times, "He's not registered in the league.  We have to analyze his case." Salinas added, "It's very difficult to see him registered in the Mexican League."  Tecos owner Jose Antonio Mansur says the Liga took the unusual step of requiring Heimlich to sign a letter vowing good behavior.  "I'm not a judge," Mansur told the Times. "I'm just a businessman and I'll give him an opportunity.  If he was guilty, he's already been judged. I'm just looking from here on forward."

For his part, Heimlich (who has since said he was innocent but pled guilty to spare his family from a drawn-out public legal process) had one of two charges dropped, was placed on two years' probation, took court-ordered classes, wrote a letter apologizing to his niece (now 14) and had to register for five years as a Level I sex offender, in which he is considered a low risk to the community and unlikely to become a repeat offender.


The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks were south of the border over the weekend for a pair of Major League Baseball exhibition games at Estadio Monterrey, home of the Mexican League Sultanes.

In Saturday's opener, Mike Tauchman went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a run and Roberto Ramos hit a run-scoring double and a solo homer to lead Colorado to an easy 5-1 win.  Four Rockies pitchers combined on a four-hitter as reliever Jeff Hoffman tossed four scoreless innings to earn the victory, allowing just two hits and striking out five Arizona batsmen.  Diamondbacks starter Taylor Clarke was tagged with the loss after giving up a pair of runs on five hits over 3.1 frames. The game was far from a sellout, as 9,372 fans were in the stands of the 22,061-seat ballpark.

Arizona came back Sunday with a 5-2 triumph.  This time, it was the Snakes' pitchers who shone on the mound as the Rockies were limited to three hits.  D-backs starter Matt Koch allowed one run on one hit in four innings, striking out three with no walks. Nick Green came on for three more strong entradas, giving up one run on two hits while Braden Shipley pitched two perfect innings and struck out four for the save.  The game was tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third when Arizona's Eduardo Escobar lashed a double to right that brought in Tim Locastro with the go-ahead run.  The Diamondbacks picked up a pair of insurance runs in the eighth on Idelmaro Vargas' two-run homer off Rockies reliever Ben Bowden. Koch took the win for Arizona while Colorado starter Tyler Anderson was tagged for the loss.  Attendance was a little better Sunday as 10,746 watched the action.

A pair of Mexican-born former MLB performers served as "ambassadors" for the two teams. Oaxaca native Vinny Castilla, who is currently a special assistant to Colorado general manager Jeff Bridich after a successful playing career as a third baseman and will manage Hermosillo in the Mexican Pacific League next winter, was on hand as the Rockies ambassador.  Erubiel Durazo, born in Hermosillo and a one-time Sultanes first baseman who hit .364 in the 2001 World Series for Arizona's only championship team, represented the Diamondbacks. He was joined by another D-Backs '01 hero, Luis "Gonzo" Gonzalez, a Tampa product who hit .325 with 57 homers and 142 RBIs that year.

The visit of two Major League teams to Monterrey was not all sunshine and lollipops, however.  The Hitazo website (edited by respected Mexican baseball writer Hector Bencomo) says the occasion also served as a platform for about 50 fans who appear to have purchased lifetime passes to events in Estadio Monterrey when the facility was completed in 1990.  Through legal representative Oscar Martinez, the group claims that the contracts they signed 29 years ago gives them free entry to any event held at the ballpark for fifty years, including the Colorado-Arizona series. Instead, they say, the Sultanes, who hosted last weekend's two-game set, are charging them 9,900 pesos (about US$500) for two annual box tickets and another 5,000 pesos (US$250) for parking in 2019.  According to Hitazo, Sultanes co-owner Jose Maiz has refused to comment on the impasse.

Monday, March 4, 2019


Mexican Nationals celebrate past win
The Mexican National Team will be in Japan this week to prepare for the upcoming two-game Samurai Series of exhibition games against the Japanese Nationals on March 9 and 10 in Osaka.  The set is a warm-up of sorts for November's Premier12 tournament in which twelve national teams vie for berths and seeding in next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

As host team, the Japanese will receive an automatic slot but as the top-ranked team in the world (according to the governing World Baseball Softball Congress), they were likely qualifiers anyway.  Japan slipped past the United States for the top spot while Mexico held on to its sixth-place status in the latest world rankings. South Korea remained in third while Taiwan moved ahead of Cuba for fourth place.  The WBSC top ten is rounded out by Australia, The Netherlands, Venezuela and Canada.

Mexico manager Dan Firova holds team roster
The games will take place in the Kyocera Dome Osaka, a 22-year-old facility that seats 36,500 for baseball and serves as home for the Orix Buffaloes of NPB's Pacific League.  Dan Firova will manage the Verdes Grande while Japan is led by Atsunori Inaba, an eight-time All-Star outfielder with both the Yakult Swallows and Nippon Ham Fighters during a 20 year career.  Inaba was both the 2006 Japan Series MVP and a 2011 All-Star Game MVP for the Fighters.

Firova will have a 28-man roster of mostly Mexican League veterans, many with experience in either MLB or NPB.  One of his players, outfielder-first baseman Joey Meneses, will be playing in Osaka with the Buffaloes this year after winning International League MVP honors last summer while performing for the Phillies' Lehigh Valley affiliate.

Pitchers (14):  Andres Avila (Yucatan), Manny Barreda (Tijuana), Esteban Haro (Durango), Carlos Hernandez (Tijuana), Luis Mendoza (Mexico City), Aldo Montes (Yucatan), Jose Oyervides (Dos Laredos),  Zach Phillips (Monclova), Jorge Reyes (Dos Laredos), Wilmer Rios (Monclova), Francisco Rodriguez (Tabasco), Jake Sanchez (Tijuana), Jose Samayoa (Yucatan), Cesar Vargas (Monterrey).
Kyocera Dome Osaka
Catchers (2): Xorge Carrillo (Tijuana, Ali Solis (Monterrey).
Infielders (7): Rodolfo Amador (Monclova), Luis Cruz (Tijuana), Brian Hernandez (Quintana Roo), Luis Juarez (Yucatan), Victor Mendoza (Monterrey), Ramiro Pena (Monterrey), Isaac Rodriguez (Tijuana).
Outfielders (5): Jose Juan Aguilar (Yucatan), Jesus Fabela (Mexico City), Roberto Lopez (Dos Laredos), Joey Meneses (Orix NPB), Fernando Perez (Tijuana).
Manager: Dan Firova.
Coaches (4): Martin Arzate (Monclova), Miguel Lopez (Mexico City), Isidro Marquez (Campeche), Javier Robles (Tijuana).


New Saraperos manager Roberto Vizcarra
Roberto Vizcarra has been named manager of the Saltillo Saraperos, filling the final Mexican League vacancy.  He replaces Len Picota, who failed to lead Saltillo to the playoffs in either of last year's abbreviated seasons, finishing with a 48-63 overall record while placing fifth and sixth in the LMB North.  A Panama native, Picota pitched seven years in the Cardinals system before embarking on a baseball odyssey that took him to leagues on both sides of the Pacific Ocean prior to his 2007 retirement after a 23-year career.  Last year was his first managing in Mexico.

Vizcarra was a top Mexican League infielder between 1986 and 2008, starting as a middle infielder before converting to the corners as he got older.  Wherever he played, the San Luis Rio Colorado product could hit, turning in 2,644 career LMB hits (including 482 doubles and 229 homers) for a .304 average over 23 summers for five teams.  Vizcarra also played several winters in the Mexican Pacific League, where the Obregon Yaquis retired his number 4. He took over as manager of the Quintana Roo Tigres late in the 2013 season and led them to LMB pennants both that year and in 2015, but was fired in 2017 after the Cancun squad won 37 of 86 games.

Vizcarra led Yucatan to the Mexican League's Spring pennant in 2018 after coming first in the LMB South at 40-17 before a Fall campaign in which the Leones again were the South's top seed with a 32-24 (holding off Mexico City by a half-game) before losing a first-round upset to Oaxaca, who had to beat Leon in a wild card contest after finishing fifth in the standings. That was enough for Leones owners Erick and Jose Juan Arellano to not bring back the former infielder for 2019 and bring in Luis Carlos Rivera (former Leon pilot) to manage in Merida for the coming season.

Saltillo's Estadio Francisco I. Madero
Vizcarra then spent the winter leading the Jalisco Charros to their first MexPac title (he also won an LMP flag with Mexicali in 2016-17) and a berth in the Caribbean Series, where they fell one run shy of a title game against the eventual champion Herrera Toros from host Panama.  He'll have his work cut out for him in Saltillo, once one of the Liga's franchises before operating under state ownership the past few seasons but the Saraperos have just been sold to a group of local businessmen led by prominent financier Cesar Cantu and they've remained one of the LMB's attendance leaders despite the lean times so there is hope moving forward.

With his hiring in Saltillo, Vizcarra becomes the tenth new manager in the 16-team Mexican League for the coming season, a rather high number even for a league where owners change managers as often as Sparky Anderson used to change pitchers.  For the record, here is a list of the LMB's new managers (and the men they replaced):

AGUASCALIENTES RIELEROS - Joe Alvarez (replaces Homar Rojas)
CAMPECHE PIRATAS - Tim Johnson (replaces Romulo Martinez)
DURANGO GENERALES - Lorenzo Bundy (replaces Matias Carrillo)
LEON BRAVOS - Tony Aguilera (replaces Luis Carlos Rivera)
PUEBLA PERICOS - Enrique "Che" Reyes (replaces Lorenzo Bundy)
QUINTANA ROO TIGRES - Jesus Sommers (replaces Raul Sanchez)
SALTILLO SARAPEROS - Roberto Vizcarra (replaces Len Picota)
TABASCO OLMECAS - Ramon Orantes (replaces Alfonso "Houston" Jimenez)
UNION LAGUNA ALGODONEROS - Jonathan Aceves (replaces Ramon Orantes)
YUCATAN LEONES - Luis Carlos Rivera (replaces Roberto Vizcarra)


In the wake of the Rookiegate dispute, during which up to seven Quintana Roo Tigres prospects were transferred to the Mexico City Diablos Rojos just prior to the February 2017 sale of the Tigres to former Dodgers ace Fernando Valenzuela and wife Linda (who were not informed of the switch), the Mexican League is implementing a so-called Player Transfer and Control Digital System for the upcoming season.  The software, which the LMB will operate with links to all 16 teams using per-user passwords and fingerprint recognition, will track all player transactions between teams to keep them transparent to all parties.

According to Beatriz Pereyra of Proceso, the platform will require teams to record information on all players under their control, including birth certificates, passports, contracts and addendums, etc.  Sometime during the coming season, a Dispute Commission will be formed to address disagreements between franchises as well as players' claims to breach of salaries by their employers. "Agreements between executives will have to be in the system and endorsed with the respective documents," says Mexican League president Javier Salinas.  "What is not in the system will not be valid before the LMB." Salinas went on to add, "Same with the players. Everything they agree to with the teams, such as the rent of an apartment, plane tickets or whatever they promise must be stated in the contract because if it isn't in writing, it won't be valid."

Mexican League president Javier Salinas
Pereyra says the new system will also allow each club to review its digitized financial status before the LMB, including all debts.  The system will automatically refuse to allow any player movements until the information is updated. Teams will not be able to register more than 38 total players under contractual control, including the new Liga limit of seven foreign players per franchise.  A database will be compiled with a 17-point checklist per player to verify that no information therein is false. Any player who doesn't comply with the checklist (along with the required documentations) cannot be registered.

The aforementioned 2017 transfer of prospects from Cancun to Mexico City, which took place while Plinio Escalante was league president, was approved in part by the Tigres' then-deputy president Francisco "Pollo" Minjarez, who shortly left the team to become a Diablos Rojos VP.  Minjarez has since been suspended indefinitely by the LMB. Although a ruling ordered the Diablos to return both proceeds of the Rangers sale and the remaining five prospects to the Tigres, the Valenzuelas have said in the past that neither had happened.